Introduction to Political Theory

(Marvins-Underground-K-12) #1
neo-conservatives place great value on the idea of a common US culture against
what they see as the separatist multiculturalist policies in operation since the 1960s.
While many neo-conservatives strongly believe that the civil rights movement was
justified in its aims, they oppose affirmative action policies. Furthermore, neo-
conservatives are much more prepared to support state spending if it will enable
people to become responsible citizens, but this is combined with an emphasis on
rewarding hard work through reductions in taxation. This twin-track approach was
manifested in several key domestic policies of the Bush administration: the ‘No Child
Left Behind Act’, which involved increased intervention by the centre (federal
government) in the education system in order to improve educational standards
among deprived groups; large tax cuts for the well-off; and partial privatisation of
the state pension system. There is a Straussian influence here: objective natural right
presupposes common standards and a common culture on which is based a political
community that promotes virtue. The discrimination against black (and other)
Americans is morally wrong, but so is what neo-conservatives believe to be the
separatism inherent in multiculturalism. Individual initiative should be rewarded
because it reflects a perfectionist ideal: that is, we realise, or perfect, our nature
through virtuous acts.
It is, however, in foreign policy that the influence of neo-conservatives is most
keenly felt. As suggested above, Strauss argued that tyranny should be resisted, and
that resistance must sometimes be in the face of widespread opposition. International
institutions such as the United Nations simply reflect cultural relativism, such that
a vote in the UN General Assembly or by the Security Council signifies nothing
more than the balancing of interests, or cultural differences. A just nation must find
the justification for its actions out of a reflection on natural right, and not through
the support of international organisations, although it should attempt to persuade
other nations to join it in a ‘coalition of the willing’. What drove many thinkers
and political activists from the Democratic Party to the Republicans was the
perceived weakness of the left in confronting the Soviet Union in the 1970s –
whereas the left sought containment of the USSR, the neo-conservatives argued for
a roll-back of Soviet power. In policy terms, the left supported Strategic Arms
Limitation Treaties (SALT), whereas the neo-conservatives argued for an aggressive
arms war so as to force the Soviet Union to spend beyond its means. Significantly,
this critique of perceived weakness extended to traditional conservatives such as
President Richard Nixon (US president, 1969–74) who initiated the SALT talks and
also famously engaged with (Communist) China. At the beginning of the twenty-
first century neo-conservatives see fundamentalist Islam as the main source of
tyranny and liken the refusal of many European countries to engage with this
perceived threat as a political manifestation of a deeper cultural relativism and

Same-sex marriage

There are many different positions on same-sex marriage but our focus here is on
conservatism. A number of conservative arguments against same-sex marriage can
be advanced:

Chapter 9 Conservatism 207
Free download pdf