Positive Depictions of Conservatism | Page 4 | INFJ Forum

Positive Depictions of Conservatism

Discussion in 'News and Politics' started by Hostarius, Dec 11, 2020.

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  1. OP
    Hostarius

    Hostarius Dad Bodinem

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    Oh I see - I wondered.

    I'll have to come back to this, as I said to acd; I'm just basically waiting to go to sleep atm.


    I did watch a lecture recently by the aforementioned Michael Sandel, though, given to the Oxford Union and students studying PPE, on the subject of economic ethics.

    What's significant about that is the institutional structure of political education in this country. There's a bit of a technocratic stream into politics filtered through graduates of 'PPE at Oxford'. PPE (Politics, Philisophy and Economics) is essentially like a 'statesman's degree', specifically designed for that role.

    When you see what's happening in that lecture hall - bright and earnest students having an ethical debate with a world-renowned ethicist - I think it's easier to see how developing institutions specifically designed to instill the values and skills of 'civics' is not only possible, but relatively simple.

    There are many facets to trying to do this - elitism, &c. - but nonetheless I think there is a qualitative difference between politicians who come out of these 'civic' traditions (e.g. Law), and those who attain power from the outside (I'm thinking of the US in both cases).
     
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  2. Wyote

    Wyote ┄⍹┄
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    One being useful, the other being garbage :laughing:

    Take your time, it wasn't a simple ask on my part.
    Just interested cuz I know you'll have several relevant points to make and I think it's a good foundation for this topic.
     
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  3. acd

    acd Well-known member

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    I realize I'm being a bit of a pain in the ass lol.
    But who am I kidding?
    [​IMG]
     
  4. Vendrah

    Vendrah Community Member

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    When I first read the title, I had read 'positive deceptions' since the conservatives has been spreading so much fake news that conservatism and deception have already a link on my mind. Only then I realized it was 'depiction', which is a word I have never ever heard of, and then had to translate it on google.

    When I was younger, I did know somewhat of a notion of honour coming from conservatism. As if, back then, there was a strong notion of honour on conservatism - specially on male - that you should keep your honour by 'being honourable', and keeping your honour did meant a lot of positive things - it meant telling the truth, it meant keeping to your word, it meant also have some sort of 'right posture', but also keeping some sort of customs? I don't remember, this is from a distant past. I mean I was not ever directly introduced to this idea but I knew it did existed on Conservatism back then and it had it beauty. Since it was never introduced directly I don't know how much I romanticized it, but I know that it is a notion that used to exist. However, the hypocrisy behind it made me quit the whole idea, specially when I had start to do random searches and found phrases like 'only men can have a notion of honour - does not apply to woman', and the fact that a lot of today's conservatives are far from being honourable in such terms. For example, spreading fake news is a big threat to one's honour - but today's conservative doesn't seem to care.

    However, it was a beautiful concept I had always appreciated. I hope this is not a fantasy of my own, but I really believe conservatives back then had a notion of honour, even if it wasn't as much ideal as it is in my head.
     
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  5. John K

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    I don’t know if it’s just the way I’m reading this thread, but it sounds like there is considerable cross talk between an idealised expression of conservatism and the way that it is taken up and distorted in factional politics. I like the way that @Hostarius is trying to focus onto the common good values and institutions that come with the Ancient Roman concept of civis - those that successfully underpin how large groups of people live together collectively and relatively harmoniously to their mutual benefit and relative happiness. That word civis is where the concept of civilised comes from and that is at the heart of the matter. Democracy can only work if there is a beneficial polarity between the competing political movements and if they operate within a set of civilised stable, ethical, social and practical rules that are common to them all and are equally championed by them all.

    If I understand correctly I think the American Constitution is an attempt to codify this, at least in part. Changes can only be made to it through a far higher level of political agreement than is normal for other types of law change in order to conserve the collective ideals essential to the American democracy and social fabric.

    So it seems to me that, at least in principle, the American Constitution is a concrete embodiment of the kind of conservative ideal that Hos is thinking of. It isn’t the only one and others are not expressed formally like this is - it’s just that it’s so easy to see it. I think this example deals too with the criticism that conservatives necessarily wish to block all change, because there is a process for change written into it. That process is heavily governed though to prevent ad hoc and arbitrary changes taking place too quickly. The risks to the state are huge if things go wrong with it - either losing the trans-political consensus, or actually destroying the underpinnings of the state’s institutions. That’s one way despots gain power.

    I’m not at all sure it’s possible to brand this sort of virtuous ideal ‘conservatism’ though, at least in some countries, because, as has been said here, that word has been hijacked by right wingers and is associated with ideals that by no means transcend the political spectrum. That doesn’t discredit the politically transcendent ideals and institutions of civilisation - just the terminology applied to it.
     
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  6. OP
    Hostarius

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    No, this would be a misunderstanding of what I'm saying here.

    It's not that the ideal of 'conservatism' and the real label of 'conservatism' with all of its connotations and symbolic accretions are separate concepts that ought to be treated separately, it's that the very 'contamination' of the ideal presents precisely a functional mechanism to enact some measure of 'depolarisation' because of the connotations it's accrued.

    You don't just throw away an opportunity like that in the search for what might merely be a more precise terminology. A novel terminology possesses exactly zero of the symbolic gravity that we actually want to use, and would achieve none of the necessary emotional redemption.

    Polarised epistemic complexes exist as something akin to crystalline structures - if you can imagine that; their bonding force dependent upon their perceived polar opposition to the opposing structure. Removing key elements of these complexes - particularly in the case of concepts highly encrusted with other ideas (like 'conservatism') - reduces the integrity of the polarised complex itself, and often to such an extent that it collapses completely.

    I'm probably going to have to post something much more explanatory about this at some point, but if the fundamental driver of polarisation in social networks is the avoidance of cognitive dissonances for the sake of 'social balance', then conversely, breaking those cliques (or at least weakening the degree of polarisation) can be achieved by introducing cognitive dissonances (and the subsequent forced reordering of an individual's internal map of which people and ideas belong to which cliques) in the other direction.

    I don't know why this seems so hard to swallow (though it's probably something to do with bloody Ti and PoLR Te, lol), or if I need to explain it better, or if people simply don't buy the mechanism or what.
     
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    #66 Hostarius, Dec 15, 2020
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2020
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  7. John K

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    Are you saying that the principles embodied in the concept and ongoing non-partisan commitment to the American Constitution is not an (admittedly formalised) exemplar of some of the ideals you are expressing? I'm way off target in understanding you if that's so.

    I'm not saying that the synergistic bundle of concepts that you are labeling 'conservatism' should be split apart and treated separately - just that the label should be replaced pragmatically with one that lacks partisan contamination. This would be no loss for the vast majority of people for whom the concept has never meant what I think you are expressing - in the UK for example, for most people, it's synonymous with the Tory party, and has been for several hundred years.

    I understand that you think the very process of getting people to understand conservatism in the sense you mean would help to heal our societies and promote the ideas that go with it. I can't see why that term is necessary in order to pursue that aim, and fear it would in fact hinder it. Perhaps it would help if you explained why you think the term itself is so important and inseparable from the concepts you are saying it should be associated with - that inseparability seems rather esoteric and unnecessary to me at the moment.
     
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  8. Reason

    Reason Damnation Dignified

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    It's persistently amazing how poorly human beings understand each other. Imagination prevails over the senses almost always it seems.
     
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  9. Maikl Jexocuha

    Maikl Jexocuha Space Cowboy
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    @Hostarius just a question for clarity: is your view of "conservative" in the US, would you say, is closer to what is often called: "classical liberal"(like Thomas Jefferson)? Because if I were to go back historically to one of the original examples of American conservatism, I'm always reminded of the "Whig Party", which was founded primarily on "economic protectionism".
     
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  10. OP
    Hostarius

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    No no, that's a particularly good example. I'm sorry that I quoted your whole post yesterday - I was rushing around prepping for Christmas and just wanted to post an 'acknowledgement' rather than something properly substantive.

    Again, to 'replace' the label defeats the purpose of its 'rehabilitation'. If this 'ideal conservatism' were replaced with something more precise - like 'oikophilia' even - nothing whatsoever would happen to the polarised structure. People would still associate with the label of 'conservative', except what?

    I understand. OK let's have a go at this...

    Before I begin, though, I'd just like to say that two political leaders in the United States recently made some speeches which embodied the 'civic virtues' I spoke about earlier: the President-Elect and Mitch McConnel:



    Firstly, to pick up on my earlier point, it's important to point out that if we decided to 'discard' the 'label' of conservatism, the associations would not just magically dissipate. The polarised structure would remain intact; people would still identify with the label and all of its old associations. In other words, the 'polarisation' is real, and pretty resilient, and there is a great danger in not recognising this.

    Furthermore, we know what happens when this is attempted. Take Weimar Germany, for example - the identity was suppressed following a military defeat, and humiliation imposed upon them. It was clear to some even in 1919 (Churchill and Foch among them) what the result would be: 'Ce n’est pas un paix, c’est un armistice de vingt ans' ('This is not peace, it is an armistice for twenty years').

    This level of identity suppression only seems to 'work' when an extremely long-term military occupation is imposed, as in the case of Germany and Japan post-1945. In these cases, what you're actually doing is waiting for generations to die rather than reconciling identity-complexes with each other. Even so, driving identities underground tends to elicit less than desirable effects - they tend to harden and reemerge as extremism some time later.

    In any case, the United States doesn't actually have the suppression option because both sides have all their forces intact: no side has suffered a military defeat, and indeed the risk is the opposite: that inflicting unnecessary humiliations could result in some kind of 'mobilisation' at the fringes. In fact you could say that this is why Trump came to power in the first place; that conservatives had been increasingly made to feel excluded from the mainstream of political discourse.

    So no, it's not actually possible just to 'discard' the label or suppress it in favour of a more precise terminology; it's there and it has to be dealt with. The associations are inseparable until they are put through a process of 'depolarisation'. It cannot be discarded because it forms a locus of the deep identity of so many, and this is not an esoteric point.

    We're fortunate in the UK in that 'being conservative' is not significantly outside the mainstream; it's a respectable position. Roger Scruton or whoever else can go on the BBC and celebrate it (before he died, obviously); make documentaries about it, &c. In the US, this is only possible on a polarised network - there's no 'centre' upon which to perform the respectability of a position.


    'You're an oikophile and I can respect that'
    'What?'
    'An oikophile - it means "lover of home"'
    'Well, I'd call myself more of a "conservative" in the traditional sense'
    'No'
    'What do you mean?'
    'We don't use "conservative" any more'
    'Well I am one'
    'No, you're an "oikophile". "Conservative" has too many negative connotations.'
    :neutral::rage:


    There's too much to go at in this discussion to keep posts at any reasonable length, so I'll just leave it there for now.
     
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  11. OP
    Hostarius

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    No, not really.

    In my mind I'm taking an 'essentialist' approach to 'conservatism', focusing instead on what you might say is its psychological 'essence' which transcends the fluid and transient policy positions it's associated with in any given age. This approach needs some defense in itself, but if we can speak of Cicero being 'conservative' in any intelligible sense, then we sort of have an instinct about what the 'essence' or 'core' of 'conservatism' is; there is no need for relativism here because it seems to be a universal feature of human political societies.

    If we confine ourselves to popular or prominent philosophers, I think Scruton had a good run at it, as discussed, but of course there is also a very broad psychological literature aimed at parsing the mental underpinnings of 'conservative minds' and 'progressive minds', probably since Adorno. Of course, at lot of this is rather patronising fare (I remember one study which had students play games of risk [or something similar], and concluded that conservative students tended to end their games in nuclear holocaust, while progressive students ended theirs in peace and harmony...) and suffers from inherent biases, but it does reveal some interesting dichotomies, such as how conservatives have larger amygdalae, &c.

    Real human beings fall upon a spectrum of biology, of course, but human social networks are polarised and so they tend to get swept up into one camp or the other. The only 'stable' or 'balanced' states are unitary utopias or antagonistic bipolar cliques, and the empirical evidence for this is overwhelming; it's also theoretically sound.

    Personally, I think this process (the 'splitting' of social networks from unitary states into mutually antagonistic bipolar cliques) probably had some adaptive advantage in our ancestral pasts, either because it generated an internal mechanism of group selection in times of resource scarcity (the network/village would split, and its 'weaker' half would be destroyed), or forced the topographical spread of the species in times of resource abundance (the network/village would split, and half would stay where they were, while the other half would be kicked out and have to find their own ranges).


    In idiographic or contingent terms, American 'conservatism' seems to have had a few evolutions, as you say, typically based upon preserving or entrenching the economic advantages of the classes who espoused it, but I don't think there's anything 'particular' about it - if protectionism worked well in one age, they'd go with that; if the liberalisation of markets worked well in another, then they'd go with that. In either case, the basic principle is still operant: 'this is working well for us; we like it [oikophilia]; we need to defend it or deepen it.'

    What's interesting is just how fluid the economic ideology is, and how we've seen the transition to Trumpist protectionism at a time when American manufactures aren't that globally competitive (well, they are in absolute terms, but nowhere near the level they were). When economic liberalisation somewhere (let's say, opening up a third world country to the global market) practically guaranteed US dominance, the ideology espoused liberal free-marketism. There's no consistency in the ideological position.
     
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  12. John K

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    That's a relief Hos - I assumed this was the case but I was a little worried I'd totally misunderstood :sweatsmile:

    Helpful examples - I'd heard the Mitch McConnell statement already, but not the Joe Biden one.

    I guess what's troubling me is that democracies are necessarily polarised because that's an essential condition for genuine choice to be available in a democracy. The concept of conservatism has been attached to one of these poles in quite a few democratic states, but you are suggesting removing it from any particular political factional perspective and instead have it acknowledged, heart and mind, as a shared set of ideals and values across each whole state community. That sounds very worthy - it does sound very difficult to achieve, though, as long as at least one heavily supported party in each democratic state is claiming ownership of conservatism as their factional raison d'etre, contrasting it with radical change, and adding all kinds of things to the concept that are divisive. It's the practicalities rather than the principle that I'm doubting.
     
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  13. Winterflowers

    Winterflowers Community Member

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    Weren't there studies which implied democratic stability stems from a strong center-right party? One capable of holding its base from the allure of more fringe positions?
     
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    Hostarius

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    That's interesting. I'd like to see that if you do remember.
     
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  16. Wyote

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  18. Reason

    Reason Damnation Dignified

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    I don't know if you heard the story of the crazy woman here in the states who pepper sprayed a couple toddlers for not having their masks on in a park but I just imagine her going ham on these people in this painting :tearsofjoy:
     
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