Social conservatism

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"Cultural right" redirects here. For rights related to a people's art and culture, see Cultural rights.

Social conservatism is a political ideology that focuses on the preservation of what are seen as traditional values. The accepted goals and ideologies related to preserving traditions and morality often vary from group to group within social conservatism. Thus, there are really no policies or positions that could be considered universal among social conservatives. There are, however, a number of general principles to which at least a majority of social conservatives adhere, such as support for traditional family values.


In the United States during the mid to late 20th century, the notion of preserving traditional values was seen by many social conservatives as an ideal that had been gradually eroded by a number of federal legislative passages and US Supreme Court decisions. This resulted in a shift in mainstream social conservatism typified by an increase in grassroots activism and lobbying efforts in an attempt to preserve traditional values at the federal level. This ideology generally saw social change as suspicious, and believed in returning what were referred to as fundamental values. A second meaning of the term social conservatism developed in the Nordic countries and continental Europe. There it refers to liberal conservatives supporting modern European welfare states. Social conservatism is distinct from cultural conservatism which focuses on cultural aspects of the issues, such as protecting one's culture, although there are some overlaps.

Social conservatism and other ideological views[edit]

There is no necessary link between social and fiscal conservatism; some social conservatives such as George W. Bush,[1] and Michael Gerson[2] are otherwise apolitical, centrist or liberal on economic and fiscal issues. Social conservatives may sometimes support economic intervention where the intervention serves moral or cultural aims. Many social conservatives support a balance between fair trade and a free market . This concern for material welfare, like advocacy of traditional mores, will often have a basis in religion. Examples include the Christian Social Union of Bavaria, the Family First Party and Katter's Australian Party, and the communitarian movement in the United States.

There is more overlap between social conservatism and paleoconservatism, in that they both have respect for traditional social forms.

Karen Stenner has argued that social conservatism is seen as a form of authoritarianism, in contrast with traditionalist conservatism.[3] This position was echoed in John Dean's Conservatives Without Conscience.[4] Social conservatism is often associated with the position that the government should have a greater role in the social affairs of its citizens, generally supporting whatever it sees as morally correct choices and discouraging or outright forbidding those it considers morally wrong ones.[5]

Social conservatism in different countries[edit]


Hindu social conservatism

Hindu social conservatism in India in the twenty first century has developed into an influential movement. Represented in the political arena by the ultra-right wing Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena, Hindu social conservatism, also known as the Hindutva movement, is spearheaded by the paramilitary Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh organisation, responsible for the destruction of the Babri Masjid, which Hindu social conservatives believe should be replaced with a Hindu temple. As the core philosophy of this ideology is nativism, much of its platform is based on the belief that Islamic and Christian denominations in India are the result of occupations, and therefore these groups should not receive concessions from the state.[6] Hindu social conservatives in India also seek to institutionalise a Uniform Civil Code for members of all religions,[7] emphasising their belief that Indian law should be based on a nationalist interpretation of the Hindu religion[8] rather than Commonwealth-style Common law.

Muslim social conservatism

Further information: Lakshar-e-Taiba

There are several socially conservative Muslim organisations in India, ranging from groups such as the Indian Union Muslim League which aim to promote the preservation of Indian Muslim culture as a part of the nation's identity and history, to radical organisations such as the Mujahadeen and Lakshar-E-Taiba which aim to eradicate all other religions in South Asia.

Christian social conservatism

Religion plays a significant role in the daily life of Indian Christians. India ranks 15 among countries with highest church attendance. Religious processions and carnivals are often celebrated by Catholics.[9] Cities with significant Christian populations celebrate patron saint days. As in other parts of the world, Christmas is the most important festival for Indian Christians. Anglo-Indian Christmas balls held in most major cities form a distinctive part of Indian Christian culture.[10] Good Friday is a national holiday. All Souls Day is another Christian holiday that is observed by most Christians in India.[11] Most Protestant churches celebrate harvest festivals, usually in late October or early November.[12] Christian weddings in India conform to the traditional white wedding. However it is not uncommon for Christian brides particularly in the south to wear a traditional white wedding sari instead of a gown.[13]


In Canada, social conservatism, though widespread, is not as prominent in the public sphere as in the United States. It is prevalent in all areas of the country but in seen as being more prominent in rural areas.

Compared to social conservatism in the United States, social conservatism has not been as influential in Canada. The main reason being that the neoliberal or neoconservative style of politics as promoted by leaders such as Paul Martin and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have focused on economic conservatism with little or no emphasis on moral or social conservatism.[14] Without a specific, large political party behind them, social conservatives have divided their votes and can be found in all political parties.[15] In fact, many Canadian politicians who hold socially conservative views on a personal level often choose not to pursue them in their political life, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Social conservatives often felt that they were being sidelined by officials in the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and its leadership of so-called "Red Tories" for the last half of the twentieth century and therefore many eventually made their political home with parties such as the Social Credit Party of Canada and the Reform Party of Canada. Despite the Reform Party being dominated by social conservatives, leader Preston Manning, seeking greater national support for the party, was reluctant for the party to wholly embrace socially conservative values. This led to his deposition as leader of the party (now called Canadian Alliance) in favor of social conservative Stockwell Day.[16] The party's successor, the Conservative Party of Canada, despite having a number of socially conservative members and cabinet ministers, has chosen so far not to focus on socially conservative issues in its platform. This was most recently exemplified on two occasions in 2012 when the current Conservative Party of Canada declared they have no intention to repeal same-sex marriage or abortion laws.[17]

South Africa[edit]

Social conservatism had a huge place in Apartheid South Africa ruled by the National Party. Things such as television were not introduced until 1976 out of fear that it would reduce the influence of Afrikaans.[citation needed] Other activities such as pornography,[18] gambling[19] and other activities that were deemed undesirable were severely restricted. The majority of businesses were forbidden from doing business on Sunday.[20] Abortion was also illegal with the exception of for rape, and if it endangers the mothers life. Sex education was also restricted.[21]

In modern day South Africa, the population remains socially conservative on issues such as homosexuality with 80% of the population saying that such acts are wrong.[22] Despite this, same-sex marriage is legal.

United States[edit]

Social conservatism is generally focused on the preservation of family values, primarily within the family but also with respect to society as a whole. Today's mainstream social conservatives, in contrast to "small-government" conservatives and "states-rights" advocates, have increasingly appealed to federal legislators and Presidential candidates with the notion that the federal government should bear the responsibility to overrule the states in order to preserve their stated ideal of traditional values; this is not to take away from the fact that a significant portion of "small-government" and "states-rights" conservatives also share many of the ideals of mainstream social conservatives. The exception in how these conservative groups differ tends to be with respect to the role of the federal government versus the role of local government, where the "states-rights" conservatives tend to advocate for social reform and/or preservation of traditional values at the state and local levels.[citation needed]

Social conservatives emphasize traditional views of social units such as the family, church, or locale. Social conservatives would typically define family in terms of local histories and tastes. Social conservatism may entail support for defining marriage as between a man and a woman (thereby banning same-sex marriage) and laws placing restrictions on abortion.

The Republican Party (United States) is the largest political party with socially conservative ideals incorporated into its platform.

Social conservatives are strongest in the South, where they are a mainstream political force with aspirations to translate those ideals using the party platform nationally. In recent years, the supporters of social conservatism played a major role in the political coalitions of Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush.[23]

List of social conservative political parties[edit]








Faroe Islands[edit]



and, including far right and nationalist ideas













New Zealand[edit]











South Africa[edit]




United Kingdom[edit]

Northern Ireland only[edit]

United States[edit]

Social conservative factions of political parties[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Veronique de Rugy and Tad DeHaven (31 July 2003). ""Conservative" Bush Spends More than "Liberal" Presidents Clinton, Carter". Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  2. ^ "Michael Gerson - Compassionate to the End". Washington Post. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Stenner, Karen (2005). The authoritarian dynamic. Cambridge University Press. p. 86. 
  4. ^ The Demise of Conservatism, and The Rise of Authoritarianism: A Review of John Dean's Conservatives Without Conscience
  5. ^ Zafirovski, Milan (2008). Modern Free Society and Its Nemesis: Democracy, economy, and conservatism. Lexington Books. p. 27. 
  6. ^ M S Golwalkar (1966), Bunch of thoughts, Publishers: Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana
  7. ^ Press Trust of India (2003-08-02). "Muslim leaders oppose uniform civil code". Express India. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  8. ^ "Ouch, Something seems wrong!!". 
  9. ^ Origin of Goa Carnival
  10. ^ "Anglo-Indians mark Christmas with charity". The Times of India (India). 26 December 2008. 
  11. ^ Mangalorean.Com- Serving Mangaloreans Around The World!
  12. ^ "Harvest Festival". St. John's Church, Bangalore. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  13. ^ Christian Wedding, Christian Wedding Customs, Christian Wedding Rituals India
  14. ^ John Middlemist Herrick and Paul H. Stuart, eds. Encyclopedia of social welfare history in North America (2005) p. 143
  15. ^ David M. Haskell, Through a lens darkly: how the news media perceive and portray evangelicals (2009) p 57
  16. ^ Murray Dobbin, Preston Manning and the Reform Party (1991)
  17. ^ "Same-sex marriages declared legal and valid by federal justice minister Rob Nicholson". National Post. 13 January 2012. 
  18. ^ JCW Van Rooyen, Censorship in South Africa (Cape Town: Juta and Co., 1987),
  19. ^ Bet and board in the new South Africa. (legalisation of gambling could lead to growth of casinos, lotteries)(Brief Article)The Economist (US) | 5 August 1995
  20. ^ Apartheid mythology and symbolism. desegregated and re-invented in the service of nation building in the new South Africa: the covenant and the battle of Blood/Ncome River
  21. ^ "The New South Africa – The Same Old Bondage". Retrieved 5 July 2014. 
  22. ^ Dale T. McKinley. "South Africa's Social Conservatism: A Real and Present Danger". 
  23. ^ Darren Dochuk, From Bible Belt to Sun Belt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism (W.W. Norton & Company; 2010) shows how migrants to Southern California from Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas provided evangelical support for social conservatism.
  24. ^ DAN BILEFSKY (13 April 2010). "Hungarian Winner Vows Battle Against the Far Right". Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  25. ^ Jörg Flecker. Changing working life and the appeal of the extreme right. ISBN 978-0-7546-4915-1. 

Further reading[edit]