Why, and to What Extent, Have Conservatives Placed Their Faith in Pragmatism Rather Than Principle?

Topics: Conservatism, Conservative Party, Right-wing politics Pages: 2 (626 words) Published: March 13, 2012
Why, and to what extent, have conservatives placed their faith in pragmatism rather than principle? Pragmatism is the idea that one should take a flexible approach to politics; using an understanding of what is best for the people and what will bring stability, it also is about what is most wanted by the people. An example of this was the post war consensus when consecutive conservative governments didn’t cancel any of the widespread reforms brought in by the labour government of 1945-51. Principle is the complete opposite of pragmatism and is more ideological sticking to a certain view of how society should be and pursuing this. It is a political idea that changes with the times Conservatives have often favoured pragmatic approaches to situations an example being Benjamin Disraeli and his one nation toryism. Prior to this the general consensus about the poor made by early conservatives was that the poor were due to their own mistakes and that it was not the place of others to help them but that they should help themselves. Due to the Disraeli seeing growth of social inequality he came to the conclusion that to ensure social stability and to stem the tide of revolution, the government should take measures to help the poor. This displays conservative pragmatism as it’s a clear example of the conservative thought changing and reacting to events. In Disraeli’s case these events were the French revolution. This shows how pragmatism was held dear to conservative thought. Another Reason conservatives tend to favour the pragmatic approach stems from conservative thinker Michael Oakeshot who argued that societies should not be directed towards certain goals, claiming ideological change is normally radical in nature and can lead tyranny and this should be avoided. However there are cases when ideology has gripped the conservative party, the biggest example could be the new right under Margaret Thatcher. Here the conservative party appeared to break away from just an...
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