i will preface the following thesis with the following statement: i take things to[o] seriously XP :
as is my usual response to things, i decided to bother looking up what conservatism is. google's autoresponse to "what is conservatism in politics", from philosophybasics.com
in this case, is:Conservatism (or conservativism) is any political philosophy that favours tradition (in the sense of various religious, cultural, or nationally-defined beliefs and customs) in the face of external forces for change, and is critical of proposals for radical social change.
, which actually isn't so bad, and is in fact a bit necessary: for example, liberals, whom we usually consider to be counter to conservatism, are actually themselves conservatives when it comes to privacy -- unless we allow invasive policies to continue for the next 20 years, for then, while keeping the same attitudes towards privacy, liberals will no longer be conservatives, since by then, lacking privacy will have become traditional. this idea of the variability of conservatism because of the variability of traditions is further explored in the opening paragraph of conservatism's wikipedia entry:Conservatism as a political and social philosophy promotes retaining traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others, called reactionaries, oppose modernism and seek a return to "the way things were". The first established use of the term in a political context originated with François-René de Chateaubriand in 1818, during the period of Bourbon restoration that sought to roll back the policies of the French Revolution. The term, historically associated with right-wing politics, has since been used to describe a wide range of views. There is no single set of policies that are universally regarded as conservative, because the meaning of conservatism depends on what is considered traditional in a given place and time. Thus conservatives from different parts of the world—each upholding their respective traditions—may disagree on a wide range of issues. Edmund Burke, an 18th-century politician who opposed the French Revolution but supported the American Revolution, is credited as one of the main theorists of conservatism in Great Britain in the 1790s. According to Quintin Hogg, the chairman of the British Conservative Party in 1959, "Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as an attitude, a constant force, performing a timeless function in the development of a free society, and corresponding to a deep and permanent requirement of human nature itself."
. so, conservatism is only as bad or good as whatever traditions are currently or were recently in place. since conservatism is about not changing and liberalism is often seen as being counter to conservatism, this might lead one to believe that liberalism is purely about change, but apparently, no. here is the first paragraph of liberalism's wiki entry, the first two sentences of which are google's autoresponse to "what is liberalism in politics":Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. The former principle is stressed in classical liberalism while the latter is more evident in social liberalism. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas and programs such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, and international cooperation.
, so liberalism is about preserving, protecting, and acquiring rights, and it seems as tho the only way this could go wrong is 1) when people have faulty understandings of rights -- such as the idea of freedom of religion meaning that the leaders of corporate entities have a right to impose their beliefs on their employees or customers or the wouldbe of either --, 2) when people try to take their rights in an improper manner -- such as with the horrible violence and persecution in the French Revolution or in modern riots -- or 3) when people mistake things they want for rights -- such as mistaking non-merit-based promotion of minorities for enforcement of equality when it is in fact the opposite -- (btw the confusion over the word "entitlement" is that it is applied equally to both rights and non-right wants).
as wikipedia mentioned the link between conservatism and right-wing politics and provided a link for the latter, and since i look things up even if -- especially if -- i have a gist of an understanding of what something is, i followed the link, and here's the first paragraph:Right-wing politics are political positions or activities that view some forms of social stratification or social inequality as either inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically defending this position on the basis of natural law, economics or tradition. Hierarchy and inequality may be viewed as natural results of traditional social differences and/or from competition in market economies.
. now we know from real-world communism that total equality doesn't work, because 1) even when the system they live under is meant to counter it, people still want to raise themselves above others and control others, and it'll still be that some will succeed in doing either/both, and 2) if people know they'll get what they want and need no matter what, they'll only do work they want to do (and there is work no one wants), and if what they get is contingent on whether they do the work they're given without regard to how well they do it, they'll do it the way they want to (usually lazily if they don't like the work), and if what's given to people is based on how much they produce and not the quality of their products, they'll just produce a ton of crappy things (usually).
However, it has been shown that, as long as there is some economic inequality, large economic equality is still majorly beneficial. And, though the end of this sentence is admittedly a matter of opinion: obviously any other inequality (discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality, irrelevant disability, irrelevant criminal history, etc.) is ridiculous.
so. if -- and it seems to be the case -- liberalism and right-wing politics are opposites, what is the opposite of conservatism?, and what is left-wing politics? on a Party politics
sidebar on the page for right-wing politics, wikipedia links to a left-wing politics page, whose opening paragraph is thus:Left-wing politics are political positions or activities that accept or support social equality, often in opposition to social hierarchy and social inequality. They typically involve concern for those in society who are perceived as disadvantaged relative to others and a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished.
, so while wikipedia does warn that "The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject." (none of the other articles i've mentioned up to this point have had warnings), we can at least agree that by this definition, liberalism and left-wing politics are synonymous. well, not quite. both "wing"s of politics only concern equality whereas liberalism also concerns liberty, and left-wing politics adds a belief that there definitely is unjustified inequality. this latter addition isn't enough to make right-wing politics not the opposite of left-wing politics, but the point is that as they only counter or support a portion of what liberalism is, neither can be said to be synonymous with or opposite to the whole of liberalism.
so once again, what is the opposites of conservatism and liberalism? my guess for the opposite of conservatism, that is, the name for purely wanting change in a political context, was radicalism. in response to "what is radicalism in politics", google autogives the first sentence of wiki's article on Political radicalism
, the first paragraph being:The term political radicalism (or simply, in political science, radicalism) denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in fundamental ways. Derived from the Latin radix (root), the denotation of radical has changed since its eighteenth-century coinage to comprehend the entire political spectrum—yet retains the “change at the root” connotation fundamental to revolutionary societal change. Historically, radicalism has referred exclusively to the "radical left", under the single category of far-left politics, rarely incorporating far-right politics though these may have revolutionary elements; the prominent exception is in the United States where some consider radicalism to include both political extremes of the radical left and the "radical right". In traditional labels of the spectrum of political thought, the opposite of radical on the "right" of the political spectrum is termed reactionary.
. so, i was right: radicalism/reactionaryism, a political philosophy focused on changing social systems, is the opposite of conservatism, a political philosophy focused on preserving social systems. so: opposite of liberalism? well i couldn't find such a word. in my search for one i looked up several related words, some of which are listed below.
here is the first entry of google's autodefinitions for:
liberty: the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views.
equality: the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.
. and here is the first paragraph of the wikientry on totalitarianism:
it is a political system in which the state holds total control over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life wherever possible.
so like how right-wing politics is against equality, totalitarianism is against liberty, but neither is against all of liberalism, although totalitarianism is often accompanied by right-wing politics. regarding the latter, though: of all the words that i found containing both elements in their definition -- that is, all the words that were fully-anti-liberal --, they always had something else attached: for example fascism, whose main additional element is a support for nationalism; and so i never found a word that was truly just the full opposite of liberalism.
so to summarize: conservatism is the opposition to change, radicalism is the support of change, liberty is a lack of oppressive invasive restrictions by authorities, equality is the equal treatment of people, liberalism is the support of both liberty and equality, left-wing politics is the support of equality with the belief that there exists inequality, right-wing politics is the opposition to equality, and totalitarianism is the opposition to liberty.
i hope for the day when i can be fully both liberal and conservative and be of neither wing, that is, the day when full equality and liberty has existed for a decent duration. well, a smidgen of economic inequality while
humans still need to work ;) .