From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Conservatism is a cultural, social, and political philosophy that seeks to promote and to preserve traditional institutions, customs, and values.[1][2][3] The central tenets of conservatism may vary in relation to the culture and civilization in which it appears. In Western culture, depending on the particular nation, conservatives seek to promote a range of social institutions, such as the nuclear family, organized religion, the military, the nation-state, property rights, rule of law, aristocracy, and monarchy. Conservatives tend to favour institutions and practices that guarantee social order and historical continuity.[3]

Edmund Burke, an 18th-century politician who opposed the French Revolution but supported the American Revolution, is credited as one of the main philosophers of conservatism in the 1790s.[4] The first established use of the term in a political context originated in 1818 with François-René de Chateaubriand during the period of Bourbon Restoration that sought to roll back the policies of the French Revolution and establish social order.[5]

Conservative thought has varied considerably as it has adapted itself to existing traditions and national cultures.[6] Thus, conservatives from different parts of the world—each upholding their respective traditions—may disagree on a wide range of issues. Historically associated with right-wing politics, the term has been used to describe a wide range of views. Conservatism may be either more libertarian or more authoritarian; more populist or more elitist; more progressive or more reactionary; more moderate or more extreme.[7]


Some political scientists, such as Samuel P. Huntington, have seen conservatism as situational. Under this definition, conservatives are seen as defending the established institutions of their time.[8] According to Quintin Hogg, the chairman of the British Conservative Party in 1959: "Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as an attitude, a constant force, performing a timeless function in the development of a free society, and corresponding to a deep and permanent requirement of human nature itself."[9] Conservatism is often used as a generic term to describe a "right-wing viewpoint occupying the political spectrum between [classical] liberalism and fascism".[2]


Despite the lack of a universal definition, certain themes can be recognised as common across conservative thought. According to Michael Oakeshott:

To be conservative […] is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.[10]

Such traditionalism may be a reflection of trust in time-tested methods of social organisation, giving 'votes to the dead'.[11] Traditions may also be steeped in a sense of identity.[11]


In contrast to the tradition-based definition of conservatism, some left-wing political theorists like Corey Robin define conservatism primarily in terms of a general defense of social and economic inequality.[12] From this perspective, conservatism is less an attempt to uphold old institutions and more "a meditation on—and theoretical rendition of—the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back".[13] On another occasion, Robin argues for a more complex relation:

Conservatism is a defense of established hierarchies, but it is also fearful of those established hierarchies. It sees in their assuredness of power the source of corruption, decadence and decline. Ruling regimes require some kind of irritant, a grain of sand in the oyster, to reactivate their latent powers, to exercise their atrophied muscles, to make their pearls.[14]

Political philosopher Yoram Hazony argues that, in a traditional conservative community, members have importance and influence to the degree they are honoured within the social hierarchy, which includes factors such as age, experience, and wisdom.[15] The word hierarchy has religious roots and translates to 'rule of a high priest.'[16]


Conservatism has been called a "philosophy of human imperfection" by Noël O'Sullivan, reflecting among its adherents a negative view of human nature and pessimism of the potential to improve it through 'utopian' schemes.[17] The "intellectual godfather of the realist right", Thomas Hobbes, argued that the state of nature for humans was "poor, nasty, brutish, and short", requiring centralised authority.[18][19]


Authority is a core tenet of conservatism.[20][21][22] More specifically, conservatives tend to believe in traditional authority. This form of authority, according to Max Weber, is "resting on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of those exercising authority under them"—for example parents, priests, and monarchs.[23][24]

Robert Nisbet acknowledges that the decline of traditional authority in the modern world is partly linked with the retreat of old institutions such as guild, parish, and family—institutions that formerly acted as intermediaries between the state and the individual.[25][26] Hannah Arendt claims that the modern world suffers an existential crisis with a "dramatic breakdown of all traditional authorities," which are needed for the continuity of an established civilisation.[27][28]


Reactionism is a tradition in right-wing politics that opposes policies for the social transformation of society.[29] In popular usage, reactionism refers to a staunch traditionalist conservative political perspective of a person opposed to social, political, and economic change.[30][31] Adherents of conservatism often oppose certain aspects of modernity (for example mass culture and secularism) and seek a return to traditional values, though different groups of conservatives may choose different traditional values to preserve.[3][32]

Some political scientists, such as Corey Robin, treat the words reactionary and conservative as synonyms.[33] Others, such as Mark Lilla, argue that reactionism and conservatism are distinct worldviews.[34] Francis Wilson defines conservatism as "a philosophy of social evolution, in which certain lasting values are defended within the framework of the tension of political conflict".[35]

A reactionary is a person who holds political views that favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which that person believes possessed positive characteristics absent from contemporary society. An early example of a powerful reactionary movement was German Romanticism, which centered around concepts of organicism, medievalism, and traditionalism against the forces of rationalism, secularism, and individualism that were unleashed in the French Revolution.[36][37]

In political discourse, being a reactionary is generally regarded as negative; Peter King observed that it is "an unsought-for label, used as a torment rather than a badge of honor".[38] Despite this, the descriptor has been adopted by writers such as the Italian esoteric traditionalist Julius Evola,[39] the Austrian monarchist Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn,[40] the Colombian political theologian Nicolás Gómez Dávila, and the American historian John Lukacs.[41]

Intellectual history[edit]


In Great Britain, the Tory movement during the Restoration period (1660–1688) was a form of proto-conservatism that supported a hierarchical society with a monarch who ruled by divine right. However, Tories differ from most later, more moderate, mainstream conservatives in that they opposed the idea of popular sovereignty and rejected the authority of parliament and freedom of religion. Robert Filmer's royalist treatise Patriarcha (published in 1680 but written before the English Civil War of 1642–1651) became accepted as the statement of their doctrine.

However, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 damaged this principle by establishing a constitutional government in England, leading to the hegemony of the Tory-opposed Whig ideology. Faced with defeat, the Tories reformed their movement. They adopted more moderate conservative positions, such as holding that sovereignty was vested in the three estates of Crown, Lords, and Commons rather than solely in the Crown.[42] Richard Hooker (1554–1600), Marquess of Halifax (1633–1695) and David Hume (1711–1776) were proto-conservatives of the period. Halifax promoted pragmatism in government whilst Hume argued against political rationalism and utopianism.[43][44]

Philosophical founders[edit]

Edmund Burke (1729–1797) has been widely regarded as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism as we know it today.[45][46] Burke served as the private secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham and as official pamphleteer to the Rockingham branch of the Whig party.[47] Together with the Tories, they were the conservatives in the late 18th century United Kingdom.[48]

Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

Burke's views were a mixture of conservatism and republicanism. He supported the American Revolution of 1775–1783 but abhorred the violence of the French Revolution of 1789–1799. He accepted the conservative ideals of private property and the economics of Adam Smith (1723–1790), but thought that economics should remain subordinate to the conservative social ethic, that capitalism should be subordinate to the medieval social tradition and that the business class should be subordinate to aristocracy.[49] He insisted on standards of honour derived from the medieval aristocratic tradition and saw the aristocracy as the nation's natural leaders.[50] That meant limits on the powers of the Crown, since he found the institutions of Parliament to be better informed than commissions appointed by the executive. He favored an established church, but allowed for a degree of religious toleration.[51] Burke ultimately justified the social order on the basis of tradition: tradition represented the wisdom of the species, and he valued community and social harmony over social reforms.[52]

Joseph de Maistre (1753–1821)

Another form of conservatism developed in France in parallel to conservatism in Britain. It was influenced by Counter-Enlightenment works by philosophers such as Joseph de Maistre (1753–1821) and Louis de Bonald (1754–1840). Many continental conservatives do not support separation of church and state, with most supporting state recognition of and cooperation with the Catholic Church, such as had existed in France before the Revolution. Conservatives were also early to embrace nationalism, which was previously associated with liberalism and the Revolution in France.[53] Another early French conservative, François-René de Chateaubriand (1768–1848), espoused a romantic opposition to modernity, contrasting its emptiness with the 'full heart' of traditional faith and loyalty.[54] Elsewhere on the continent, German thinkers Justus Möser (1720–1794) and Friedrich von Gentz (1764–1832) criticized the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen that came of the Revolution.[55] Opposition was also expressed by German idealists such as Adam Müller (1779–1829) and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1771–1830), the latter inspiring both leftist and rightist followers.[56]

Both Burke and Maistre were critical and skeptical of democracy in general, though their reasons differed.[57] Maistre was pessimistic about humans being able to follow rules, while Burke was skeptical about humans' innate ability to make rules.[58] For Maistre, rules had a divine origin, while Burke believed they arose from custom.[59] The lack of custom for Burke, and the lack of divine guidance for Maistre, meant that people would act in terrible ways.[60] Both also believed that liberty of the wrong kind led to bewilderment and political breakdown.[61] Their ideas would together flow into a stream of anti-rationalist, romantic conservatism, but would still stay separate.[62] Whereas Burke was more open to argumentation and disagreement, Maistre wanted faith and authority, leading to a more illiberal strain of thought.[63]

Ideological variants[edit]

Liberal conservatism[edit]

Ulf Kristersson, leader of the liberal-conservative Moderate Party and incumbent Prime Minister of Sweden

Liberal conservatism is a variant of conservatism that is strongly influenced by liberal stances.[64] It incorporates the classical liberal view of minimal economic interventionism, meaning that individuals should be free to participate in the market and generate wealth without government interference.[65] However, individuals cannot be thoroughly depended on to act responsibly in other spheres of life; therefore, liberal conservatives believe that a strong state is necessary to ensure law and order, and social institutions are needed to nurture a sense of duty and responsibility to the nation.[65]

Originally opposed to capitalism and the industrial revolution, the conservative ideology in many countries adopted economic liberalism. This is also the case in countries where liberal economic ideas have been the tradition such as the United States and are thus considered conservative. A secondary meaning for the term liberal conservatism, which developed in Europe, is a combination of more modern conservative views with those of social liberalism. Often this involves stressing views of free market economics and belief in individual responsibility, with a defence of civil rights, environmentalism and support for a limited welfare state. In continental Europe, this is sometimes also translated into English as social conservatism.[citation needed]

Libertarian conservatism[edit]

Libertarian conservatism describes certain political ideologies most prominently within the United States which combine libertarian economic issues with aspects of conservatism. Its four main branches are constitutionalism, paleolibertarianism, small government conservatism and Christian libertarianism. They generally differ from paleoconservatives, in that they favor more personal and economic freedom. The agorist philosopher Samuel Edward Konkin III labeled libertarian conservatism right-libertarianism.[66][67] In the United States, fusionism is the combination of traditionalist and social conservatism with political and economic right-libertarianism.[68]

In contrast to paleoconservatives, libertarian conservatives support strict laissez-faire policies such as free trade, opposition to any national bank and opposition to business regulations. They are often opposed to environmental regulations, corporate welfare, subsidies and other areas of economic intervention. Many conservatives, especially in the United States, believe that the government should not play a major role in regulating business and managing the economy. They typically oppose high taxes and income redistribution. Such efforts, they argue, only serve to exacerbate the scourge of unemployment and poverty by lessening the ability for businesses to hire employees due to higher tax impositions.[citation needed]

Fiscal conservatism[edit]

2009 Taxpayer March on Washington as conservative protesters walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

Fiscal conservatism is the economic philosophy of prudence in government spending and debt.[69] In Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Edmund Burke argued that a government does not have the right to run up large debts and then throw the burden on the taxpayer:

[I]t is to the property of the citizen, and not to the demands of the creditor of the state, that the first and original faith of civil society is pledged. The claim of the citizen is prior in time, paramount in title, superior in equity. The fortunes of individuals, whether possessed by acquisition or by descent or in virtue of a participation in the goods of some community, were no part of the creditor's security, expressed or implied...[T]he public, whether represented by a monarch or by a senate, can pledge nothing but the public estate; and it can have no public estate except in what it derives from a just and proportioned imposition upon the citizens at large.

National conservatism[edit]

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the national-conservative party Brothers of Italy as well as the first female Prime Minister of Italy

National conservatism is a political term used primarily in Europe to describe a variant of conservatism which concentrates more on national interests than standard conservatism as well as upholding cultural and ethnic identity,[70] while not being outspokenly ultra-nationalist or supporting a far-right approach.[71][72]

National conservatism is oriented towards upholding national sovereignty, which includes limited immigration and a strong national defence. In Europe, national conservatives are usually eurosceptics.[73][74] Yoram Hazony has argued for national conservatism in his work The Virtue of Nationalism (2018).[75]

Traditionalist conservatism[edit]

Traditionalist conservatism, also known as classical conservatism, emphasizes the need for the principles of natural law, transcendent moral order, tradition, hierarchy, organic unity, agrarianism, classicism, and high culture as well as the intersecting spheres of loyalty.[76] Some traditionalists have embraced the labels reactionary and counter-revolutionary, defying the stigma that has attached to these terms since the Enlightenment. Having a hierarchical view of society, many traditionalist conservatives, including a few notable Americans such as Ralph Adams Cram,[77] William S. Lind,[78] and Charles A. Coulombe,[79] defend the monarchical political structure as the most natural and beneficial social arrangement.

Cultural conservatism[edit]

Cultural conservatives support the preservation of a cultural heritage, either of a nation or a shared culture that is not defined by national boundaries.[80] The shared culture may be as divergent as Western culture or Chinese culture. In the United States, the term "cultural conservative" may imply a conservative position in the culture war. Cultural conservatives hold fast to traditional ways of thinking even in the face of monumental change, strongly believing in traditional values and traditional politics.

Social conservatism[edit]

Social conservatives believe that society is built upon a fragile network of relationships which need to be upheld through duty, traditional values, and established institutions; and that the government has a role in encouraging or enforcing traditional values or practices. A social conservative wants to preserve traditional morality and social mores, often by opposing what they consider radical policies or social engineering.[81]

Social conservatives tend to favour the anti-abortion (pro-life) position in the abortion controversy; oppose human embryonic stem cell research (particularly if publicly funded); oppose both eugenics and transhumanism while supporting bioconservatism;[82] support a traditional definition of marriage as being one man and one woman; view the nuclear family model as society's foundational unit; oppose expansion of civil marriage and child adoption to couples in same-sex relationships; promote public morality and traditional family values; oppose atheism, especially militant atheism, and secularism;[83][84][85] support the prohibition of drugs, prostitution and euthanasia; and support the censorship of pornography and what they consider to be obscenity or indecency.

Religious conservatism [edit]

2012 March for Life in Paris, France

Religious conservatism principally applies the teachings of particular religions to politics—sometimes by merely proclaiming the value of those teachings, at other times by having those teachings influence laws.[86]

In most democracies, political conservatism seeks to uphold traditional family structures and social values. Religious conservatives typically oppose abortion, LGBT behaviour (or, in certain cases, identity), drug use,[87] and sexual activity outside of marriage. In some cases, conservative values are grounded in religious beliefs, and conservatives seek to increase the role of religion in public life.[88]

Paternalistic conservatism[edit]

Paternalistic conservatism is a strand in conservatism which reflects the belief that societies exist and develop organically and that members within them have obligations towards each other.[89] There is particular emphasis on the paternalistic obligation of those who are privileged and wealthy to the poorer parts of society, which is consistent with principles such as organicism, hierarchy and duty. Paternal conservatives support neither the individual nor the state in principle, but are instead prepared to support either or recommend a balance between the two depending on what is most practical.[90] Paternalistic conservatives historically favour a more aristocratic view and are ideologically related to High Tories.[citation needed]

In more contemporary times, its proponents stress the importance of a social safety net to deal with poverty, supporting limited redistribution of wealth along with government regulation of markets in the interests of both consumers and producers.[91] Paternalistic conservatism first arose as a distinct ideology in the United Kingdom under Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli's "One Nation" Toryism.[91][92] There have been a variety of one-nation conservative governments in the United Kingdom with exponents such as Prime Ministers Disraeli, Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, and Harold Macmillan.[93]

In 19th-century Germany, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck adopted a set of social programs, known as state socialism, which included insurance for workers against sickness, accident, incapacity and old age. The goal of this conservative state-building strategy was to make ordinary Germans, not just the Junker aristocracy, more loyal to state and Emperor. Chancellor Leo von Caprivi promoted a conservative agenda called the "New Course".[94]

Progressive conservatism[edit]

In the United States, Theodore Roosevelt has been identified as the main exponent of progressive conservatism. Roosevelt stated that he had "always believed that wise progressivism and wise conservatism go hand in hand".[95] The Republican administration of President William Howard Taft was progressive conservative and he described himself as "a believer in progressive conservatism".[95] President Dwight D. Eisenhower also declared himself an advocate of progressive conservatism.[96]

In Canada, a variety of conservative governments have been part of the Red Tory tradition, with Canada's former major conservative party being named the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada from 1942 to 2003.[97] Prime Ministers Arthur Meighen, R. B. Bennett, John Diefenbaker, Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, and Kim Campbell led Red tory federal governments.[97]

Authoritarian conservatism[edit]

King Alexander I of Yugoslavia and Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss of Austria were authoritarian conservative statesmen who were assassinated by fascist and Nazi political enemies

Authoritarian conservatism refers to autocratic regimes that center their ideology around national conservatism, rather than ethnic nationalism, though certain racial components such as antisemitism may exist.[98][99][100][101] Authoritarian conservative movements show strong devotion towards religion, tradition and culture while also expressing fervent nationalism akin to other far-right nationalist movements. Examples of authoritarian conservative statesmen include Miklós Horthy in Hungary,[102] Ioannis Metaxas in Greece,[103] António de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal,[104] Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria,[105] and Francisco Franco in Spain.[106]

Authoritarian conservative movements were prominent in the same era as fascism, with which it sometimes clashed.[107] Although both ideologies shared core values such as nationalism and had common enemies such as communism and materialism, there was nonetheless a contrast between the traditionalist nature of authoritarian conservatism and the revolutionary, palingenetic and populist nature of fascism—thus it was common for authoritarian conservative regimes to suppress rising fascist and Nazi movements.[108] The hostility between the two ideologies is highlighted by the struggle for power in Austria, which was marked by the assassination of ultra-Catholic statesman Engelbert Dollfuss by Austrian Nazis. Likewise, Croatian fascists assassinated King Alexander I of Yugoslavia.[109] In Romania, as the fascist Iron Guard was gaining popularity and Nazi Germany was making advances in Europe with the Anschluss and the Munich Agreement, King Carol II ordered the execution of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu and other top-ranking Romanian fascists.[110][111]

Political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset has examined the class basis of right-wing extremist politics in the 1920–1960 era. He reports:

Conservative or rightist extremist movements have arisen at different periods in modern history, ranging from the Horthyites in Hungary, the Christian Social Party of Dollfuss in Austria, Der Stahlhelm and other nationalists in pre-Hitler Germany, and Salazar in Portugal, to the pre-1966 Gaullist movements and the monarchists in contemporary France and Italy. The right extremists are conservative, not revolutionary. They seek to change political institutions in order to preserve or restore cultural and economic ones, while extremists of the centre [fascists/nazis] and left [communists/anarchists] seek to use political means for cultural and social revolution. The ideal of the right extremist is not a totalitarian ruler, but a monarch, or a traditionalist who acts like one. Many such movements in Spain, Austria, Hungary, Germany, and Italy have been explicitly monarchist […] The supporters of these movements differ from those of the centrists, tending to be wealthier, and more religious, which is more important in terms of a potential for mass support.[112]

During the Cold War, right-wing military dictatorships were prominent in Latin America, with most nations being under military rule by the middle of the 1970s.[113] One example of this was Augusto Pinochet, who ruled over Chile from 1973 to 1990.[114] In the 21th century, the authoritarian style of government experienced a worldwide renaissance with conservative statesmen such as Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Narendra Modi in India, and Donald Trump in the United States.[115]

National variants[edit]

Conservative parties vary widely from country to country in the goals they wish to achieve. Both conservative and classical liberal parties tend to favour private ownership of property, in opposition to communist, socialist and green parties, which favour communal ownership or laws regulating responsibility on the part of property owners. Where conservatives and liberals differ is primarily on social issues, where conservatives tend to reject behaviour that does not conform to some social norm. Modern conservative parties often define themselves by their opposition to liberal or socialist parties.

The United States usage of the term conservative is unique to that country.[116][further explanation needed]



In India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Narendra Modi, represent conservative politics. With over 170 million members as of October 2022,[117][118] the BJP is by far the world's largest political party.[119] It promotes Hindu nationalism, quasi-fascist Hindutva, a hostile foreign policy against Pakistan, and a conservative social and fiscal policy.[120]


Singapore's only conservative party is the People's Action Party (PAP). It is currently in government and has been since independence in 1965. It promotes conservative values in the form of Asian democracy and Asian values.[121]

South Korea[edit]

South Korea's major conservative party, the People Power Party, has changed its form throughout its history. First it was the Democratic-Liberal Party and its first head was Roh Tae-woo, who was the first President of the Sixth Republic of South Korea. Democratic-Liberal Party was founded by the merging of Roh Tae-woo's Democratic Justice Party, Kim Young Sam's Reunification Democratic Party and Kim Jong-pil's New Democratic Republican Party. Kim Young-sam became the fourteenth President of Korea.

When the conservative party was beaten by the opposition party in the general election, it changed its form again to follow the party members' demand for reforms. It became the New Korea Party, but it changed again one year later since the President Kim Young-sam was blamed by the citizen for the International Monetary Fund.[clarification needed] It changed its name to Grand National Party (GNP). Since the late Kim Dae-jung assumed the presidency in 1998, GNP had been the opposition party until Lee Myung-bak won the presidential election of 2007.


European conservatism has taken many different expressions. In Italy, which was united by liberals and radicals in the Risorgimento, liberals, not conservatives, emerged as the party of the right.[122] During the first half of the 20th century, when socialism was gaining power around the world, conservatism in countries such as Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Portugal and Spain transformed into the far-right, becoming more authoritarian and extreme.[123] In the Netherlands, conservatives merged into a new Christian democratic party in 1980.[124]


Having its roots in the conservative Catholic Party, the Christian People's Party retained a conservative edge through the 20th century, supporting the king in the Royal Question, supporting nuclear family as the cornerstone of society, defending Christian education, and opposing euthanasia. The Christian People's Party dominated politics in post-war Belgium. In 1999, the party's support collapsed, and it became the country's fifth-largest party.[125][126][127] Since 2014, the Flemish nationalist and conservative New Flemish Alliance is the largest party in Belgium.[128]


Danish conservatism emerged with the political grouping Højre (literally "Right"), which due to its alliance with king Christian IX of Denmark dominated Danish politics and formed all governments from 1865 to 1901. When a constitutional reform in 1915 stripped the landed gentry of political power, Højre was succeeded by the Conservative People's Party of Denmark, which has since then been the main Danish conservative party.[129] Another Danish conservative party was the Free Conservatives, who were active between 1902 and 1920. Traditionally and historically, conservatism in Denmark tends to be more populist and agrarian than in Sweden and Norway, where conservatism has been more elitist and urban.[130]

The Conservative People's Party led the government coalition from 1982 to 1993. The party had previously been member of various governments from 1916 to 1917, 1940 to 1945, 1950 to 1953, and 1968 to 1971. The party was a junior partner in governments led by the Liberals from 2001 to 2011[131] and again from 2016 to 2019. The party is preceded by 11 years by the Young Conservatives (KU), today the youth movement of the party.

The Conservative People's Party had a stable electoral support close to 15 to 20% at almost all general elections from 1918 to 1971. In the 1970s it declined to around 5%, but then under the leadership of Poul Schlüter reached its highest popularity level ever in 1984, receiving 23% of the votes. Since the late 1990s the party has obtained around 5 to 10% of the vote. In 2022, the party received 5.5% of the vote.[132]

Conservative thinking has also influenced other Danish political parties. In 1995, the Danish People's Party was founded, based on a mixture of conservative, nationalist and social-democratic ideas.[129] In 2015, the party New Right was established, professing a national-conservative attitude.[133]

The conservative parties in Denmark have always considered the monarchy as a central institution in Denmark.[134][135][136][137]


The conservative party in Finland is the National Coalition Party. The party was founded in 1918, when several monarchist parties united. Although right-wing in the past, today it is a moderate liberal conservative party. While advocating economic liberalism, it is committed to the social market economy.[138]


Early conservatism in France focused on the rejection of the secularism of the French Revolution, support for the role of the Catholic Church, and the restoration of the monarchy.[139] After the first fall of Napoleon in 1814, the House of Bourbon returned to power in the Bourbon Restoration. Louis XVIII and Charles X, brothers of the executed King Louis XVI, successively mounted the throne and instituted a conservative government intended to restore the proprieties, if not all the institutions, of the Ancien Régime. After the July Revolution of 1830, Louis Philippe I, a member of the more liberal Orléans branch of the House of Bourbon, proclaimed himself as King of the French. The Second French Empire saw an Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870. The Bourbon monarchist cause was on the verge of victory in the 1870s, but then collapsed because the proposed king, Henri, Count of Chambord, refused to fly the tri-colored flag.[140]

Religious tensions heightened in the 1890–1910 era, but moderated after the spirit of unity in fighting the First World War.[141] An authoritarian form of conservatism characterized the Vichy regime of 1940–1944 with heightened antisemitism, opposition to individualism, emphasis on family life, and national direction of the economy.[142]

Conservatism has been the major political force in France since the Second World War, although the number of conservative groups and their lack of stability defy simple categorization.[143] Following the war, conservatives supported Gaullist groups and parties, espoused nationalism, and emphasized tradition, order, and the regeneration of France.[144] Unusually, post-war conservatism in France was formed around the personality of a leader—army officer Charles de Gaulle who led the Free French Forces against Nazi Germany—and it did not draw on traditional French conservatism, but on the Bonapartist tradition.[145] Gaullism in France continues under The Republicans (formerly Union for a Popular Movement) and it was previously led by Nicolas Sarkozy, who served as President of France from 2007 to 2012 and whose ideology is known as Sarkozysm.[146]

The term conservative is a term of abuse to many people in France due to its association with pre-modern times.[147]


Conservatism developed alongside nationalism in Germany, culminating in Germany's victory over France in the Franco-Prussian War, the creation of the unified German Empire in 1871 and the simultaneous rise of Otto von Bismarck on the European political stage. Bismarck's "balance of power" model maintained peace in Europe for decades at the end of the 19th century. His "revolutionary conservatism" was a conservative state-building strategy, based on class collaboration and designed to make ordinary Germans—not just the Junker aristocracy—more loyal to state and Emperor. He created the modern welfare state in Germany in the 1880s. According to scholars, his strategy was:

granting social rights to enhance the integration of a hierarchical society, to forge a bond between workers and the state so as to strengthen the latter, to maintain traditional relations of authority between social and status groups, and to provide a countervailing power against the modernist forces of liberalism and socialism.[148]

Bismarck also enacted universal male suffrage in the new German Empire in 1871.[149] He became a great hero to German conservatives, who erected many monuments to his memory after he left office in 1890.[150]

With the rise of Nazism in 1933, agrarian movements faded and was supplanted by a more command-based economy and forced social integration. Adolf Hitler succeeded in garnering the support of many German industrialists, but prominent traditionalists, including military officers Claus von Stauffenberg and Henning von Tresckow, pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen, and monarchist Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, openly and secretly opposed his policies of euthanasia, genocide, and attacks on organized religion.

More recently, the work of conservative Christian Democratic Union leader and Chancellor Helmut Kohl helped bring about German reunification, along with the closer European integration in the form of the Maastricht Treaty. Today, German conservatism is often associated with politicians such as Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose tenure has been marked by attempts to save the common European currency (Euro) from demise. The German conservatives are divided under Merkel due to the refugee crisis in Germany and many conservatives in the CDU/CSU oppose the refugee and migrant policies developed under Merkel.[151] The 2020s also saw the rise of right-wing populist Alternative for Germany.


The main inter-war conservative party was called the People's Party (PP), which supported constitutional monarchy and opposed the republican Liberal Party. Both it and the Liberal party were suppressed by the authoritarian, arch-conservative and royalist 4th of August Regime of Ioannis Metaxas in 1936–1941. The PP was able to re-group after the Second World War as part of a United Nationalist Front which achieved power campaigning on a simple anti-communist, nationalist platform during the Greek Civil War (1946–1949). However, the vote received by the PP declined during the so-called "Centrist Interlude" in 1950–1952.

In 1952, Marshal Alexandros Papagos created the Greek Rally as an umbrella for the right-wing forces. The Greek Rally came to power in 1952 and remained the leading party in Greece until 1963. After Papagos' death in 1955, it was reformed as the National Radical Union under Konstantinos Karamanlis. Right-wing governments backed by the palace and the army overthrew the Centre Union government in 1965 and governed the country until the establishment of the far-right Greek junta (1967–1974). After the regime's collapse in August 1974, Karamanlis returned from exile to lead the government and founded the New Democracy party. The new conservative party had four objectives: to confront Turkish expansionism in Cyprus, to reestablish and solidify democratic rule, to give the country a strong government, and to make a powerful moderate party a force in Greek politics.[152]

The Independent Greeks, a newly formed political party in Greece, has also supported conservatism, particularly national and religious conservatism. The Founding Declaration of the Independent Greeks strongly emphasises in the preservation of the Greek state and its sovereignty, the Greek people, and the Greek Orthodox Church.[153]


Founded in 1924 as the Conservative Party, Iceland's Independence Party adopted its current name in 1929 after the merger with the Liberal Party. From the beginning, they have been the largest vote-winning party, averaging around 40%. They combined liberalism and conservatism, supported nationalization of infrastructure, and advocated class collaboration. While mostly in opposition during the 1930s, they embraced economic liberalism, but accepted the welfare state after the war and participated in governments supportive of state intervention and protectionism. Unlike other Scandanivian conservative (and liberal) parties, it has always had a large working-class following.[154] After the financial crisis in 2008, the party has sunk to a lower support level at around 20–25%.


After unification, Italy was governed successively by the Historical Right, which represented conservative, liberal-conservative and conservative-liberal positions, and the Historical Left. After World War I, the country saw the emergence of its first mass parties, notably including the Italian People's Party (PPI), a Christian-democratic party that sought to represent the Catholic majority, which had long refrained from politics. The PPI and the Italian Socialist Party decisively contributed to the loss of strength and authority of the old liberal ruling class, which had not been able to structure itself into a proper party: the Liberal Union was not coherent and the Italian Liberal Party came too late. In 1921 Benito Mussolini gave birth to the National Fascist Party (PNF), and the next year, through the March on Rome, he was appointed Prime Minister. In 1926 all parties were dissolved except the PNF, which thus remained the only legal party in the Kingdom of Italy until the fall of the regime in July 1943.

By 1945, fascists were discredited, disbanded and outlawed, while Mussolini was executed in April that year.[155] After World War II, the centre-right was dominated by the centrist party Christian Democracy (DC), which included both conservative and centre-left elements. With its landslide victory over the Italian Socialist Party and the Italian Communist Party in 1948, the political centre was in power. In Denis Mack Smith's words, it was "moderately conservative, reasonably tolerant of everything which did not touch religion or property, but above all Catholic and sometimes clerical". It dominated politics until DC's dissolution in 1994.[156][157] Among DC's frequent allies, there was the conservative-liberal Italian Liberal Party. At the right of the DC stood parties like the royalist Monarchist National Party and the post-fascist Italian Social Movement.

In 1994, entrepreneur and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi founded the liberal-conservative party Forza Italia (FI). He won three elections in 1994, 2001, and 2008, governing the country for almost ten years as Prime Minister. FI formed a coalitions with several parties, including the national-conservative National Alliance (AN), heir of the MSI, and the regionalist Lega Nord (LN). FI was briefly incorporated, along with AN, in The People of Freedom party and later revived in the new Forza Italia.[158] After the 2018 general election, the LN and the Five Star Movement formed a populist government, which lasted about a year.[159] In the 2022 general election, a centre-right coalition came to power, this time dominated by Brothers of Italy (FdI), a new national-conservative party born on the ashes of AN. Consequently, FdI, the re-branded Lega, and FI formed a government under FdI leader Giorgia Meloni.


Luxembourg's major conservative party, the Christian Social People's Party, was formed as the Party of the Right in 1914 and adopted its present name in 1945. It was consistently the largest political party in Luxembourg, and dominated politics throughout the 20th century.[160]


The Conservative Party of Norway (Norwegian: Høyre, literally "Right") was formed by the old upper-class of state officials and wealthy merchants to fight the populist democracy of the Liberal Party, but it lost power in 1884, when parliamentarian government was first practiced. It formed its first government under parliamentarism in 1889 and continued to alternate in power with the Liberals until the 1930s, when Labour became the dominant party. It has elements both of paternalism, stressing the responsibilities of the state, and of economic liberalism. It first returned to power in the 1960s.[161] During Kåre Willoch's premiership in the 1980s, much emphasis was laid on liberalizing the credit and housing market and abolishing the NRK TV and radio monopoly, while supporting law and order in criminal justice and traditional norms in education.[162]


Under Vladimir Putin, the dominant leader since 1999, Russia has promoted explicitly conservative policies in social, cultural and political matters, both at home and abroad.[163] Putin has criticized globalism and economic liberalism, claiming that "liberalism has become obsolete" and that the vast majority of people in the world oppose multiculturalism, free immigration, and rights for LGBT people.[164] Russian conservatism is special in some respects as it supports a mixed economy with economic intervention, combined with a strong nationalist sentiment and social conservatism which is largely populist. As a result, Russian conservatism opposes right-libertarian ideals such as the aforementioned concept of economic liberalism found in other conservative movements around the world.

Putin has also promoted new think tanks that bring together like-minded intellectuals and writers. For example, the Izborsky Club, founded in 2012 by Alexander Prokhanov, stresses Russian nationalism, the restoration of Russia's historical greatness, and systematic opposition to liberal ideas and policies.[165] Vladislav Surkov, a senior government official, has been one of the key ideologists during Putin's presidency.[166]

In cultural and social affairs, Putin has collaborated closely with the Russian Orthodox Church. Under Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the Church has backed the expansion of Russian power into Crimea and eastern Ukraine.[167] More broadly, The New York Times reports in September 2016 how the Church's policy prescriptions support the Kremlin's appeal to social conservatives:

"A fervent foe of homosexuality and any attempt to put individual rights above those of family, community, or nation, the Russian Orthodox Church helps project Russia as the natural ally of all those who pine for a more secure, illiberal world free from the tradition-crushing rush of globalization, multiculturalism, and women's and gay rights."[168]


Sweden's conservative party, the Moderate Party, was formed in 1904, two years after the founding of the Liberal Party.[169] The party emphasizes tax reductions, deregulation of private enterprise, and privatization of schools, hospitals, and kindergartens.[170]


There are a number of conservative parties in Switzerland's parliament, the Federal Assembly. These include the largest ones: the Swiss People's Party (SVP),[171] the Christian Democratic People's Party (CVP),[172] and the Conservative Democratic Party of Switzerland (BDP),[173] which is a splinter of the SVP created in the aftermath to the election of Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf as Federal Council.[173]

The SVP was formed from the 1971 merger of the Party of Farmers, Traders and Citizens, formed in 1917, and the smaller Democratic Party, formed in 1942. The SVP emphasized agricultural policy and was strong among farmers in German-speaking Protestant areas. As Switzerland considered closer relations with the European Union in the 1990s, the SVP adopted a more militant protectionist and isolationist stance. This stance has allowed it to expand into German-speaking Catholic mountainous areas.[174] The Anti-Defamation League, a non-Swiss lobby group based in the United States has accused them of manipulating issues such as immigration, Swiss neutrality, and welfare benefits, awakening antisemitism and racism.[175] The Council of Europe has called the SVP "extreme right", although some scholars dispute this classification. For instance, Hans-Georg Betz describes it as "populist radical right".[176] The SVP has been the largest party since 2003.


Authoritarian Ukrainian State was headed by Cossack aristocrat Pavlo Skoropadskyi and represented the conservative movement. The 1918 Hetman government, which appealed to the tradition of the 17th–18th century Cossack Hetman state, represented the conservative strand in Ukraine's struggle for independence. It had the support of the proprietary classes and of conservative and moderate political groups. Vyacheslav Lypynsky was a main ideologue of Ukrainian conservatism.[177]

United Kingdom[edit]

Modern English conservatives celebrate Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke as their intellectual father.[178] Burke was affiliated with the Whig Party, which eventually split amongst the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, but the modern Conservative Party is generally thought to derive primarily from the Tories, and the MPs of the modern conservative party are still frequently referred to as Tories.

Shortly after Burke's death in 1797, conservatism was revived as a mainstream political force as the Whigs suffered a series of internal divisions. This new generation of conservatives derived their politics not from Burke, but from his predecessor, the Viscount Bolingbroke (1678–1751), who was a Jacobite and traditional Tory, lacking Burke's sympathies for Whiggish policies such as Catholic emancipation and American independence (famously attacked by Samuel Johnson in "Taxation No Tyranny").

In the first half of the 19th century, many newspapers, magazines, and journals promoted loyalist or right-wing attitudes in religion, politics, and international affairs. Burke was seldom mentioned, but William Pitt the Younger (1759–1806) became a conspicuous hero. The most prominent journals included The Quarterly Review, founded in 1809 as a counterweight to the Whigs' Edinburgh Review, and the even more conservative Blackwood's Magazine. The Quarterly Review promoted a balanced Canningite Toryism, as it was neutral on Catholic emancipation and only mildly critical of Nonconformist dissent; it opposed slavery and supported the current poor laws; and it was "aggressively imperialist". The high-church clergy of the Church of England read the Orthodox Churchman's Magazine, which was equally hostile to Jewish, Catholic, Jacobin, Methodist and Unitarian spokesmen. Anchoring the ultra-Tories, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine stood firmly against Catholic emancipation and favoured slavery, cheap money, mercantilism, the Navigation Acts, and the Holy Alliance.[179]

Conservatism evolved after 1820, embracing free trade in 1846 and a commitment to democracy, especially under Benjamin Disraeli. The effect was to significantly strengthen conservatism as a grassroots political force. Conservatism no longer was the philosophical defense of the landed aristocracy, but had been refreshed into redefining its commitment to the ideals of order, both secular and religious, expanding imperialism, strengthened monarchy, and a more generous vision of the welfare state as opposed to the punitive vision of the Whigs and liberals.[180] As early as 1835, Disraeli attacked the Whigs and utilitarians as slavishly devoted to an industrial oligarchy, while he described his fellow Tories as the only "really democratic party of England," devoted to the interests of the whole people.[181] Nevertheless, inside the party there was a tension between the growing numbers of wealthy businessmen on the one side and the aristocracy and rural gentry on the other.[182] The aristocracy gained strength as businessmen discovered they could use their wealth to buy a peerage and a country estate.

Some conservatives lamented the passing of a pastoral world where the ethos of noblesse oblige had promoted respect from the lower classes. They saw the Anglican Church and the aristocracy as balances against commercial wealth.[183] They worked toward legislation for improved working conditions and urban housing.[184] This viewpoint would later be called Tory democracy.[185] However, since Burke, there has always been tension between traditional aristocratic conservatism and the wealthy liberal business class.[186]

In 1834, Tory Prime Minister Robert Peel issued the "Tamworth Manifesto", in which he pledged to endorse moderate political reform. This marked the beginning of the transformation from High Tory reactionism towards a more modern form of conservatism. As a result, the party became known as the Conservative Party—a name it has retained to this day. However, Peel would also be the root of a split in the party between the traditional Tories (by the Earl of Derby and Benjamin Disraeli) and the "Peelites" (led first by Peel himself, then by the Earl of Aberdeen). The split occurred in 1846 over the issue of free trade, which Peel supported, versus protectionism, supported by Derby. The majority of the party sided with Derby whilst about a third split away, eventually merging with the Whigs and the radicals to form the Liberal Party. Despite the split, the mainstream Conservative Party accepted the doctrine of free trade in 1852.

In the second half of the 19th century, the Liberal Party faced political schisms, especially over Irish Home Rule. Leader William Gladstone (himself a former Peelite) sought to give Ireland a degree of autonomy, a move that elements in both the left and right-wings of his party opposed. These split off to become the Liberal Unionists (led by Joseph Chamberlain), forming a coalition with the Conservatives before merging with them in 1912. The Liberal Unionist influence dragged the Conservative Party towards the left as Conservative governments passed a number of progressive reforms at the turn of the 20th century. By the late 19th century, the traditional business supporters of the Liberal Party had joined the Conservatives, making them the party of business and commerce as well.[187]

After a period of Liberal dominance before the First World War, the Conservatives gradually became more influential in government, regaining full control of the cabinet in 1922. In the inter-war period, conservatism was the major ideology in Britain[188][189][190] as the Liberal Party vied with the Labour Party for control of the left. After the Second World War, the first Labour government (1945–1951) under Clement Attlee embarked on a program of nationalization of industry and the promotion of social welfare. The Conservatives generally accepted those policies until the 1980s.

In the 1980s, the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, guided by neoliberal economics, reversed many of Labour's social programmes, privatised large parts of the UK economy, and sold state-owned assets.[191] The Conservative Party also adopted soft eurosceptic politics, and opposed Federal Europe. Other conservative political parties, such as the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP, founded in 1971), and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP, founded in 1993), began to appear, although they have yet to make any significant impact at Westminster. As of 2014, the DUP comprises the largest political party in the ruling coalition in the Northern Ireland Assembly), and from 2017–2019 the DUP provided support for the Conservative minority government under a confidence-and-supply arrangement.

Latin America[edit]

Conservative elites have long dominated Latin American nations. Mostly, this has been achieved through control of and support for civil institutions, the Catholic Church, and the military, rather than through party politics. Typically, the Church was exempt from taxes and its employees immune from civil prosecution. Where conservative parties were weak or non-existent, conservatives were more likely to rely on military dictatorship as a preferred form of government.

However, in some nations where the elites were able to mobilize popular support for conservative parties, longer periods of political stability were achieved. Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela are examples of nations that developed strong conservative parties. Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, and Peru are examples of nations where this did not occur.[192] The Conservative Party of Venezuela disappeared following the Federal Wars of 1858–1863.[193] Chile's conservative party, the National Party, disbanded in 1973 following a military coup and did not re-emerge as a political force following the subsequent return to democracy.[194]

Louis Hartz explained conservatism in Latin American nations as a result of their settlement as feudal societies.[195]


Conservatism in Brazil originates from the cultural and historical tradition of Brazil, whose cultural roots are Luso-Iberian and Roman Catholic.[196] More traditional conservative historical views and features include belief in political federalism and monarchism.

In cultural life, Brazilian conservatism from the 20th century on includes names such as Mário Ferreira dos Santos and Vicente Ferreira da Silva in philosophy; Gerardo Melo Mourão and Otto Maria Carpeaux in literature; Bruno Tolentino in poetry; Olavo de Carvalho, Paulo Francis and Luís Ernesto Lacombe in journalism; Manuel de Oliveira Lima and João Camilo de Oliveira Torres in historiography; Sobral Pinto and Miguel Reale in law; Gustavo Corção, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Father Léo and Father Paulo Ricardo[197] in religion; and Roberto Campos and Mario Henrique Simonsen in economics.[198]

In contemporary politics, a conservative wave began roughly around the 2014 Brazilian presidential election.[199] According to political analyst Antônio Augusto de Queiroz, the National Congress of Brazil elected in 2014 may be considered the most conservative since the re-democratization movement, citing an increase in the number of parliamentarians linked to more conservative segments, such as ruralists, the the military, the police, and religious conservatives. The subsequent economic crisis of 2015 and investigations of corruption scandals led to a right-wing movement that sought to rescue ideas from economic liberalism and conservatism in opposition to socialism. At the same time, fiscal conservatives such as those that make up the Free Brazil Movement emerged among many others. National-conservative candidate Jair Bolsonaro of the Social Liberal Party was the winner of the 2018 Brazilian presidential election.[200]

The active conservative parties in Brazil are Brazil Union, Progressistas, Republicans, Liberal Party, Brazilian Labour Renewal Party, Patriota, Brazilian Labour Party, Social Christian Party and Brasil 35.


The Colombian Conservative Party, founded in 1849, traces its origins to opponents of General Francisco de Paula Santander's 1833–1837 administration. While the term "liberal" had been used to describe all political forces in Colombia, the conservatives began describing themselves as "conservative liberals" and their opponents as "red liberals". From the 1860s until the present, the party has supported strong central government and the Catholic Church, especially its role as protector of the sanctity of the family, and opposed separation of church and state. Its policies include the legal equality of all men, the citizen's right to own property, and opposition to dictatorship. It has usually been Colombia's second largest party, with the Colombian Liberal Party being the largest.[201]

North America[edit]


Canada's conservatives had their roots in the Tory loyalists who left America after the American Revolution. They developed in the socio-economic and political cleavages that existed during the first three decades of the 19th century and had the support of the business, professional, and Anglican Church elites in Ontario and to a lesser extent in Quebec. Holding a monopoly over administrative and judicial offices, they were called the Family Compact in Ontario and the Chateau Clique in Quebec. John A. Macdonald's successful leadership of the movement to confederate the provinces and his subsequent tenure as prime minister for most of the late 19th century rested on his ability to bring together the English-speaking Protestant aristocracy and the ultramontane Catholic hierarchy of Quebec and to keep them united in a conservative coalition.[202]

The conservatives combined pro-market liberalism and Toryism. They generally supported an activist government and state intervention in the marketplace, and their policies were marked by noblesse oblige, a paternalistic responsibility of the elites for the less well-off.[203] The party was known as the Progressive Conservatives from 1942 until 2003, when the party merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada.[204]

The conservative and autonomist Union Nationale, led by Maurice Duplessis, governed the province of Quebec in periods from 1936 to 1960 and in a close alliance with the Catholic Church, small rural elites, farmers, and business elites. This period, known by liberals as the Great Darkness, ended with the Quiet Revolution and the party went into terminal decline.[205]

By the end of the 1960s, the political debate in Quebec centered around the question of independence, opposing the social democratic and sovereignist Parti Québécois and the centrist and federalist Quebec Liberal Party, therefore marginalizing the conservative movement. Most French Canadian conservatives rallied either the Quebec Liberal Party or the Parti Québécois, while some of them still tried to offer an autonomist third-way with what was left of the Union Nationale or the more populists Ralliement créditiste du Québec and Parti national populaire, but by the 1981 provincial election politically organized conservatism had been obliterated in Quebec. It slowly started to revive at the 1994 provincial election with the Action démocratique du Québec, who served as Official opposition in the National Assembly from 2007 to 2008, before merging in 2012 with François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec, which took power in 2018. The modern Conservative Party of Canada has rebranded conservatism and, under the leadership of Stephen Harper, added more conservative policies.

United States[edit]

The meaning of conservatism in the United States is different from the way the word is used elsewhere. As historian Leo P. Ribuffo notes, "what Americans now call conservatism much of the world calls liberalism or neoliberalism".[206] However, the prominent American conservative writer Russell Kirk, in his influential work The Conservative Mind (1953), argued that conservatism had been brought to the United States and he interpreted the American Revolution as a "conservative revolution" against royalist innovation.[207]

American conservatism is a broad system of political beliefs in the United States, which is characterized by respect for American traditions, support for Judeo-Christian values, economic liberalism, anti-communism, and a defense of Western culture. Liberty within the bounds of conformity to conservatism is a core value, with a particular emphasis on strengthening the free market, limiting the size and scope of government, and opposing high taxes as well as government or labor union encroachment on the entrepreneur.

The 1830s Democratic Party became divided between Southern Democrats, who supported slavery, secession, and later segregation, and the Northern Democrats, who tended to support the abolition of slavery, union, and equality.[208] Many Democrats were conservative in the sense that they wanted things to be like they were in the past, especially as far as race was concerned. They generally favored poorer farmers and urban workers, and were hostile to banks, industrialization, and high tariffs.[209]

The post-Civil War Republican Party elected the first People of Color to serve in both local and national political office. The Southern Democrats united with pro-segregation Northern Republicans to form the Conservative Coalition, which successfully put an end to Blacks being elected to national political office until 1967, when Edward Brooke was elected Senator from Massachusetts.[210][211] Conservative Democrats influenced US politics until 1994's Republican Revolution, when the American South shifted from solid Democrat to solid Republican, while maintaining its conservative values.

In late 19th century, the Democratic Party split into two factions; the more conservative Eastern business faction (led by Grover Cleveland) favored gold, while the South and West (led by William Jennings Bryan) wanted more silver in order to raise prices for their crops. In 1892, Cleveland won the election on a conservative platform, which supported maintaining the gold standard, reducing tariffs, and taking a laissez-faire approach to government intervention. A severe nationwide depression ruined his plans. Many of his supporters in 1896 supported the Gold Democrats when liberal William Jennings Bryan won the nomination and campaigned for bimetalism, money backed by both gold and silver. The conservative wing nominated Alton B. Parker in 1904, but he got very few votes.[212][213]

The major conservative party in the United States today is the Republican Party, also known as the GOP (Grand Old Party). Modern American conservatives often consider individual liberty as the fundamental trait of democracy, as long as it conforms to conservative values, small government, deregulation of the government, economic liberalism, and free trade—which contrasts with modern American liberals, who generally place a greater value on social equality and social justice.[214][215] Other major priorities within American conservatism include support for the traditional family, law and order, the right to bear arms, Christian values, anti-communism, and a defense of "Western civilization from the challenges of modernist culture and totalitarian governments".[216] Economic conservatives and libertarians favor small government, low taxes, limited regulation, and free enterprise. Some social conservatives see traditional social values threatened by secularism, so they support school prayer and oppose abortion and homosexuality.[217] Neoconservatives want to expand American ideals throughout the world and show a strong support for Israel.[218] Paleoconservatives oppose multiculturalism and press for restrictions on immigration.[219] Most US conservatives prefer Republicans over Democrats and most factions favor a strong foreign policy and a strong military.

The conservative movement of the 1950s attempted to bring together the divergent conservative strands, stressing the need for unity to prevent the spread of "godless communism", which Reagan later labeled an "evil empire".[220][221] During the Reagan administration, conservatives also supported the so-called Reagan Doctrine, under which the US as part of a Cold War strategy provided military and other support to guerrilla insurgencies that were fighting governments identified as socialist or communist. The Reagan administration also adopted neoliberalism and Reaganomics (pejoratively referred to as trickle-down economics), resulting in the 1980s economic growth and trillion-dollar deficits. Other modern conservative positions include anti-environmentalism.[222] On average, American conservatives desire tougher foreign policies than liberals do.[223]

The Tea Party movement, founded in 2009, proved a large outlet for populist American conservative ideas. Their stated goals included rigorous adherence to the US constitution, lower taxes, and opposition to a growing role for the federal government in health care. Electorally, it was considered a key force in Republicans reclaiming control of the US House of Representatives in 2010.[224][225][226]



The Liberal Party of Australia adheres to the principles of social conservatism and liberal conservatism.[227] It is liberal in the sense of economics. Commentators explain: "In America, 'liberal' means left-of-center, and it is a pejorative term when used by conservatives in adversarial political debate. In Australia, of course, the conservatives are in the Liberal Party."[228] The National Right is the most organised and reactionary of the three faction within the party.[229]

Other conservative parties are the National Party of Australia (a sister party of the Liberals), Family First Party, Democratic Labor Party, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, Australian Conservatives, and the Katter's Australian Party.

The largest party in the country is the Australian Labor Party and its dominant faction is Labor Right, a socially conservative element. Australia undertook significant economic reform under the Labor Party in the mid-1980s. Consequently, issues like protectionism, welfare reform, privatization, and deregulation are no longer debated in the political space as they are in Europe or North America.

Political scientist James Jupp writes that "[the] decline in English influences on Australian reformism and radicalism, and appropriation of the symbols of Empire by conservatives continued under the Liberal Party leadership of Sir Robert Menzies, which lasted until 1966".[230]



The Big Five Personality Model has applications in the study of political psychology. It has been found by several studies that individuals who score high in Conscientiousness (the quality of working hard and being careful) are more likely to possess a right-wing political identification.[231][232][233] On the opposite end of the spectrum, a strong correlation was identified between high scores in Openness to Experience and a left-leaning ideology.[231][234][235] Because conscientiousness is positively related to job performance,[236][237] a 2021 study found that conservative service workers earn higher ratings, evaluations, and tips than social liberal ones.[238]

Disgust sensitivity[edit]

A number of studies have found that disgust is tightly linked to political orientation. People who are highly sensitive to disgusting images are more likely to align with the political right and value traditional ideals of bodily and spiritual purity, tending to oppose, for example, abortion and gay marriage.[239][240][241][242]

Research has also found that people who are more disgust sensitive tend to favour their own in-group over out-groups. The reason behind this may be that people begin to associate outsiders with disease while associating health with people similar to themselves.[243]

The higher one's disgust sensitivity is, the greater the tendency to make more conservative moral judgments. Disgust sensitivity is associated with moral hypervigilance, which means that people who have higher disgust sensitivity are more likely to think that suspects of a crime are guilty. They also tend to view them as evil, if found guilty, thus endorsing them to harsher punishment in the setting of a court.[244]


The right-wing authoritarian personality (RWA) is a personality type that describes somebody who is highly submissive to their authority figures, acts aggressively in the name of said authorities, and is conformist in thought and behaviour.[245] According to psychologist Bob Altemeyer, individuals who are politically conservative tend to rank high in RWA.[246] This finding was echoed by Theodor W. Adorno in The Authoritarian Personality (1950) based on the F-scale personality test.

A study done on Israeli and Palestinian students in Israel found that RWA scores of right-wing party supporters were significantly higher than those of left-wing party supporters.[247] However, a 2005 study by H. Michael Crowson and colleagues suggested a moderate gap between RWA and other conservative positions, stating that their "results indicated that conservatism is not synonymous with RWA".[248]

Ambiguity intolerance[edit]

In 1973, British psychologist Glenn Wilson published an influential book providing evidence that a general factor underlying conservative beliefs is "fear of uncertainty".[249] A meta-analysis of research literature by Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, and Sulloway in 2003 found that many factors, such as intolerance of ambiguity and need for cognitive closure, contribute to the degree of one's political conservatism and its manifestations in decision-making.[250][251] A study by Kathleen Maclay stated these traits "might be associated with such generally valued characteristics as personal commitment and unwavering loyalty". The research also suggested that while most people are resistant to change, social liberals are more tolerant of it.[252]

Social dominance orientation[edit]

Social dominance orientation (SDO) is a personality trait measuring an individual's support for social hierarchy and the extent to which they desire their in-group be superior to out-groups. Psychologist Felicia Pratto and her colleagues have found evidence to support the claim that a high SDO is strongly correlated with conservative views and opposition to social engineering to promote equality.[253] Pratto and her colleagues also found that high SDO scores were highly correlated with measures of prejudice.[citation needed]

However, David J. Schneider argued for a more complex relationships between the three factors, writing that "correlations between prejudice and political conservatism are reduced virtually to zero when controls for SDO are instituted, suggesting that the conservatism–prejudice link is caused by SDO".[254] Conservative political theorist Kenneth Minogue criticized Pratto's work, saying:

It is characteristic of the conservative temperament to value established identities, to praise habit and to respect prejudice, not because it is irrational, but because such things anchor the darting impulses of human beings in solidities of custom which we do not often begin to value until we are already losing them. Radicalism often generates youth movements, while conservatism is a condition found among the mature, who have discovered what it is in life they most value.[255]

A 1996 study by Pratto and her colleagues examined the topic of racism. Contrary to what these theorists predicted, correlations between conservatism and racism were strongest among the most educated individuals, and weakest among the least educated. They also found that the correlation between racism and conservatism could be accounted for by their mutual relationship with SDO.[256]


In his book Gross National Happiness (2008), Arthur C. Brooks presents the finding that conservatives are roughly twice as happy as social liberals.[257] A 2008 study suggested that conservatives tend to be happier than social liberals because of their tendency to justify the current state of affairs and to remain unbothered by inequalities in society.[258] A 2012 study disputed this, demonstrating that conservatives expressed greater personal agency (e.g., personal control, responsibility), more positive outlook (e.g., optimism, self-worth), and more transcendent moral beliefs (e.g., greater religiosity, greater moral clarity).[259]

See also[edit]

National variants[edit]

Ideological variants[edit]

Related topics[edit]


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Further reading[edit]


Conservatism and fascism

Conservatism and liberalism

Conservatism and reactionism

Conservatism and women

Conservatism in Europe

Conservatism in Germany

Conservatism in Latin America

Conservatism in Russia

Conservatism in the United Kingdom

Conservatism in the United States



External links[edit]