Conservatism Past Papers/Mark scheme answers (15 and 45)


CONSERVATISM    15 marks:


On what grounds do conservatives justify social hierarchy?


A social hierarchy refers to a pyramidically ranked system of command and obedience or a stratification in society, in which social position is unconnected with individual ability.


Conservatives have traditionally believed that society is naturally hierarchical, characterised by fixed social gradations. Social equality is therefore rejected as undesirable or unachievable; power, status and property are always unequally distributed. Conservatives accept natural inequality among individuals; some are born with talents and skills that are denied to others, however they also believe inequality is deep-rooted. Inequality is an inevitable feature of an organic society, not merely a consequence of individual differences.


Pre-democratic conservatives such as Burke, were in this way, able to embrace the idea of a ‘natural aristocracy’: the idea that talent and leadership are innate qualities that cannot be acquired through self-advancement or effort. Just as the brain and the heart perform different functions within the body, the various classes and groups that make up society also have their own specific roles. As a result of this belief in an organic society, genuine social equality is a myth; in reality, there is natural inequality of wealth and social position, justified by a corresponding inequality of social responsibilities. For example, the working class might not enjoy the same living standards and life chances as their employers, but at the sat time, they do not have the livelihoods and security of many other people resting on their shoulders. Hierarchy and organicism have thus invested in traditional conservatism a pronounced tendency towards paternalism.


Traditional and One Nation Conservatives support social hierarchies as they see them as inevitable. Hierarchies are an essential feature of organic societies. Conservatives have been strong supporters of the monarchy, which embodies a ‘natural’ social hierarchy.


The belief in hierarchy is strengthened by the emphasis conservatives place on authority. Conservatives believe that authority, like society, develops naturally. It arises from the need to ensure that people are safe and cared for. Such authority can only be imposed ‘from above’ – those on top of the natural hierarchy, not from ‘below’. Conservatives believe that authority and hierarchy is necessary and beneficial as people need the guidance, support and security that comes from knowing ‘where they stand’ and what is expected of them. Hierarchy therefore counters rootlessness and ‘anomie’ – a weakening of values and normative rules, associated with feelings of isolation and meaningless.


Social hierarchies are also desirable and they encourage duty and responsibility.

Social hierarchies, through a governing class, help to maintain respect for authority and law and order. This supports social stability.


How do traditional conservatives and the liberal differ in their views of society?


Traditional Conservatives have thought of society as if it were an organism, a living thing. An organic society is one in which the whole is more than a collection of its individual parts. Society is thus held together by a fragile network of


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