Re: definition of conservatism

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From: John Klassa (
Date: Mon Dec 04 2000 - 04:34:35 PST

>>>>> On Mon, 4 Dec 2000, "Kragen" == Kragen Sitaker wrote:

  Kragen> I'll quote Phil Agre; although it's the same definition I learned
  Kragen> in my sociology classes at UNM, I have Phil's posts in a more
  Kragen> pastable form than my textbooks:

  Phil> In reading the responses to my recent notes on political
  Phil> subjects, it has finally dawned on me that many people who regard
  Phil> themselves as conservatives don't know what conservativism
  Phil> is. Conservatives believe in objective truth, and there is
  Phil> an objective truth about what conservativism is. Ever since
  Phil> conservatism was given its definitive articulation by Edmund
  Phil> Burke, conservatives have worked to build a society of orders and
  Phil> classes, governed by a hereditary aristocracy, in which tradition
  Phil> and prejudice are good things and equality and innovation are
  Phil> bad things, in which the lower orders unquestioningly regard the
  Phil> judgements of authority and institutions as the absolute truth,
  Phil> and in which everyone presupposes that all oppression is the
  Phil> fault of the oppressed. That's what conservatism is, and what it
  Phil> has always been.

Interesting... Thanks for the extensive quotes on the subject. As with
most things, I'm not an academic (as you may have guessed) :-), so I've
never been exposed to a written definition of what conservatism is. I've
always assumed, based on my reaction to the things that conservatives seem
to stand for, that I am one. Perhaps I am not.

Interestingly, I believe there *is* objective truth. That's the
cornerstone of my Christian faith. I also believe in gradual change -- so
that you don't throw out the baby with the proverbial bathwater. In these
senses, I am a conservative. However, I don't espouse a society of orders
and classes, or hereditary aristocracy, or prejudice. I believe that all
men *are* created equal, and that every person deserves to be treated with
respect and dignity as every person is, after all, a creation of God.

As with most things, I guess the "argument" boils down to definitions. I
can't count the number of times I've argued with my mom over some obscure
thing, only to have it come down to a point of definition: her definition
of what we were arguing over was different from mine, so we hadn't even
been discussing the same thing all along.

So,back to my previous point about not being an academic... My reaction
to your notion that conservatism is racism was brought on by (a) me
thinking I am a conservative, and therefore (b) me taking offense that you
were calling me a racist. If you define conservatism as you have, I don't
think I'm a conservative. :-) If you define conservatism as most casual
conservatives do, I think I am one, however. I think you get the idea...

Again, thanks for the clarification.

Take care,

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