Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Conservatism and Temperament

In the previous post, I alluded to conservatisms.

People apply the word conservatism in all sorts of ways.

Conservatism is often used to describe a persons temperament or psychological disposition. rather than some set of principles.

Philosopher Michael Oakeshott provided this brief summary several decades ago:

"To be conservative, then, 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. Familiar relationships and loyalties will be preferred to the allure of more profitable attachments; to acquire and to enlarge will be less important than to keep, to cultivate and to enjoy; the grief of loss will be more acute than the excitement of novelty or promise. It is to be equal to one's own fortune, to live at the level of one's own means, to be content with the want of greater perfection which belongs alike to oneself and one's circumstances."

This kind of conservatism seemed natural in some degrees to human nature.

For Oakeshott, the conservative disposition does not translate into a specific political program or even imply that most common and most unhelpful characterization of conservatism--resistance to change. For Oakshott, governing is the art of managing change within a nation's traditional customs and institutions.

Change will come, whether one likes it or not. The problem is what kind of change occurs and the purpose or goal of that change.

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