Twentieth-century politics has been dominated by "big ideas" - communism, fascism, central planning, many kinds of collectivism . These big ideas have tended to clash with the realities of human nature and have often led to death, poverty and misery in varying proportions. This volume of essays seeks to place realism at the core of the conservative agenda. The present disarray in conservative circles suggests that a redefinition of conservatism is timely, and each essay studies key areas of philosophy and policy with the notion of conservative realism to the fore. All the contributors are leading political thinkers and commentators with international reputations. John O'Sullivan looks at the question of British cultural identity, whilst Noel Malcom reveals the highly complex nature of the relationship between European Christian democracy and conservatism. Irving Kristol points to the differences between American and European conservatism, arguing that it is religion which undergirds American conservatism. Richard Griffiths examines Europe and the question of conservative identity. Turning to economics, Ray Evans argues that a constitutive illusion of radical politics is that the economy can lead to monetary recklessness, whilst David Willetts demonstrates that markets on the one hand, and civil society or community on the other, have a long history of intertwining and mutual stimulation, and shows that the division between the selfish egoism of the market and the benign altruism of community has been left for dead.
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Conservative realism is thinking that 'hugs most closely the shape of this world' (Elie Kedourie). The critical thrust of this volume of essays, dedicated to Michael Oakeshott, Elie Kedourie and Shirley Letwin, is on bringing politics closer to social, and especially moral, realities, specifically in English-speaking cultures.
John O'Sullivan writes on cultural identity, Noel Malcolm on the little understood impact of Christian democracy on the forging of the European Community, and Irving Kristol on the religious dimension of Conservatism, especially in America. Richard Griffiths looks at the structure of Conservative decision making and Timothy Fuller contrasts faith and scepticism in terms of a recently discovered book by Michael Oakeshott. David Willetts adumbrates a Conservative response to critics who believe that market principles are eroding civic culture. Owen Harries explores the limits of realism itself in international relations, and Kenneth Minogue characterizes the Conservatism of Oakeshott, Kedourie and Letwin.
In the 1980s, real Conservatism made a historic comeback after decades of subservience to fashionable schemes of social transformation. But the problems Conservatives now face are much more subtle and complex. Published in association with the Centre for Policy Studies, these essays – all written by key political thinkers – explore the Conservative response to the most problematic political questions facing us today.
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