What is Conservatism and What is Wrong With It?

2 Apr



Former Associate Professor of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, Phil Agre, defined  conservatism thus:

Q: What is conservatism?
A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.
Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.

It’s worth reading Agre’s essay, to which I’ve linked above.

The core assumption of conservatives is that they are an aristocracy, that is, they are “the best type” of human being, and being the best type of human being are therefore entitled to govern. Here Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s phrase “women of calibre” springs to mind. Women and men of calibre, as determined by the conservative measure of calibre, are entitled to thrive and are entitled to rule.

This is what is at the heart of Joe Hockey’s protection of the wealthy: because they are wealthy they are by definition the best of human beings, of the highest calibre, and the most worthy of support and tax exemption.

With this assumption at the heart of political and social convictions, a sense of entitlement will inevitably be the driving force. In Australia this sense of entitlement does not generally originate in bloodlines: we are egalitarian to the degree that those of humble origins can and do form the conservative political aristocracy that considers itself the “natural” ruler, the “best” group to govern. The essential requirement is not breeding or wealth, but that one subscribe to the  ideology of entitlement, fuelled by the fervent belief that nobody else can do it as well.The conservative assumes, for no apparent reason other than the assumption itself, that he or she is born to rule.

Conservatives have become even more delusional than they were when they largely sprang from the ranks of the wealthy and the “well-bred.” At least in those instances wealth and breeding provided some perceived external justification for the born to rule ideology. Currently, the ideology requires no external justification: it has come to be justified simply because it exists.

If this is your starting point you will be unable to regard anyone outside of your privileged ruling class as anything other than a lesser being. This thinking is not conducive to democratic government.

As Agre observes, conservatism is founded on deception, largely self-deception. It requires only a belief in one’s superiority but no external proof of any particular accomplishment other than the ability to convince others of that inherent superiority and its naturally ensuing entitlement.

On the whole, the current crop of conservative front benchers are quite unfathomably stupid, blinded and halted and lamed by the conviction of entitlement that is their raison d’être.

Where do babbies of calibre come from? They just are.

Where do babies come from

20 Responses to “What is Conservatism and What is Wrong With It?”

  1. Stewart Hase April 2, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    For a comment on the conservative mind, did you read my review of Corey Bernardi’s book The Conservative Revolution that I did for Margo Kingston and her paper? Its at:



    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter April 2, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

      Yep always comes back to sex, sex hangups and conjugal rape as the norm and what’sat the bottom of it all?

      Ignorance, arrogance, fear, guilt and hate.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Michaela Tschudi April 3, 2015 at 12:04 am #

      I really enjoyed reading your book review Stewart. You framed it in terms of four pillars to the conservative revolution: Faith, Family, Flag, and Free Enterprise. Tempted to add a few more: Facepalm, Fubar… 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. paul walter April 2, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

    Typical middle class ABC/SMH stuff that does more harm than good by refusing any back story to the events purported to be up for discussion.

    In this case we need also to know of a general history of violence toward women and locate Indigineous problems and their history within a greater framework.

    Moralising looks ok, but it is really lazy when sloganeering is employed to avoid deeper thinking and more acurate representationing of real world issues for ratings or circulation reasons. There are historical social and cultural reasons behind what has happened, but what isnt talked abut is an undercurrent of racism that taints any attempt to discuss such an issue.

    Should we ignore the parallel fact of the story being forwarded for political reasons?
    Is there not just a little of dogwhistle about it, to me, given the relationship between politics and racism in this country,

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter April 2, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

      Awwwww shit!! Some how have got the Madonna thing on the wrong thread..sorry people.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michaela Tschudi April 2, 2015 at 11:38 pm #

        Love your work PW


        • paul walter April 3, 2015 at 8:23 am #

          Look, it is a horrible mess with domestic violence also, butt right across society and right across the world.

          I just think with indigenous culture as it stands in our era, they’ve some how scored the worst of both worlds, new and old black and white.

          If I thought for moment the criticisms of Madonna King and the like were in the slightest way of good faith comments, I wouldn’t be commenting.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. olddavey April 2, 2015 at 10:28 pm #

    Nailed it. You only have to watch Abbott, Hockey et al to feel the “we were put on this earth by our lord to make your a life a misery unless you’re are one of us” a reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. hudsongodfrey April 3, 2015 at 12:55 am #

    By any other definition conservatism equals solipsism in fact. The kind of exceptionalism that sources privilege too close to home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson April 3, 2015 at 4:21 am #

      I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right HG!


      • hudsongodfrey April 3, 2015 at 10:24 am #

        On reflection I think we ought to add that the word conservative, which to my mind has a common root with nicer things such as conservation, has been brutally distorted into a reactionary ideology by the kinds of people who stole liberal for the name of our most right wing political party.

        Casting an even wider net we find the conservationists from the Greens taking the most progressive stands on many issues. I suppose our political language has come full circle whereby almost everything is code for the exact opposite of what the words are supposed to mean. What a disingenuous bunch of hypocrites we became when we tried to convince ourselves that the “lucky country” was exceptional.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson April 3, 2015 at 11:06 am #

          And my next post addresses the question What is Truth?


          • hudsongodfrey April 3, 2015 at 11:36 am #

            A malformed question in my view.

            Questions like , “What is THE truth about…” posit a finite quantity requiring a subject and some evidence.

            Leaving it too open ended positively guarantees trying to prove a negative in all cases….

            I shall await the article with great eagerness.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Jennifer Wilson April 3, 2015 at 11:59 am #

              Ah, the question is a play on the day.


              • hudsongodfrey April 3, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

                As I think is my comment just posted 🙂


  5. paul walter April 3, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    As to the thread topic, I’d say it’s harsh definition, but in fact the correct one as applies to the reactionary conservatism of our era.

    An alternative version would emphasise conserving good things, “making haste slowly” and seeking consensus, but this antithetic to degenerating Oligarchic and/or Tea Partry Conservatism which is not governemt by the best minds or most sincere, but by control freaks, the rich, the arrogant and the ignorant.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. doug quixote April 3, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

    A favourite of conservatives everywhere is the myth of the self-made man.

    “I started with one truck and a few hundred dollars and I’m now a multi-millionaire with hundreds of trucks!”

    OK Mr self-made man, did you go to school? “Yes, for 10 years, but I wasn’t any good at it!” Who paid your teachers and supplied your classrooms? Hmm?

    Now your trucks. How did they get their goods from A to B? “On roads of course!”
    Who built the roads?

    And where did your trucks pick up the goods? “At ports of course!” Who built the ports?

    And what stopped other ‘entrepreneurs’ from hijacking your trucks? “The police of course!”
    And who provided the police?

    And when the competition behaved unfairly, what happened then? “Why, I sued the bastards under the unfair competition laws!” Who made the laws and who provided the courts?

    And so it goes on. Subsidised, protected and nurtured by the society and the State that they detest and want to disappear up its own fundament.

    They just don’t get it; or perhaps they are just modern day robber barons.

    And they are aided and abetted by the brainwashed aspirational fools who vote for conservative parties.


  7. paul walter April 6, 2015 at 10:46 pm #


    Does this full within Jennifer wilson’s definition of a conservative as someone who, “…assumes, for no apparent reason apart from the assumption itself, that he or she is born to rule”?



  1. The question for Good Friday: What is truth? | No Place For Sheep - April 3, 2015

    […] narrative genre, bereft as it is of truth or any pretence at interest in it, is a vehicle for the conservative ideology that is currently struggling for control of western […]


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