Theorizing About Conservative Ideology

Michael Freeden

in Ideologies and Political Theory

Published in print April 1998 | ISBN: 9780198294146
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599323 | DOI:
 Theorizing About Conservative Ideology

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Both conservatism and liberalism have, on one dimension, been accorded similar treatment by some of the salient schools of ideological analysis, in that they have been denied the status of a fully fledged ideology by those who would restrict the phenomenon to total, closed, and cohesive views of human beings in society. However, whereas liberals challenge, most conservative ideologists, as well as most exponents of conservative ideology, go out of their way to dispel any suspicion that theirs is an ideology. Obviously, if the notion of ideology is confined to an a priori, abstract, closed, and total system of mass‐consumed political thinking, then a creed that claims (as conservatism usually does) to be experiential, concrete, and delimited is not an ideology. Consideration of conservative thought, however, may query whether conservatives escape the features of that very definition of ideology, and it could not escape categorization within the approach that this book has already advanced: that of presenting ideology as a structural configuration of political concepts. After asking why there is such a dearth of capable and sophisticated enquiry into the nature of conservatism, this chapter addresses the issues outlined here in three sections: (a) [Michael] Oakeshott: conservatism à la carte; (b) The chameleon contra the status quo: two discarded theories; and (c) The conservative core: resolving a morphological puzzle.

Keywords: conservatism; conservative theory; ideological morphology; ideology; Michael Oakeshott; political concepts; status quo

Chapter.  12675 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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