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A Brief History of Global Conservatism


Now available on Amazon is the Encyclopedia of Modern Political Thought from Sage Publications. Sage was nice enough to ask me to write the section on conservatism in the encyclopedia. The type of conservatism discussed is primarily the global conservative tradition of Burke, Maistre, Metternich, and Pius IX, with some references to the American conservative movement, and to its critics including Ronald Hamowy, Rothbard, Mises, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, among others.

The movement originates in the late 18th century in reaction to the French Revolution, which certainly saw its excesses, but then, as now, conservatives went overboard, automatically deferring to the political habits of the recent past, and in their case, supporting, not the political model of small and relatively liberal states that characterized the High Middle Ages, but instead throwing in with the absolutist states of the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Thus, by the mid-20th century, Ronald Hamowy could declare that the newly-christened conservatives, like Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley, who were invoking the 19th-century conservatives as their inspiration, were really embracing the conservatism of “the rack, the thumbscrew, the whip, and the firing squad.”

Also of interest is the vehement and sneering opposition among early conservatives to the middle classes, free-market economics, and classical liberalism in general.

Here is the full entry.

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for Mises Wire and The Austrian, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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