Introduction to Political Theory

(Marvins-Underground-K-12) #1
figure had increased from 16 per cent to 69 per cent (


The contemporary relevance of traditional conservatism is seen less as an active
ideology – party political conservatives are not really conservatives – but as an
important source of ideas critical of the dominant liberal ideology. The core of
conservatism is its critique of rationalism. While American conservatism –
specifically, neo-conservatism – is difficult to reconcile with British conservatism,
there is an underlying respect for institutions and doubts about radical forms of
democracy and egalitarianism. That said, apart from a common emphasis on the
interpenetration of state and society, and consequently the recognition that politics
is concerned with the development of virtue and not simply the resolution of
conflicting interests, there is little that holds the four thinkers together (and
Oakeshott, in his later work, rejects the idea that politics should promote virtue).


  1. If conservatives are sceptical about reason how can they criticise society?

  2. Under what circumstances should people attempt to overturn the existing political

  3. ’Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it’ (George
    Santayana). Do you agree?

  4. Is same-sex marriage a conservative idea?


Almond, G. and Verba, S. (1963) The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in
Five NationsPrinceton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Burke, E. (1969) Reflections on the Revolution in France(ed. Conor Cruise O’Brien)
Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Burke, E. (1975) On Government, Politics and Society (ed. B.W. Hill) London:
Fontana/Harvester Press.
Hume, D. (1963) Essays, Moral, Political and LiteraryOxford: Oxford University Press.
Hume, D. (1978) A Treatise of Human Nature(ed. L.A. Selby-Bigge) Oxford: Clarendon
Oakeshott, M. (1933) Experience and its Modes Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Oakeshott, M. (1962) Rationalism in Politics and Other EssaysLondon: Methuen.
Oakeshott, M. (1975) On Human ConductOxford: Clarendon Press.
Strauss, L. (1953) Natural Right and HistoryChicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Strauss, L. (1973) Persecution and the Art of WritingWestport, CT: Greenwood Press.

210 Part 2 Classical ideologies

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