Roger Scruton is one of the leading conservative philosophers of the last century, and potentially of all time. His book, The Meaning of Conservatism, was instrumental in developing how I think about politics. So, I want to share this book with you. Honestly, I think anyone – whether conservative or not – would learn a lot from this book. Interested? Check out the podcast here:
“All conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change.”-G.K. Chesterton
What is the Meaning of Conservatism?
Well, that is the big question, right? Conservatism is a way of approaching problems that is different. Instead of discarding the old, conservatives seek to understand why those who came before them found things valuable. They don’t just let things remain, but actively seek to preserve them. Furthermore, they aren’t just reactionaries as Roger Scruton explains:
“A reactionary is fixed on the past and wanting to return to it; a conservative wishes to adapt what is best in the past to the changing circumstances of the present.”-Roger Scruton
Conservatism v.s. Liberalism
There’s a healthy tension between conservatism and liberalism. Scruton explains in The Meaning of Conservatism how the debate over whether or not something is worth preserving is a constant question. By seeking to preserve what is time-tested, the conservative argues in favor of tradition. Liberals, on the other hand, will push for change and novelty, challenging the status quo. When both the conservative and liberal can discuss issues, they will be able to decide together how to move society forward by changing and preserving the right things. This debate is essential, and the conservative is an essential part of it. Without him, it would simply be a lecture – not a discussion.