Conservative liberalism

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Not to be confused with Liberal conservatism or Libertarian conservatism.

Conservative liberalism is a variant of liberalism, combining liberal values and policies with conservative stances, or, more simply, representing the right wing of the liberal movement.[1] It is a more positive and less radical variant of classical liberalism.[2] Conservative liberal parties combine liberal policies with more traditional stances on social and ethical issues.[3]


"Instead of following progressive liberalism [i.e. social liberalism] – Robert Kraynak, a professor at Colgate University, writes –, conservative liberals draw upon pre-modern sources, such as classical philosophy (with its ideas of virtue, the common good, and natural rights), Christianity (with its ideas of natural law, the social nature of man, and original sin), and ancient institutions (such as common law, corporate bodies, and social hierarchies). This gives their liberalism a conservative foundation. It means following Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Edmund Burke rather than Locke or Kant; it usually includes a deep sympathy for the politics of the Greek polis, the Roman Republic, and Christian monarchies. But, as realists, conservative liberals acknowledge that classical and medieval politics cannot be restored in the modern world. And, as moralists, they see that the modern experiment in liberty and self-government has the positive effect of enhancing human dignity as well as providing an opening (even in the midst of mass culture) for transcendent longings for eternity. At its practical best, conservative liberalism promotes ordered liberty under God and establishes constitutional safeguards against tyranny. It shows that a regime of liberty based on traditional morality and classical-Christian culture is an achievement we can be proud of, rather than merely defensive about, as trustees of Western civilization. "[4]

In the European context, conservative liberalism should not be confused with liberal conservatism, which is a variant of conservatism combining conservatives views with liberal policies in regards to the economy, social, and ethical issues.[3][5] The roots of conservative liberalism are to be found at the beginning of the history of liberalism. Until the two world wars, in most European countries the political class was formed by conservative liberals, from Germany to Italy. The events such as World War I occurring after 1917 brought the more radical version of classical liberalism to a more conservative (i.e. more moderate) type of liberalism.[6] Conservative liberal parties have tended to develop in those European countries where there was no strong secular conservative party and where the separation of church and state was less of an issue. In those countries, where the conservative parties were Christian-democratic, this conservative brand of liberalism developed.[7][1]

In the United States, according to Peter Lawler, a professor at Berry College, neoconservatives might be classified as conservative liberals: "[...] in America today, responsible liberals—who are usually called neoconservatives—see that liberalism depends on human beings who are somewhat child-cen- tered, patriotic, and religious. These responsible liberals praise these non-individualistic human propensities in an effort to shore up liberalism. One of their slogans is 'conservative sociology with liberal politics.' The neoconservatives recognize that the politics of free and rational individuals depends upon a pre-political social world that is far from free and rational as a whole."[8] In the American context, conservative liberalism, as well as liberal conservatism, should not be confused with libertarian conservatism, influenced by right-libertarianism.

Conservative-liberal parties worldwide[edit]

Current conservative-liberal parties[edit]

Parties with conservative-liberal factions[edit]

Historical conservative-liberal parties or parties with conservative-liberal factions[edit]

See also[edit]


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