Cultural conservatism

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Cultural conservatism is described as the protection of the cultural heritage of a nation state, or of a culture not defined by state boundaries.[1] Cultural conservatism is sometimes concerned with the preservation of a language, such as French in Quebec, and other times with the preservation of an ethnic group's culture such as Native Americans.

In the United States, cultural conservative may imply a conservative position in the culture wars. Because cultural conservative (according to the compass theory) expresses the social dimension of conservatism, it is sometimes misleadingly referred to as social conservatism. However, social conservatism describes conservative moral and social values or stances on socio-cultural issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage in opposition to social liberalism.[2] Cultural conservatism refers more to norms and practices than it does to morals and values. It is also distinct from nationalism, as nationalist movements are not always centered around one culture in particular, or express a need for unity of many cultures in opposition to cultural conservatives.


In favor[edit]

Russian culture has been defended on grounds that the destruction of traditional values is undemocratic.[3] Along this line of thinking, political theorist Alain de Benoist argues that democracy itself must inherently be a government of a national culture, and that liberal pluralism is therefore not democratic.[4]


Some see excessive preservation of culture as an obstacle to progress and evolution, whether it be social, economic, scientific, or otherwise.

By country[edit]

United States[edit]

An example of an American cultural conservative is Allan Bloom, arguing in The Closing of the American Mind against cultural relativism. Another example is Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia), author of Born Fighting.[citation needed]

Discussions to do with the conservation of American culture often involve definitional disputes. Some consider the United States as a nation of immigrants or "melting pot," others (such as David Hackett Fischer) argue that British immigrant cultures are responsible for the development of modern American culture and values. American cultural conservatives often claim that the culture is at risk due primarily to demographic change from immigration, as well as the influence of academia, which has produced increasingly left-wing alumni over time.[5]


Unlike the United States, Canada has always been a culturally divided country, though to varying degrees. Since the premiership of Pierre Trudeau, Canadian identity has been viewed as a cultural mosaic. Trudeau Sr. once stated that there is "no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian," and that to desire one is a "disastrous" pursuit.[6] His son Justin Trudeau, likewise Prime Minister, has continued to spread this spirit in declaring Canada "the first post-national state" due to its lack of a core identity and mainstream.[7] The fifth wave of immigration to Canada which followed Trudeau Sr.'s premiership and continues to this day is the largest manifestation of this change. For example, the city of Richmond, British Columbia is majority Chinese, and nearly half of Torontonians are foreign-born, the city which now bears the motto "Diversity Our Strength."[8] Canadian cultural conservatism as a reaction to the multiculturalism of Pierre Trudeau (and subsequently of Brian Mulroney) reached its peak with the Reform Party and waned over time. Its decline has been marked by the electoral failure of the People's Party of Canada, which formed partly as a response to the Conservative Party's perceived weakness on the issue.[9]


Quebec is unique in Canada for its cultural conservatism. Though not a socially conservative province, nor religiously conservative (not since the aftermath of the Grande Noirceur), Quebecois culture has always maintained a certain suspicion and reluctance towards unity with the rest of Canada. Language protectionism (reflected in laws such as Bill 101) is a central concern of Quebec cultural conservatives. Quebec has held two referendums on separation and has never ratified the Constitution Act of 1982. The Bloc Québécois formed in reaction to the Mulroney premiership (like the Reform Party) to advocate for Quebecois interests in the federal parliament. It once held the office of Official Opposition, which was followed by a decline, but the party has seen a surge in popularity as of late, currently holding 32 of Quebec's 78 seats in the House of Commons.


Central to the ideas of the Cultural Revolution was the elimination of the Four Olds, which were elements of Chinese culture that at the time were seen to oppose the goals of Communism in China. However, the government at the time protected some of the most important Chinese historical monuments, including some archaeological discoveries such as the Terracotta Army.[10] Xi Jinping has overseen a revival in popularity of historical Chinese cultural figures such as Confucius and has placed more emphasis on the value of Chinese culture than his predecessors.[11] He also includes culture in his "comprehensive" political goals.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cultural conservatism, political liberalism: from criticism to cultural studies by James Seaton, University of Michigan Press, 1996 ISBN 978-0-472-10645-5
  2. ^ Chideya, Farai (2004). "The Red and the Blue: A Divided America". Trust: Reaching the 100 Million Missing Voters and Other Selected Essays. Soft Skull Press. pp. 33–46. ISBN 9781932360264.
  3. ^ Arakelyan, Lilia (2017-09-08). Russian Foreign Policy in Eurasia: National Interests and Regional Integration. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-315-46835-8.
  4. ^ De Benoist, Alain (2011). The Problem of Democracy. Arktos Publishing. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-907166-16-7.
  5. ^ "Is cultural conservatism doomed by demographics?". Spectator USA. 2018-11-27. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  6. ^ "Pierre Trudeau Called It 'Absurd' That Canadians Must Be Alike". HuffPost Canada. 2016-11-21. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  7. ^ "Trudeau's neglect of the nation has led us to this place". CBC. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  8. ^ "History of City Symbols". City of Toronto. 2017-08-16. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  9. ^ "Maxime Bernier Quits Conservatives To Form His Own Federal Party". HuffPost Canada. 2018-08-23. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  10. ^ Gao, Mobo C. F.; ebrary, Inc (2008). The battle for China's past [electronic resource] : Mao and the Cultural Revolution. Library Genesis. London ; Ann Arbor, Mich. : Pluto Press. ISBN 978-0-7453-2781-5.
  11. ^ "Xi Jinping's Love of Confucius May Backfire". Time. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  12. ^ "从"三个自信"到"四个自信"--理论-人民网". Retrieved 2020-11-14.

Further reading[edit]

  • John J. Langdale III (2012). Superfluous Southerners: Cultural Conservatism and the South, 1920–1990. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press.