by Sam Crawley
It is rapidly becoming clear that a range of environmental problems facing society require urgent attention. The UNFCCC, for example, recently remarked that, as a result of climate change “[h]uman health and livelihoods are being devastated, unique ecosystems are being irreparably damaged, and many species have become extinct.” Other issues, such as plastic pollution, do not receive the same level of media attention as climate change, yet are nonetheless having disastrous impacts on the environment. In a paper detailing the problems created by plastic pollution, Roland Geyer et al. concluded: “humans are conducting a singular uncontrolled experiment on a global scale, in which billions of metric tons of [plastic] material will accumulate across all major terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems on the planet”.
Government action is central to any credible response to these environmental problems. While the choices and actions of individuals are also important, government policy is required to ensure environmental action is coordinated across all regions of a country and all sectors of an economy. Action by governments will also need to be sustained over a period of years or decades, and may amount to a substantial transformation of society. Such an extensive and ambitious government programme requires broad public support to legitimise it, especially in democracies.
What the public thinks about environmental action, therefore, matters. Exploring people’s environmental attitudes can help us to get a better sense of the nature of public support for environmental action. In particular, insights can be gained by investigating why people hold particular environmental attitudes. For instance, what is driving the backlash against environmental action seen in some parts of the world? Is it that people are concerned about the economic impacts of environmental action, or is it something more?
There is some evidence which suggests that concern about the economic consequences of environmental action make people less likely to support it. However, given the large-scale changes to society that are likely to be required to address environmental issues, we could expect people’s ideology or worldview to contribute to their degree of support for environmental action. For example, people hold different beliefs about the relationship between humans and nature, the extent to which the government should be “interfering” in the economy, or what constraints should or should not be placed on a person’s “way of life”. These beliefs may strongly influence how much a person supports environmental action.
Consistently, and in a variety of contexts, people who place themselves on the right of politics have been found to be less likely to be concerned about the environment or to support environmental action than people on the left. Similar patterns can also be found among political parties, where left-wing parties are typically more engaged with environmental issues than right-wing parties. This link between left-right political orientation and environmental attitudes is found in the majority of developed countries, suggesting that aspects of conservative political ideology tend to lead people to take a negative view of environmental action.
However, what is less clear is which specific aspects of conservative ideology relate to environmental attitudes. Conservative ideology, although oriented around resistance to change and acceptance of inequality, is not homogeneous. In particular, there are different economic and social aspects of conservative ideology that are not held equally among all conservatives. Some conservatives may orient their worldview primarily around economics (and support for free-market principles), while others may hold strong conservative social attitudes, such as right-wing authoritarianism and exclusionary attitudes. Moreover, researchers have begun to explore specific environmental aspects of conservative ideology, such as “ecological dominance orientation” (EDO).
In what follows, I briefly expand on what the economic and social aspects of conservative ideology are, and examine what the evidence says about the link between these attitudes and support for environmental action. The insights from this research can help us to understand why we sometimes see a backlash to environmental action, and what the prospects are for an expansion of public support for environmental government policy. I also discuss how expanding research on concepts such as EDO might deepen our understanding of the link between conservative ideology and environmental attitudes.
Support for free markets and opposition to welfare
Since the neoliberal turn of the late 1970s to early 1980s, many conservatives have held a strong preference for free-market economics and “small” government. These preferences tend to manifest as support for cuts in government spending, reduction in social welfare and lowering of tax. Arguments in favour of such preferences are often based on the presumed superiority of free-market approaches to economic management. Additionally, people supporting free markets often appeal to ideas of individual liberty to support their position.
Free markets are not universally supported among conservatives, however. For example, populist right-wing parties and their supporters often endorse some level of government welfare spending. However, on this view, support for welfare spending is usually conditional on the spending being targeted at particular “in-groups”. Any aversion to environmental action among conservatives who do not favour small government may thus be linked to their social attitudes, as explained in the next section.
Support for free markets has an obvious natural tension with environmental action. Taxes and government regulation are generally agreed to be necessary to combat major environmental problems such as climate change, due to the high levels of social coordination and change required to address them. Research in a variety of contexts has backed up the hypothesis that people who support free markets are generally less likely to support environmental action. Studies have examined conservative economic attitudes such as opposition to social welfare, government spending and intervention in the economy, and support for tax breaks and privatisation of state-owned enterprises. Across a range of (mostly developed) countries, the results are consistent: people who hold conservative economic attitudes are less likely to care about environmental issues and are less likely to support action on the environment.
Right-wing authoritarianism and exclusionary attitudes
Many conservatives hold particular beliefs about how society should be structured, such as right-wing authoritarianism and exclusionary attitudes. Right-wing authoritarianism includes a preference for strong leaders, law and order, and traditional values, while people with exclusionary attitudes may hold anti-minority or anti-feminist views. Exclusionary attitudes can be understood through the lens of “social dominance theory”. Developed by psychologists Felicia Pratto and Jim Sidanius, social dominance theory holds that society tends to be composed of group-based hierarchies. Conservatives are frequently supportive of such hierarchies, or, more precisely, have high levels of “social dominance orientation”.
In contrast to support for free market principles, these conservative social attitudes do not have an obvious link to support for environmental action. On the surface, there is no reason to suppose that a person who prefers strong leaders, strict law and order, and rigid social hierarchies would be less likely to support environmental action. However, extensive survey research has shown that people who hold these conservative social attitudes are substantially less likely to support environmental action than those who do not hold strong conservative social attitudes. As with the link to conservative economic attitudes, these results hold in a variety of countries. Moreover, the relationship between conservative social attitudes and environmental attitudes seems, in general, to be stronger than that between conservative economic attitudes and environmental attitudes.
As I expand on below, further work is needed to understand exactly why this link between exclusionary attitudes, right-wing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation and environmental attitudes exists. However, the evidence suggests that both economic and social aspects of conservative ideology shape people’s environmental views. People who support free-market principles, oppose social welfare, or hold authoritarian or exclusionary attitudes are less likely to support action on the environment than those who do not.
The independent effects of economic and social attitudes, and the wider implications
One possible reading of the evidence described above is that the reason people with exclusionary attitudes or other conservative social attitudes tend not to support environmental action is because most social conservatives also support free market economics. This interpretation seems plausible, given there is no clear theoretical reason why conservative social attitudes should relate to environmental attitudes.
However, in a study published in the Journal of Political Ideologies, I examined both conservative economic and social attitudes, and found that they independently relate to environmental attitudes. In other words, whether or not people support free markets, if they hold conservative social attitudes, they are more likely to think negatively about environmental action. Thus, despite these two central aspects of conservative ideology being independent, and not held by all conservatives, they both seem to have a similar but separate influence on environmental attitudes.
Given these results, the reasons why people with conservative social attitudes are less likely to support environmental action need to be further explored. Three areas in particular could benefit from further attention. First, theoretical work could further explore how and why environmental attitudes and worldviews connect to conservative ideology as a whole, and especially to the social aspects of conservatism. Conservative social attitudes could well be closely related to a set of conservative ecological attitudes that have not been as widely studied as the conservative economic and social attitudes that I have described above. Such ecological attitudes include anthropocentrism, speciesism and ecological dominance orientation (the belief that nature is hierarchical, with humans at the top of the pyramid). It may also be worth considering whether environmental attitudes should be thought of as an independent dimension of conservative ideology rather than a separate, but related, set of beliefs.
Second, while EDO is a promising start, further work could develop and validate indicators of conservative ecological attitudes. Measures for similar concepts (such as social dominance orientation) took decades to develop, and to become widely used and accepted. An enhanced conceptual clarity and improved measurement could help us to understand changing environmental attitudes among conservatives. Not all conservatives reject (strong) environmental action, and concern about environmental issues may be growing among conservatives, as evidenced by the ‘teal wave’ seen in the recent Australian election, where several centre-right, pro-environment candidates were successful.
Third, while these links between conservative attitudes and environmental opinion have been clearly established in many developed countries, less is known about the relationship between conservative ideology and the environment in the developing world. The relationship between left-right orientation and environmental attitudes tends to be weaker in developing countries than in developed countries. Thus, we could expect to see differences in the patterns of environmental attitudes among conservatives when comparing developing and developed countries. Expanding the scope of this research could help to further define the nature of the link between conservative ideology and environmental attitudes.
The link between the social and economic aspects of conservative ideology and environmental attitudes outlined above go some way towards explaining the backlash against environmental action seen in some contexts. While majorities in most countries support action on the environment, substantial minorities do not. The resistance from such groups can pose a significant obstacle to ambitious environmental action. The highly visible “gilets jaunes” or “yellow vest” protests in France were triggered, in part, by a carbon tax on fuel. In New Zealand, the “Groundswell” movement is largely driven by farmers opposed to moving agricultural emissions into the country’s emissions trading scheme. While these groups could well be facing negative economic consequences as a result of environmental policy, it is likely that some members are also motivated by conservative social attitudes. In other words, they see environmental policy as a threat to their conservative values and way of life.
Finding a way to increase the breadth of public support for environmental action is, therefore, no easy task. However, a clearer and deeper understanding of the reasons for any resistance among the public can help provide a way forward. Framing environmental problems in terms of economics (for example, making the argument that the costs of inaction on climate change will far outweigh the costs of action) will find resonance with some conservatives. Others, though, will need to be reassured that environmental action will not leave them in a world that no longer has a place for them.
 UNFCCC, ‘Climate Change Affects Us More Severely than Previously Thought’, <https://unfccc.int/news/climate-change-affects-us-more-severely-than-previously-thought> accessed (2022).
 R. Geyer et al., ‘Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made’, Science Advances, American Association for the Advancement of Science 3 (2017), p. e1700782.
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 S. M. Cruz, ‘The relationships of political ideology and party affiliation with environmental concern: A meta-analysis’, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 53 (2017), pp. 81–91.
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 J. T. Jost et al., ‘Political conservatism as motivated social cognition’, Psychological Bulletin, US: American Psychological Association 129 (2003), pp. 339–75.
 K. Stenner, ‘Three Kinds of “Conservatism”’, Psychological Inquiry, Routledge 20 (2009), pp. 142–59.
 R. J. Antonio and R. J. Brulle, ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Politics: Climate Change Denial and Political Polarization’, Sociological Quarterly, 52 (2011), pp. 195–202.
 J. F. Henry, ‘The Ideology of the Laissez Faire Program’, Journal of Economic Issues, Routledge 42 (2008), pp. 209–24.
 F. M. Buttel and W. L. Flinn, ‘The Politics of Environmental Concern: The Impacts of Party Identification and Political Ideology on Environmental Attitudes’, Environment and Behavior (1978), pp. 17–36; A. M. McCright et al., ‘Political polarization on support for government spending on environmental protection in the USA, 1974’, Social Science Research, 48 (2014), pp. 251–60; S. B. Longo and J. O. Baker, ‘Economy "Versus" Environment: The Influence of Economic Ideology and Political Identity on Perceived Threat of Eco-Catastrophe’, The Sociological Quarterly, 55 (2014), pp. 341–65.
 Jost et al., Psychological Bulletin 129, pp. 339–75; K. M. Jylhä and K. Hellmer, ‘Right-Wing Populism and Climate Change Denial: The Roles of Exclusionary and Anti-Egalitarian Preferences, Conservative Ideology, and Antiestablishment Attitudes’, Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy (2020), p. asap.12203.
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 T. L. Milfont et al., ‘On the Relation Between Social Dominance Orientation and Environmentalism: A 25-Nation Study’, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 9 (2018), pp. 802–14.
 See also: K. M. Jylhä et al., ‘Climate Change Denial among Radical Right-Wing Supporters’, Sustainability, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute 12 (2020), p. 10226.
 F. Uenal et al., ‘Social and ecological dominance orientations: Two sides of the same coin? Social and ecological dominance orientations predict decreased support for climate change mitigation policies’, Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, SAGE Publications Ltd (2021), p. 13684302211010923.
 A. M. McCright et al., ‘Political ideology and views about climate change in the European Union’, Environmental Politics, 25 (2016), pp. 338–58.
by Lenon Campos Maschette
Over the past few centuries, the concept of civil society has shifted a few times to the centre of political debate. The end of the 20th century witnessed one of these moments. From the 1980s, civil society resurfaced as a central political idea, an important conceptual tool to address all types of social and political problems as well as describe social formations. At the end of the last century, a general criticism of the state and its inability to solve key social problems and the search for a ‘post-statist’ politics were problems shared by several countries that allowed the civil society debate to spread globally.
In Britain, ideologies of the right had an important role in this movement. From the 1980s, all the discussions around community and citizen participation have to be analysed, at least in part, within the context of how the nature and function of the state were being reshaped, especially through the changes proposed by right-wing intellectuals and politicians. This tendency is even more noticeable within the British Conservative Party. In one of the most important works on the British Conservative Party and civil society, E. H. H. Green argues that the Conservative Party’s state theory throughout the 20th century was more concerned with the effectiveness of civil society bodies than with the role of the state. Therefore, it is a long tradition that was continued and reinforced by Thatcher’s leadership.
As I argued in another work, the Thatcher government redefined the concept of citizenship and placed civil society at the centre of its model of citizenship. In this new article, I want to compliment that and argue that civil society had vital importance in Thatcher’s project. From this perspective, the Thatcher government redefined the idea of civil society, regarded as the space par excellence for citizenship—at least in the way Thatcherism understood it. Thatcherism attributed to civil society and its institutions a central role in the socialisation of individuals and the transmission of traditional values. It was the place par excellence of individual moral development and, consequently, citizenship.
Thatcherism and civil society
The Conservative Party never abandoned the defence of civil associations as both important institutions to deliver public services and essential spaces for maintaining and transmitting shared values. Throughout the post-WW2 period, the Party continuously emphasised the importance of the diversity of voluntary associations, and as a response to the growing dissatisfaction with statutory welfare, support for more flexible, dynamic, and local voluntary provision became part of its 1979 manifesto.
As already mentioned, civil society had virtually disappeared from the public debate and Thatcher herself rarely used the term ‘civil society’. However, the idea had a central role within Thatcherism. As the article will show, the Conservatives were constantly thinking about the intermediary structures between individuals and the state, and from these reflections we can try to comprehend how they saw these institutions, their roles, and their relationships. According to the Conservatives, civil society was being threatened by a social philosophy that had placed the state at the centre of social life to the detriment of communities. In fact, civil society had not disappeared, but was experiencing profound changes. In a more affluent and ‘post-materialistic’ society, individuals had turned their attention from first material needs to identities, fulfilment, and greater quality of life. Charities and religious associations had also changed their strategies and came close to the approach and methods of secular and modern voluntary associations, loosening their moralistic and evangelical language and adopting a more political and socially concerned discourse. These are important transformations that are the basis of how the Thatcher government linked the politicisation of these institutions with the demise of civil society.
Thatcher always made clear that voluntary associations and civil institutions were central to her ‘revolutionary’ project. The Conservatives under Thatcher regarded the civil institutions as the best means to reach more vulnerable people and the perfect space for participation and self-expression. The neighbourhood, this smallest social ‘unit,’ was more personal and effective than larger and more bureaucratic bodies. Furthermore, civil society empowered individuals by giving them the opportunity to participate in local communities and make a difference. It is noteworthy that Thatcher’s individualism was not synonymous with an atomised and isolated individual. Thatcher did not have a libertarian view about the individuals. As she argued to the Greater Young Conservatives group, ‘there is not and cannot possibly be any hard and fast antithesis between self-interest and care for others, for man is a social creature … brought up in mutual dependence.’ According to her, there was no conflict between her ‘individualism and social responsibility,’ as individuals and community were connected and ‘personal efforts’ would ‘enhance the community’, not ‘undermine’ it. She believed in a community of free and responsible individuals, ‘held together by mutual dependence … [and] common customs.’ Working in the local and familiar, within civil associations and voluntary bodies, individuals, in seeking their own purposes and goals, would also achieve common objectives, discharge their obligations to the community and serve their fellows and God. And here is the key role of civil and voluntary bodies. They were responsible for guaranteeing traditional standards and transmitting common customs. By participating in these associations, individuals would achieve their own interests but also feel important, share values, strengthen social ties, and create a distinctive identity. Thatcherites believed that voluntary associations, charities, and civil institutions had a central position in the rebirth of civic society. These conceptions partly resonated with a conservative tradition that recognised the intermediated structures as institutions responsible for balancing freedom and order. For conservatives, civil institutions and associations have always played a central role within civil society as institutions responsible for socialising and moralising individuals.
From the Thatcherite perspective, these ‘little platoons’—a term formulated by Edmund Burke, and used by conservatives such as Douglas Hurd, Brian Griffiths, and Thatcher herself to qualify local associations and institutions—provided people a space to develop a sense of community, civic responsibility, and identity. Therefore, Thatcher and her entourage believed that civil society had many fundamental and intertwined roles: it empowered individuals through participation; it developed citizenship; it was a repository of traditions; it transmitted values and principles; it created an identity and social ties; and it was a place to discharge individuals’ obligations to their community and God.
The state—not Thatcherism, nor indeed the market—isolated individuals by stepping into civil society spaces and breaking apart the intermediary institutions. In expanding beyond its original attributions, the state had eclipsed civil associations and institutions. Centralisation and politicisation were weakening ‘mediating structures,’ making people feel ‘powerless’ and depriving individuals of relieving themselves from ‘their isolation.’ It was also opening a space for a totalitarian state enterprise. While the state was creating an isolated, dependent, and passive citizenry, the new social movements were politicising every single civil society space, fostering divisiveness and resentment.
The great issue here was politicisation. Civil and local spaces had been politicised. The local councils were promoting anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-homophobic agendas, local government and trade unions were encouraging riots and operating ‘to break, defy, and subvert the law’ and the Church was ‘failing the people of England.’ Neoconservatives drew attention to both the intervention and politicisation from the state but also from social movements such as feminism. As shown earlier, civil society dynamics had changed and new and more politicised movements emerged. John Moore, a minister and another long-term member of Thatcher’s cabinet, complained that modern voluntary organisations changed their emphases from service groups to pressure groups. That is the reason why Thatcher, in spite of increasing grants to the voluntary sector, carefully selected those associations with principles related to ‘self-help and enterprise,’ that encouraged ‘civic pride’ while also discouraging grants to institutions previously funded by left-wing councils.
The state and the new social movements had politicised and dismantled civil society spaces, especially the conservatives' two most important civil institutions: the family and the Church. Thatcherism placed the family at the centre of civil society. Along with the ‘surrounding community of friends and neighbours,’ the family was a key institution to ‘individual development.’ This perspective dialogued with a conservative idea that came directly from Burke and placed the family at the core of civil society. From a Burkean perspective, the family was an essential institution for civilisation as it had two fundamental roles: acting as the ‘bulwarks against tyranny’ and against the ‘perils of individualism.’ The family was important as the first space of socialisation and affection and, consequently, the first individual responsibility. Within the family, moral values were kept and transmitted through generations, preventing degeneration and dependence. Thatcher’s government identified the family as the ‘very nursery of civil virtue’ and created the Family Policy Group to rebuild family life and responsibility. The family also had a decisive role in checking the state authority. Along with neoconservatives, Thatcherites believed that the welfare state and ‘permissiveness’ had broken down the family and its core functions. From this perspective, the most important civil institution had been corrupted by the state and the new social movements. If Thatcherism dialogued with neoliberalism and its criticism of the state, it was also influenced by conservative ideas of civil society and neoconservative arguments against the new social movements and the welfare state. Despite some tensions, Thatcherism was successful in combining neoliberal and neoconservative ideas.
The other main civil institution was the Church. Many of Thatcher’s political convictions were moral, rooted in puritan Christian values nurtured during her upbringing. Thatcher and many of her allies believed that Christianity was the foundation of British society and its values had to be widely shared. The churches were responsible for exercising ‘over [the] manners and morality of the people’ and were the most important social tool to moralise individuals. Only their leaders had the moral authority ‘to strengthen individual moral standards’ and the ‘shared beliefs’ that provide people with a moral framework to prevent freedom to became something destructive and negative.
Thus, the conservatives had the goal of depoliticising civil society. It should be a state- and political-free space. Thatcher’s active citizen was an apolitical one. The irony is that the Thatcher administration made these institutions even more dependent on state funding. Thatcherism was incapable of comprehending the new dynamics of civil institutions. The diverse small institutions, mainly composed of volunteer workers, had been replaced by larger, more bureaucratic and professionalised ones closely related to the state.
If the state and, consequently, politicians could not moralise individuals—which, in part, explains the lack of a moral agenda in the period of Thatcher’s government, a fact so criticised by the more traditional right, since ‘values cannot be given by the state or politician,’ as she proclaimed in 1978—other civil society institutions not only could, but had a duty to promote certain values.
The Thatcher government and communities
From the mid-1980s, the Conservative Strategy Group advised the party to emphasise the idea of a ‘good neighbour’ as a very distinct conservative concept. The Conservative Party turned its eyes to the issue of communities and several ministers started to work on policies related to neighbourliness. At the same time, Thatcher’s Policy Unit also started thinking of ways to rebuild ‘community infrastructure’ and its voluntary and non-profit organisations. The civil associations more and more were being seen by the government as an essential instrument in changing people’s views and beliefs.
As we have seen, it was compatible with the Thatcherite project. However, it was also a practical answer to rising social problems and an increasingly conservative perception, towards the end of the 1980s, that Thatcher’s administration failed to change individual beliefs and civil society actors, groups, and institutions. And then, we begin to note the tensions between Thatcherite ideas and their implications for the community.
Thatcherites believed in a community that was first and foremost moral. The community was made up of many individuals brought up by mutual dependence and shared values and, as such, carrying duties prior to rights. That is why all these civic institutions were so important. They should restrain individual anti-social behaviour through the wisdom of shared ‘traditional social norms that went with them.’ The community should set standards and penalise irresponsible behaviour. A solid religious base was therefore so important to the moral civil society framework. And here Thatcher was always very straightforward that this religious basis was a Christian one. Despite preaching against state intervention, Thatcher was clear about the central role of compulsory religious education to teach children ‘the difference between right and wrong.’ In order to properly work, these communities and its civil institutions should have their authority and autonomy restored to maintain and promote their basic principles and moral framework. And that is the point here. The conservative ‘free’ communities only could be free if they followed a specific set of values and principles.
During an interview in May 2001—among rising racial tensions that lead to serious racial disturbances over that year’s spring and summer—Thatcher argued that despite supporting a society comprised of different races and colours, she would never approve of a ‘multicultural society,’ as it could not observe ‘all the best principles and best values’ and would never ‘be united.’ Thatcher was preoccupied with immigration precisely because she believed that cultural issues could have negative long-term effects. As she said on another occasion, ‘people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture.’ Different individuals would work together and keep themselves together only if they shared some basic principles and beliefs. Thatcher’s community was based on common tradition, not consent or contract. Conservatives believed that shared values were essential for social cohesion. That is why a multicultural society was so dangerous from her perspective. Moreover, there is also another implication here. Multiculturalism not only needed to be repulsed because it was regarded as divisive, but also because it presupposes that all cultures have equal value. It was not only about sharing the same values and principles, but also about sharing the right values and principles. And for the conservatives, the British and Christian traditions were the right ones. That is why Christian religious education should be compulsory for everybody, regardless of their ethnic and cultural background.
In part, it explains the Thatcher administration’s long fight against local councils and authorities that supported multiculturalism and anti-racist movements. They were seen as a threat to cultural and traditional values as well as national sovereignty. In addition to responding many times with brutal police repression to the 1981 riots—which is in itself a strong state intervention—the government also released resources for urban regeneration and increased the budget of ‘ethnic projects’ in order to control these initiatives. The idea was to shape communities in a given way and direction and create tools for the community to police themselves. The government was seeking ways to change individual attitudes that, according to the Conservatives, were at the root of social problems in the inner cities. Rather than being the consequence of social problems, these attitudes, they argued, were caused by cultural and moral issues, especially in predominantly black communities. In encouraging moderate black leaders, the government was trying to foster black communities that would behave as British middle-class neighbourhoods. Thatcher’s government also tried to shape communities through business enterprises and market mechanisms. In the late 1980s, her government started a bold process of community refurbishment that aimed to revitalise what were regarded as deprived areas. The market was also seen as a part of civil society and a moralising space that encouraged good behaviour.
Thatcher’s relationship with the family, the basis of civil society, was also problematic. The Conservatives had a very traditional conception of family. The family was constituted by a heterosexual married couple. If Thatcherites accused new social movements of imposing their worldview on the majority, Thatcher’s government tried to prescribe a ‘natural’ view of family that excluded any type of distinct formation. Furthermore, despite presiding over a decade that saw a rising expansion of women's participation in the workplace and education, Thatcher advanced an idea of community that was based on women's caring role within the family and the neighbourhood.
Finally, the Church, regarded as the most important source of morality, was, at first, viewed as a natural ally, but soon would become a huge problem for her government. As with many established British institutions, according to the Conservatives, the Church had been captured by a progressive mood that had politicised many of its leaders and diverted the Church's role on morality. The Church was failing Britain since it had abdicated its primary role as a moral leader. It was also part of a broader attack on the British establishment. Thatcher would prefer to align her government with religious groups that performed a much more ‘valuable role’ than the established Church.
The tensions between the Thatcher government's ideas and policies—which blended neoliberal and neoconservative approaches—and its results in practice would lead to reactions on both left and right-wing sides. If Thatcher herself realised that her years in office had not encouraged communities’ growth, the New Labour and the post-Thatcher Conservative Party would invest in a robust communitarian discourse. Tony Blair's Party would use community rhetoric to emphasise differences from Thatcherism, whereas the rise of ideas that focused on civil society, such as Compassionate Conservatism, Civic Conservatism, and Big Society, would be a Conservative response to the Thatcher's 1980s.
Conventionally, conservatives have treated civil society as a vehicle to rebuild traditional values, a fortress against state power and homogenisation that involved the past, the present and the future generations.
Thatcher believed that a true community would be close to the one where she spent her childhood. A small community, composed by a vibrant network of voluntary bodies free from state intervention, in which apolitical and responsible citizens would be able to discharge their religious and civic obligations through voluntary work. These obligations resulted from religious values and individuals' mutual physical and emotional dependence, which imposed responsibilities prior to their rights, derived from these duties rather than from an abstract natural contract. Therefore, the Thatcherite community was, above all, a moral community. Accordingly, it was based on a narrow set of values and principles that was based on conservative British and Christian traditions. In a complex contemporary world of multicultural societies, it is difficult not to see Thatcher's community model as exclusionary and authoritarian.
Despite her conservative ideas about neighbourhoods, her government seems to have encouraged even more irresponsible behaviour and community fragmentation. Thatcher seems not to have been able to identify the problems that economic liberalisation policies and strong individualistic rhetoric could cause to the community. Here, the tensions between her neoliberal and neoconservative positions became clearer. As she recognised during an interview, ‘I cut taxes and I thought we would get a giving society and we haven’t.’
To conclude, it is interesting to note that the civil society debate emerged in the UK with and against Thatcherism. The argument based on the revitalisation of civil society was used by both left and right-wingers to criticise the Thatcher years. New Labour’s emphasis on communities, post-Thatcher conservatism’s focus on civil society, the emergence of communitarianism and other strands of thought that placed civil society at the centre of their theories; despite their differences, all of them looked to the community as an answer for the 1980s and, at least in part, its emphasis on the free market and individualism. On the other hand, as I have tried to show, Thatcherism was already working on the theme of community and raised many of these issues during the years following her fall. The idea of civil society as the space par excellence of citizenship and collective activities, as the place to discharge individual obligations and as a site of a strong defence against arbitrary state power, were all themes advanced by Thatcherism that occupied a lasting space within the civil society debate. Thatcherism thus also influenced the debate from within, not only through the reaction against its results, but also directly promoting ideas and policies about civil society.
 Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato, Civil Society and Political Theory (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1997), 71-72.
 E.H.H. Green, Ideologies of Conservatism. Conservative Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 278.
 Lenon Campos Maschette, 'Revisiting the concept of citizenship in Margaret Thatcher’s government: the individual, the state, and civil society', Journal of Political Ideologies, (2021).
 Margaret Thatcher, Keith Joseph Memorial Lecture (‘Liberty and Limited Government 11 January 1996). Margaret Thatcher Foundation: https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/108353.
 Margaret Thatcher, Speech to Greater London Young Conservatives (Iain Macleod Memorial Lecture, ‘Dimensions of Conservatism’ 4 July 1977). Margaret Thatcher Foundation: https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/103411.
 Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (London: Harper Collins, 1993), 627.
 Margaret Thatcher, Conservative Party Conference, 14 October 1988. Margaret Thatcher Foundation document 107352: https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/107352.
 Margaret Thatcher, Speech at St. Lawrence Jewry (‘I BELIEVE – a speech on Christianity and politics’ 30 March 1978). Margaret Thatcher Foundation: https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/103522.
 Thatcher, The Moral Basis of a Free Society. Op. Cit.
 Douglas Hurd had several important roles during Thatcher’s administration, including Home Office. Brian Griffiths was the chief of her Policy Unit from the middle 1980s and one of her principal advisors.
 Michael Alison, ‘The Feeding of the Billions’, in Michael Alison and David Edward (eds) Christianity & Conservatism. Are Christianity and conservatism compatible? (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1990), 206-207; Brian Griffiths, ‘The Conservative Quadrilateral’, Alison and Edward, Christianity & Conservatism, 218; Robin Harris, Not for Turning (London: Corgi Books. 2013), 40.
 Griffiths, Christianity & Conservatism, 224-234.
 Margaret Thatcher. Speech to Conservative Party Conference 1985. Margaret Thatcher Foundation: http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/106145.
 John Gummer, apud Martin Durham, ‘The Thatcher Government and “The Moral Right”’, Parliamentary Affair, 42 (1989), 64.
 American neoconservatives such as Charles Murray, George Gilder, Lawrence Mead, Michael Novak, etc., worked on the social, cultural, and moral consequences of the welfare state and the ‘long’ 1960s. They were also much more active in writing on citizenship issues. These authors had a profound influence on Thatcher’s Conservative Party through the think tanks networks. Murray and Novak, for instance, even attended Annual Conservative Party conferences and visited Thatcher and other Conservative members’ Party.
 Timothy Raison, Tories and the Welfare State. A history of Conservative Social Policy since the Second World War (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1990), 163.
 Geoffrey Finlayson, Citizen, State and Social Welfare in Britain 1830 – 1990 (Oxford, 1994), 376.
 Douglas Hurd, Memoirs (London: Abacus, 2003), 388.
 Richard Boyd, ‘The Unsteady and Precarious Contribution of Individuals’: Edmund Burke's Defence of Civil Society’. The Review of Politics, 61 (1999), 485.
 Margaret Thatcher, Speech to General Assembly to the Church of Scotland, 21 May 1988. Margaret Thatcher Foundation: https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/107246.
 Douglas Hurd, Tamworth Manifesto, 17 March 1988, London Review of Books: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v10/n06/douglas-hurd/douglas-hurds-tamworth-manifesto.
 Douglas Hurd, article for Church Times, 8 September 1988. THCR /1/17/111B. Churchill Archives, Churchill College, Cambridge University.
 Thatcher, Speech at St. Lawrence Jewry (1978), Op. Cit.
 Margaret Thatcher, apud Matthew Grimley. Thatcherism, Morality and Religion. In: Ben Jackson; Robert Saunders (Ed.). Making Thatcher’s Britain. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2012), 90.
 Many meetings emphasised this issue throughout 1986. CRD 4/307/4-7. Conservative Party Archives, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford University.
 ‘Papers to end of July’, 18 June 1987. PREM 19/3494. National Archives, London.
 Edmund Neill, ‘British Political Thought in the 1990s: Thatcherism, Citizenship, and Social Democracy’, Mitteilungsblatt des Instituts fur soziale Bewegungen, 28 (2002), 171.
 Margaret Thatcher, ‘Speech to Finchley Inter-church luncheon club’, 17 November 1969. Margaret Thatcher foundation: https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/101704.
 Margaret Thatcher, interview to the Daily Mail, 22 May 2001, apud Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher, Vol. III Herself Alone (London: Penguin Books, 2019), 825.
 Margaret Thatcher, TV Interview for Granada World in Action ("rather swamped"), 27 January 1978. Margaret Thatcher foundation: https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/103485.
 Oliver Letwin blocked help for black youth after 1985 riots. The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/dec/30/oliver-letwin-blocked-help-for-black-youth-after-1985-riots.
 Paul Gilroy apud Simon Peplow. Race and riots in Thatcher’s Britain (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2019), 213.
 Grimley, Op. Cit., 92.
 Thatcher’s interview to Frank Field, apud Eliza Filby. God & Mrs Thatcher. The battle for Britain’s soul (London: Biteback, 2015), 348.
 Neill, Op. Cit., 181.
by Ben Williams
A burgeoning area of political research has focused on how the ideas and practical politics arising from the theories of the ‘New Right’ have had a major impact and legacy not only on a globalised political level, but also in relation to the domestic politics of specific nations. From a British perspective, the New Right’s impact dates from the mid-1970s when Margaret Thatcher became Leader of the Conservative Party (1975), before ascending to the office of Prime Minister in 1979. The New Right essentially rejected the post-war ‘years of consensus’ and advocated a smaller state, lower taxes and greater individual freedoms. On an international dimension, such political developments dovetailed with the emergence of Ronald Reagan as US President, who was elected in late 1980 and formally took office in early 1981. Within this timeframe, there was also associated pro- market, capitalist reforms in countries as diverse as Chile and China. While the ideas of New Right intellectual icons Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman date back to earlier decades of the 20th century and their rejection of central planning and totalitarian rule, until this point in time they had never seen such forceful advocates of their theories in such powerful frontline political roles.
Thatcher and Reagan’s explicit understanding of New Right theory was variable, but they nevertheless successively emerged as two political titans aligned by their committed free-market beliefs and ideology, forming a dominant partnership in world politics throughout the 1980s. Consequently, the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ that had traditionally incorporated shared cultural values and military and security co-operation, reached new heights amidst a decade very much dominated by New Right ideology. However, as we now look back over forty years on, debate has arisen as to what extent the ideas and values of the New Right are still relevant in the context of more contemporary political events, namely in relation to how the free market can appropriately react to major global crises. This has been notably applied to how various governments have reacted to both the 2007–8 global economic crash and the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic, where significant levels of state intervention have challenged conventional New Right orthodoxies that ‘the free market knows best’.
The New Right’s effect on British politics (1979-97)
In my doctoral research into the evolution of contemporary Conservative Party social policy, the legacy and impact of the New Right on British politics formed a pivotal strand of the thesis, specifically how the UK Conservative Party sought to evolve both its image and policy agenda from the New Right’s free market economic emphasis into a more socially oriented direction.  Yet my research focus began at the tail end of the New Right’s period of hegemony, in the aftermath of the Conservative Party’s most devastating and humiliating electoral defeat for almost 100 years at the 1997 general election.
From this perspective of hindsight that looked back on eighteen years of continuous Conservative rule, the New Right’s influence had ultimately been a source of both rejuvenation and decline in relation to Conservative Party fortunes at different points of the electoral and historical cycle. In a positive sense, in the 1970s it appeared to revitalise the Conservative Party’s prospects while in opposition under the new leadership of Thatcher, and instilled a flurry of innovative, radical and eye-catching policies into its successful 1979 manifesto, which in subsequent years would be described as reflecting ‘popular capitalism’. Such policies would form the basis of the party’s accession to national office and consequent period of hegemonic rule throughout the 1980s in particular. The nature of such party-political hegemony as a conceptual term has been both analysed and explained in terms of its rise and fall by Andrew Gamble among others, who identified various core values that the Conservatives had traditionally stood for, namely ‘the defence of the Union, the defence of the Empire, the defence of the Constitution, and the defence of property’.
However, in a negative sense, by the mid to late 1990s, as Gamble identifies, the party appeared to have lost its way and had entered something of a post-Thatcher identity crisis, with the ideological dynamic instilled by the New Right’s legacy fatally undermining its previously stable equilibrium and eroding the traditional ‘pillars’ of hegemony’ as identified above. While Thatcher’s successor John Major was inclined to a more social as opposed to economic policy emphasis and between 1990-97 sought to distance himself from some of her harsher ideological policy positions, it was perhaps the case that the damage to the party’s electoral prospects had already been done. Not only had the Conservatives defied electoral gravity and won a fourth successive term in office in 1992, but the party’s broader ethos appeared to have become distorted by New Right ideology, and it became increasingly detached from its traditional instincts for pragmatic moderation located at the political centre, and notably its capacity to read the mood with regards the British public’s instinctive tendencies towards social conservatism, as has been argued by Oakeshott in particular. 
Critics also commented that the New Right’s often harsh economic emphasis was out of touch with a more compassionate public opinion that was emerging in wider public polling by the mid-1990s, and which expressed increasing concerns for the condition of core public services. This was specifically evident in documented evidence that between ‘1995-2007 opinion polls identified health care as one of the top issues for voters. The New Right’s focus on retrenchment and the free market was now blamed for creating such negative conditions by some, both within and outside the Conservative Party. Coupled with a steady process of Labour Party moderation over the late 1980s and 1990s, such trends culminated in major and repeated electoral losses inflicted on the Conservative Party between 1997 and 2005 (with an unprecedented three general election defeats in succession and thirteen years out of government).
The shifting spectrum and New Labour
When once asked what her greatest political achievement was, Margaret Thatcher did not highlight her three electoral victories but mischievously responded by pointing to “Tony Blair and New Labour”. It is certainly the case that Blair’s premiership from 1997 onwards was very different from previous Labour governments of the 1960s and 1970s, and arguably bore the imprint of Thatcherism far more than any traces of socialist doctrine. This would strongly suggest that the impact and legacy of the New Right went far beyond the end of Conservative rule and continued to wield influence into the new century, despite the Conservative Party being banished from national office.
This was evident by the fact that Blair’s Labour government pledged to “govern as New Labour”, which in practice entailed moderate politics that explicitly rejected past socialist doctrines, and by adhering to the political framework and narrative established during the Thatcher period of New Right hegemony. This included an acceptance of the privatisation of former state-owned industries, tougher restrictions to trade union powers, markedly reduced levels of government spending and direct taxation, and overall, far less state intervention in comparison to the ‘years of consensus’ that existed between approximately 1945-75 (shaped by the crisis experience of World War Two). Most of these policies had been strongly opposed by Labour during the 1980s, but under New Labour they were now pragmatically accepted (for largely electoral and strategic purposes).
Blair and his Chancellor Gordon Brown tinkered around the edges with some progressive social reforms and there were steadily growing levels of tax and spend in his later phase in office, but not on the scale of the past, and the New Right neoliberal ‘settlement’ remained largely intact throughout thirteen years of Labour in office. Indeed, Labour’s truly radical changes were primarily at constitutional level; featuring policies such as devolution, judicial reform (introduction of the Supreme Court), various parliamentary reforms (House of Lords), Freedom of Information legislation, as well as key institutional changes such as Bank of England independence. The nature of this reforming policy agenda could be seen to reflect the reality that following the New Right’s ideological and political victories of the 1980s, New Labour had to look away from welfarism and political economy for its major priorities.
Conservative modernisation (1997 onwards)
Given the electoral success of Tony Blair and New Labour from 1997 onwards, the obvious challenge for the Conservatives was how to respond and readjust to unusual and indeed unprecedented circumstances. Historically referred to as ‘the natural party of government’, being out of power for a long time was a situation the Conservatives were not used to. However, from the late 1990s onwards, party modernisers broadly concluded that it would be a long haul back, and that to return to government the party would have to sacrifice some, and perhaps all, of its increasingly unpopular New Right political baggage. This determinedly realistic mood was strengthened by a second successive landslide defeat to Blair in 2001, and a further—albeit less resounding—defeat in 2005. Key and emerging figures in this ‘modernising’ and ‘progressive’ wing of the party included David Cameron, George Osborne and Theresa May, none of whom had been MPs prior to 1997 (i.e., crucially, they had no explicit connections to the era of New Right hegemony) and all of whom would take on senior governmental roles after 2010.
Such modernisers accepted that the party required a radical overhaul in terms of both image and policy-making, and in global terms were buoyed by the victory of ‘compassionate’ conservative George W. Bush in the US presidential election in late 2000. Consequently, ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ became an increasingly used term among such advocates of a new style of Conservative policy-making (see Norman & Ganesh, 2006). My doctoral thesis analysed in some depth precisely what the post-1997 British Conservative Party did in relation to various policy fronts connected to this ‘compassionate’ theme, most notably initiating a revived interest in the evolution of innovative social policy such as free schools, NHS reform, and the concept of ‘The Big Society’. This was in response to both external criticism and self-reflection that such policy emphasis and focus had been frequently neglected during the party’s eighteen years in office between 1979 and 1997.
Yet the New Right legacy continued to haunt the party’s identity, with many Thatcher loyalists reluctant to let go of it, despite feedback from the likes of party donor Lord Ashcroft (2005) that ‘modernisation’ and acceptance of New Labour’s social liberalism and social policy investment were required if the party was to make electoral progress, while ultimately being willing to move on from the (albeit triumphant) past.
Overview of The New Right and post-2008 events: (1) The global crash (2) austerity (3) Brexit (4) the pandemic
During the past few decades of British and indeed global politics, the New Right’s core principles of the small state and limited government intervention have remained clearly in evidence, with its influence at its peak and most firmly entrenched in various western governments during the 1980s and 90s. However, within the more contemporary era, this legacy has been fundamentally rocked and challenged by two major episodes in particular, namely the economic crash of 2007–8, and more recently the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Both of these crises have featured a fundamental rebuke to the New Right’s established solutions as aligned with the culture of the reduced state, as had been cemented in the psyche of governance and statecraft within both Britain and the USA for several decades.
In the context of the global economic slump, the immediate and instinctive reaction of Brown’s Labour government in Britain and Barack Obama’s Democrat administration in the USA was to focus on a primary role for the state to intervene and stimulate economic recovery, which entailed that large-scale ‘Keynesian’ government activity made a marked comeback as the preferred means of tackling it. While both such politicians were less ideologically wedded to the New Right pedigree (since they were attached to parties traditionally more of the liberal left), this scenario nevertheless marked a significant crossroads for the New Right’s legacy for global politics.
However, once the dust had settled and the economic situation began to stabilise, the post-2010 austerity agenda that emerged in the UK (as a longer-term response to managing the global crash) provided New Right advocates with an opportunistic chance to reassert its former hegemony, given the setback to its influence in the immediate aftermath of 2008. Although Prime Minister David Cameron rejected criticism that austerity marked a reversion to harsh Thatcherite economics, having repeatedly distanced himself from the former Conservative Prime Minister since becoming party leader in 2005, there were certainly similarities in the emphasis on ‘balancing the books’ and reducing the size of government between 2010-15. Cameron argued this was not merely history repeating itself, and sought to distinctively identify himself as a more socially-oriented conservative who embraced an explicit social conscience that differed from the New Right’s primarily economic focus, as evident in his ‘Big Society’ narrative entailing a reduced state and more localised devolution and voluntarism (yet which failed to make his desired impact). Cameron argued that “there was such a thing as society” (unlike Thatcher’s quote from 1987), yet it was “not the same as the state”. 
Following Cameron’s departure as Prime Minister in 2016, the issue that brought him down, Brexit, could also be viewed from the New Right perspective as a desirable attempt to reduce, or ideally remove, the regulatory powers of a European dimension of state intervention, with the often suggested aspiration of post-Brexit Britain becoming a “Singapore-on-Thames” that would attract increased international capital investment due to lower taxes, reduced regulations and streamlined bureaucracy. It was perhaps no coincidence that many of the most ardent supporters of Brexit were also those most loyal to the Thatcher policy legacy that lingered on from the 1980s, representing a clear ideological overlap and inter-connection between domestic and foreign policy issues.
On this premise, the New Right’s influence dating from its most hegemonic decade of the 1980s certainly remained. However, from a UK perspective at least, the Covid-19 pandemic arguably ‘heralded the further relative demise of New Right influence after its sustained period of hegemonic ascendancy’. This is because, in a similar vein to the 2007–8 economic crash, the reflexive response to the global pandemic from Boris Johnson’s Conservative government in the UK and indeed other western states (including the USA), was a primarily a ‘statist’ one. This was evidently the preferred governmental option in terms of tackling major emergencies in the spheres of both the economy and public health, and was perhaps arguably the only logical and practical response available in the context of requiring such co-ordination at both a national and international level, which the free market simply cannot provide to the same extent.
Having said that, during the pandemic there was evidence of some familiar neoliberal ‘public-private partnership’ approaches in the subcontracting-out of (e.g.) mask and PPE production, lateral flow tests, vaccine research and production, testing, or app creation, which suggests Johnson’s administration sought to put some degree of business capacity at the heart of their policy response. Nevertheless, the revived interventionist role for the state will possibly be difficult to reverse once the crisis has subsided, just as was the case in the aftermath of World War Two. Whether this subsequently creates a new variant of state-driven consensus politics (as per the UK 1945-75) remains to be seen, but in the wake of various key political events there is clear evidence that the New Right’s legacy, while never being eradicated, certainly seems to have been diluted as the world progresses into the 2020s. How the post-pandemic era will evolve remains uncertain, and in their policy agendas various national governments will seek to balance both the role of the state and the input of private finance and free market imperatives. The nature of the balance remains a matter of speculation and conjecture until we move into a more certain and stable period, yet it would be foolish to write off the influence of the New Right and its resilient legacy completely.
 Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, (1944)
 Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, (1962)
 Ben Williams, The Evolution of Conservative Party Social Policy, (2015)
 BBC ON THIS DAY | 2 | 1997: Labour routs Tories in historic election (2nd May 1997)
 Andrew Gamble, The Crisis of Conservatism, New Left Review, (I/214, November–December 1995)
 Michael Oakeshott, On Human Conduct, (1975)
 Rob Baggott, ‘Conservative health policy: change, continuity and policy influence’, cited in Hugh Bochel (ed.), The Conservative Party and Social Policy, (2011), Ch.5, p.77
 Jesse Norman & Janan Ganesh, Compassionate conservatism- What it is, why we need it (2006),
 Ben Williams, Warm words or real change? Examining the evolution of Conservative Party social policy since 1997 (PhD thesis, University of Liverpool), https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/11633/1/WilliamsBen_Apr2013_11633.pdf
 Michael A. Ashcroft, Smell the coffee: A wake-up call for the Conservative Party, (2005)
 Ben Williams, The Big Society: Ten Years On, Political Insight, Volume: 10 issue: 4, page(s) 22-25 (2019)
 Margaret Thatcher, interview with ‘Woman’s Own Magazine’, published 31 October 1987.
Source: Margaret Thatcher Foundation: http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/106689
 Society and the Conservative Party - BBC News (9th January 2017)
 Ben Williams, Brexit: The Links Between Domestic and Foreign Policy, Political Insight,
Volume: 9 issue: 2, page(s): 36-39 (2018)
 Ben Williams, The ‘New Right’ and its legacy for British conservatism, Journal of Political Ideologies, (2021)
by Fabio Wolkenstein
One of the more interesting political developments in contemporary Europe is the migration of the language that has originally been used to describe what Europe is. This language has migrated from the vocabulary of centre-right politicians, who were committed to unifying Europe and creating a more humane political order on the continent, to the speeches and campaigns of nativists, nationalists and ultraconservatives.
The idea of “Christian Europe”
Consider to start with the notion of Abendland, which may be translated as “occident” or, more accurately, “Christian West.” In the immediate post-war era, the term had been a shorthand for Europe in the predominantly Catholic Christian-democratic milieu whose political representatives played a central role in the post-war unification of Europe; indeed, the “founding fathers” of European integration, Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman and Alcide De Gasperi, were convinced that – as De Gasperi put it in a 1954 speech – “Christianity lies at the origin of … European civilisation.”
By Christianity was primarily meant a common European cultural heritage. De Gasperi, an Italian educated in Vienna around 1900, whose first political job was in the Imperial Council of Austria-Hungary, spoke of a “shared ethical vision that fosters the inviolability and responsibility of the human person with its ferment of evangelic brotherhood, its cult of law inherited from the ancients, its cult of beauty refined through the centuries, and its will for truth and justice sharpened by an experience stretching over more than a thousand years.”
All of this, many Christian Democratic leaders thought, demarcates Europe from the superficial consumerism of the United States – however welcome the help of the American allies was after WW2 – and, even more importantly, the materialist totalitarianism of the Soviet Union. Europe is culturally distinctive, and that distinctiveness must be affirmed and preserved to unite the continent at avoid a renewed descent into chaos.
This image of Europe figured prominently in the Christian Democrats’ early election campaigns. In 1946, a campaign poster of the newly-founded Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) featured the slogan “Rettet die abendländische Kultur” – “Save abendländische culture.” The poster boasts a bright depiction of the allegorical figure Ecclesia from Bamberg Cathedral, which is meant to represent the superiority of the Church. And Ecclesia faces the logo of the SED, the East German Communist Party, which was founded the same year.
The message was clear: a democracy “rooted in the Christian-abendländisch worldview, in Christian natural law, in the principles of Christian ethics,” as Adenauer himself put it in a famous speech at the University of Cologne, had to be cultivated and defended against so-called “materialist” worldviews that represented nothing less than the negation of Christian principles, and by extension the negation of moral truth. In Adenauer’s view, Europe was “only possible” if the different peoples of Europe came together to contribute not only economically to recovering from the war, but also culturally to “abendländisch thinking, poetry.”
This idea of Europe also resonated with General Charles De Gaulle, who served as the first French president after the founding of the Fifth Republic, and who became a natural ally for Adenauer and German Catholic Christian Democrats. De Gaulle certainly had a more nation-centric vision of European integration than Adenauer, and he resisted the idea that supranational institutions should play a central role in the integration processes – but he likewise envisioned a concert of European peoples that shared a common Christian civilisation. These nations should, in De Gaulle’s words, become “an extension of each other,” and their shared cultural roots should facilitate this process.
The Italian historian Rosario Forlenza aptly summarised De Gaulle’s views on Europe as follows: “When le général famously spoke of a Europe ‘from the Atlantic to the Urals’ he was in fact conjuring up, quite in line with the Abendland tradition, a continental western European bloc based on a Franco-German entente that could stand on its own both militarily and politically: a Europe independent from the United States and Russia.” In his memoirs, moreover, De Gaulle asserted that the European nations have “the same Christian origins and the same way of life, linked to one another since time immemorial by countless ties of thought, art, science, politics and trade.” No wonder many Christian Democrats saw Gaullism as “a kind of Christian Democracy without Christ.”
European integration from shared culture to markets
However, those political leaders who conceived Europe as a cultural entity were gradually disappearing. De Gasperi died already in 1954, Adenauer died in 1967, and De Gaulle resigned his presidency in 1969 and died one year later. Robert Schuman, the other famous Christian Democratic “founding father,” who has been put on the path to sainthood by Pope Francis in June 2021, died in 1963. Replacing them were younger and more pragmatic political leaders, many of whom believed that free trade was better able to bring the nations of Europe closer to each other than shared cultural roots.
Culture was not considered irrelevant, to be sure – this is why hardly anyone considered admitting a Muslim country like Turkey to the European Communities. But the idea of a Christian Europe whose member countries shared a distinctive heritage, which performed the important function of unifying an earlier generation of centre-right politicians, was gradually superseded by the much less concrete notion of “freedom” as a sort of telos of European integration. Already in the late 1970s, powerful conservative leaders such as Helmut Kohl and Margaret Thatcher converged on the vision that European integration should secure freedom. “Freedom instead of socialism” was the CDU’s 1976 election slogan, which was quite different from “Save abendländische culture” in 1946. Socialism remained the primary enemy – but it should be fought with free markets, not Christian ethics and natural law, as Adenauer believed.
Importantly, foregrounding the notion of freedom and de-emphasising thick conceptions of a shared European culture also facilitated the gradual expansion of the pan-European network of conservative parties from the mid-1970s onwards. Transnationally-minded Realpolitiker like Kohl realised already in the mid-1970s that integrating “Christian democratic and conservative traditions and parties” from non-Catholic countries into the European People’s Party and related transnational organisations was crucial to avoid political marginalisation in the constantly expanding European Communities. And many new potential allies, perhaps most notably Scandinavian conservative parties who obviously had no Catholic pedigree, would have shrunk from the idea of joining a Christian Abendland modelled in the image of Charlemagne’s empire.
The re-emergence of the language of Christian Europe
At any rate, while the language of a Europe defined by shared culture gradually disappeared from the vocabulary of centre-right politicians, decades later it re-appeared elsewhere. It was adopted by political actors who are often categorised as “right-wing populists” – more accurately, we might call them nativists, nationalists and ultraconservatives. These sorts of political movements have discovered and re-purposed the culturalist narrative of a “Christian Europe.”
In the German-speaking world, even the notion of Abendland made a comeback on the right fringes. The Alternative für Deutschland (or AfD), Germany’s moderately successful hard-right party, commits itself in its main party manifesto to the “preservation” of “abendländisch Christian culture.” The closely related anti-immigrant movement PEGIDA even has Abendland in its name: the acronym stands for “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamicisation of the Abendland.” The Austrian Freedom Party, one of the more long-standing ultraconservative nationalist parties in Europe, used the Slogan “Abendland in Christenhand,” meaning “Abendland in the hands of Christians” in the 2009 European Elections.
Even more striking are the increasing appeals to the idea of Christian Europe that resound in Central and Eastern Europe. The political imaginaries of the likes of Viktor Orbán – the pugnacious Hungarian prime minister who has transformed Hungary into an “illiberal democracy” – and Jarosław Kaczyński and his Polish Law and Justice party, are defined by an understanding of Europe as a culturally Christian sphere. And they claim to preserve and defend this Europe, especially against the superficial, culturally corrosive social liberalism of the West, which they consider a major threat to its shared values and traditions.
Orbán even seeks to link the notion of Christian Europe to the ideological tradition of Christian Democracy. Not only has he repeatedly called for a “Christian Democratic renaissance” that should involve a return to the values and ideas of the post-war era. In February 2020, when the European People’s Party – the European alliance of Christian Democratic parties – seemed increasingly willing to expel Orbán’s party Fidesz due to the undemocratic developments in Hungary, he even drafted a three-page memorandum for the European Christian Democrats.
In this memorandum, a most remarkable document for anyone interested in political ideologies, he listed all the sort of things that Christian Democrats “originally” stood for – from being “anti-communist” and “pro-subsidiarity” to being “committed representatives … of the Christian family model and the matrimony of one man and one woman.” However, he added, “We have created an impression that we are afraid to declare and openly accept who we are and what we want, as if we were afraid of losing our share of governmental authority because of ourselves.” To save itself, and to save Europe, a return to the ideological roots of Christian Democracy is needed; or so Orbán argued.
In sum, the language of Europe as a thick cultural community, the idea of a Christian Europe, and indeed some core elements of the ideology of Christian Democracy itself – all this has migrated to other sectors of the political spectrum and to Eastern Europe. Ideas and concepts that after WWII were part of the centre-right’s ideological repertoire are now used by nativists and ultraconservative nationalists, and used in order to justify their exclusivist Christian identity politics.
Note that the Eastern European parties and politicians who today reach for the narrative of Christian Europe stand for a broader backlash against the previously-hegemonic, unequivocally market-liberal and pro-Western forces that made many Western European centre-right leaders enthusiastically support Eastern Enlargement in the early 2000s. For the Polish Law and Justice party not only rejects liberal views about same sex-marriage, abortion, etc.; several of its redistributive policies also mark “a rupture with neoliberal orthodoxy,” and thus a departure from the policies of the business-friendly, pro-EU Civic Platform government of Donald Tusk, which Kaczyński’s party replaced in 2015. In Orbán’s Hungary, free-market policies have largely remained in place – especially when Orbán and his cronies profited from them – yet the recent “renationalisation of the pension system [and] significantly increased spending on active labour market policies … point towards an increasing … role of the state in social protection.”
Understanding the migration of language
One interesting interpretation of this development frames it in terms of a revolt of Eastern – and indeed Western – European nativists and nationalists against a perceived imperative to be culturally liberal and anti-nationalist. Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes perceptively note that “[t]he ultimate revenge of the Central and East European populists against Western liberalism is not merely to reject the ‘imitation imperative’, but to invert it. We are the real Europeans, Orbán and Kaczyński claim, and if the West wants to save itself, it will have to imitate the East.”
While there is much to be learned from this analysis, another reading of the eastward and rightward migration of culturalist understandings of Europe is available. This starts from the observation that talking about Europe as a geographical space defined by a deeply rooted common culture implies talking also about where Europe ends, where its cultural borders lie. Recall that the Europe envisaged by the Christian Democratic “founding fathers” and by De Gaulle was a much smaller, more limited entity than today’s European Union with its 27 member states. They believed, for example, that there were profound cultural differences between the abendländisch, predominantly Catholic Europe and Protestant Britain and Scandinavia. De Gaulle was in fact fervently opposed to admitting Britain to the European Communities and famously vetoed Britain’s applications to join in 1963 and 1967.
If talking about Europe in cultural terms necessarily involves talking about cultural boundaries, then it is perhaps not surprising that today’s nativists, nationalists and ultraconservatives came to endorse a culturalist understanding of Europe. After all, these are virtually the only political actors who indulge in talking about borders and attribute utmost importance to problematising and politicising cultural difference. Seen in this light, it is only natural that the once-innocuous notion that Europe has, as it were, “cultural borders” finds a home with them.
Revisiting the question of European culture
One need not endorse the political projects of Viktor Orbán, Jarosław Kaczyński and their allies to acknowledge that the questions they confront us with merit attention. What is Europe, if it is an entity defined by shared culture? And, by extension, where does Europe end? Not only those who simply do not want to leave it up to nativists, nationalists and ultraconservatives to define what Europe is, culturally speaking, will need to ponder these questions. Where Europe ends is also a highly pertinent issue in current European geopolitics, and interestingly, it seems as though key EU figures are gradually converging on a position that structurally resembles a view that was prominent on the centre-right in the post-war era – without linking it to narratives about shared culture.
Indeed, with the Von der Leyen Commission’s commitment to “strategic autonomy” and the objective to ascertain European sovereignty over China, the original Christian Democratic and Gaullist theme of Europe as independent “third” global power has returned with a vengeance – just that independence today means independence from the United States and China, not the United States and Soviet Russia (though Russia remains a menacing presence). However, whereas De Gaulle and Christian Democratic “Gaullists” saw Europe’s Christian origins and a shared way of life as the backbone of geopolitical autonomy, the President of the Commission limits herself to mentioning the “unique single market and social market economy, a position as the world’s first trading superpower and the world’s second currency” as the sort of things that make Europe distinctive.
Much like earlier pragmatically-minded politicians, then, von der Leyen mostly speaks the language of markets – and of moral universalism: “We must always continue to call out human rights abuses,” she routinely insists with an eye to China. But it is doubtful whether human rights talk or free market ideology are sufficient to render plausible claims to “strategic autonomy.” Being by definition boundary-insensitive and global in outlook, they are little able to furnish a convincing argument for why Europe should be more autonomous.
Perhaps the notion of “strategic autonomy” is actually much more about a shared European “way of life” than present EU leaders, unlike their post-war predecessors, are willing to admit. Why else would von der Leyen also want to appoint a “vice president for protecting our European way of life,” whilst describing China as “systemic rival” and even cautiously expressing uncertainty about the ally-credentials of post-Trump America? Here, the twin questions of European culture and where Europe ends, come into view again. And it seems by all means worthwhile to speak more about that – without adopting the narrow and exclusionary narratives of Orbán and Kaczyński or wishing for a return to post-war Christian Democracy or Gaullism.
 Cited in Rosario Forlenza, ‘The Politics of the Abendland: Christian Democracy and the Idea of Europe after the Second World War’, Contemporary European History 26(2) (2017), 269.
 Konrad Adenauer, (1946) Rede in der Aula der Universität zu Köln, 24 March 1946. Available at https://www.konrad-adenauer.de/quellen/reden/1946-03-24-uni-koeln, accessed 15 May 2020.
 Forlenza, ‘The Politics of the Abendland’, 270.
 Charles de Gaulle, Memoirs of Hope: Renewal and Endeavor (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1971), 171.
 Ronald J. Granieri, ‘Politics in C Minor: The CDU/CSU between Germany and Europe since the Secular Sixties’, Central European History 42(1) (2009), 18.
 Josef Hien and Fabio Wolkenstein, ‘Where Does Europe End? Christian Democracy and the Expansion of Europe’, Journal of Common Market Studies (forthcoming).
 Martin Steber, Die Hüter der Begriffe: Politische Sprachen des Konservativen in Großbritannien und der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1945-1980 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017), 410-422.
 Wolfram Kaiser, Christian Democracy and the Origins of European Union (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 316.
 Alternative für Deutschland, Programm für Deutschland (2016) Available at https://cdn.afd.tools/wp-content/uploads/sites/111/2018/01/Programm_AfD_Druck_Online_190118.pdf, accessed 16 September 2020.
 Cabinet Office of the Hungarian Prime Minister, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at a conference held in memory of Helmut Kohl (16 June 2018), Available at: http://www.miniszterelnok.hu/prime-minister-viktor-orbans-speech-at-a-conference-held-in-memory-of-helmut-kohl/, accessed 10 June 2020.
 Fidesz, Memorandum on the State of the European People’s Party, February 2020.
 Olivier Roy, Is Europe Christian? (London: Hurst, 2019), 118-214.
 Gavin Rae, ‘In the Polish Mirror’, New Left Review 124 (July/Aug 2020), 99.
 Dorothee Bohle and Béla Greskovits, ‘Politicising embedded neoliberalism: continuity and change in Hungary’s development model’, West European Politics, 1072.
 Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes, ‘Imitation and its Discontents’, Journal of Democracy 29(3) (2018), 127.
 Jolyon Howorth, Europe and Biden: Towards a New Transatlantic Pact? (Brussels: Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, 2021).
 Speech by President von der Leyen at the EU Ambassadors’ Conference 2020, 10 November 2020. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/SPEECH_20_2064, accessed 22 June 2021.
 As Quinn Slobodian convincingly argues, free market ideology ultimately seeks to achieve a global market with minimal governmental regulations, see Quinn Slobodian, Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).
by Juliette Faure
Since the mid-2010s, ‘tradition’ has become a central concept in political discourses in Russia. Phrases such as ‘the tradition of a strong state’, ‘traditional values’, ‘traditional family’, ‘traditional sexuality’, or ‘traditional religions’ are repeatedly heard in Vladimir Putin’s and other high-ranking officials’ speech. Paralleling a visible conservative rhetoric hinging on traditional values, the Russian regime demonstrates a clear commitment to technological hypermodernisation. The increased budget for research and development in technological innovation, together with the creation of national infrastructures meant to foster investments in new technologies such as Rusnano or Rostec, and the National Technology Initiative (2014) show a firm intent from the regime.
At the level of official rhetoric, the conservative conception of social order conflicts with a progressive politics of technological modernisation. The Russian president blends a traditionalist approach to social norms based on a fixed definition of human nature, and a liberal approach to technological modernisation emphasising the ideas of innovation, change, speed, acceleration, and breakthrough. The concept of tradition entails cultural determinism and heteronomy: individuals are bounded by a historical heritage and constrained by collective norms. On the contrary, technological modernisation relies on a constant development that strives to push back the limits of the past and nature.
In fact, recent studies of science and technology in the post-war USSR increasingly document the positively correlated relations between technoscientific modernisation and political liberalisation. Scientific collaboration with the West, the importation of standards, the multiplication of ‘special regimes’ for scientific communities, and the objectivisation of decision-making through the use of computer science and cybernetics have contributed to the erosion of the Soviet system’s centralisation, the normalisation of its exceptionalism, and its ultimate liberalisation. The USSR arguably failed to sustain itself as a ‘successful non-Western modernity’. The Soviet experience therefore substantiated the technological determinism assumed by liberal-democratic convergence theories.
Despite that, there has recently been an increasingly visible effort by contemporary Russian conservative intellectuals to overcome the dichotomy between authoritarian–traditionalist conservatism and technological modernity in order to coherently articulate them into a single worldview.This form of conservatism was already advocated in the late Soviet period by the journalist and writer Aleksandr Prokhanov (1938–). In the 1970s, Prokhanov opposed the domination, among the conservative ‘village prose’ writers, of the idealisation of the rural past and the critique of Soviet modernity. Instead, he aimed to blend the promotion of spiritual and cultural values with an apology of the Soviet military and technological achievements. After the fall of the USSR, Prokhanov’s modernism became commonplace among the members of the younger generation of conservative thinkers, born around the 1970s. Young conservatives framed their views in the post-Soviet context, and regarded technological modernity as instrumental for the recovery of Russia’s status as a great power. One of the leading members of the young conservatives, Vitalii Averianov (1973–), coined the concept of ‘dynamic conservatism’ to describe their ideology. This ideology puts forward an anti-liberal conception of modernity where technology serves the growth of an authoritarian state power and a conservative model of society. Unlike classic conservatism, ‘dynamic conservatism’ resembles the type of political ideology that Jeffrey Herf identified, in the context of Weimar Germany, as ‘reactionary modernism’.
The intellectual origins of ‘dynamic conservatism’ across generations of conservative thinkers: Vitalii Averianov and Aleksandr Prokhanov
In 2005, ‘dynamic conservatism’ served as the programmatic basis of one of the major contemporary conservative collective manifestos, the Russian Doctrine, co-authored by Vitalii Averianov, Andrei Kobiakov (1961–), and Maksim Kalashnikov (1966–) with contributions from about forty other experts. The Doctrine was put forward as a ‘project of modernisation of Russia on the basis of spiritual and moral values and of a conservative ideology’. The leading instigator of the Doctrine, Averianov, described the ideology advocated by the Russian Doctrine as follows:
'The purpose of the proposed ideology and reform agenda is to create a centaur from Orthodoxy and the economy of innovation, from high spirituality and high technology. This centaur will represent the face of Russia in the 21st century. His representatives should be a new attacking class—imperial, authoritarian, and not liberal-democratic. This should be the class that will support the dictatorship of super-industrialism, which does not replace the industrial order but grows on it as its extension and its development.'
In his essay Tradition and dynamic conservatism, Averianov further explains that the ‘dynamic’ aspect of conservatism comes from two paradigmatic shifts that occurred in 20th century’s Orthodox theology and history of science. Firstly, he resorts to the theologian Vladimir Lossky’s (1900–1958) concept of the ‘dynamic of Tradition’. Vladimir Lossky developed this concept in order to address and reform what he perceived as the Orthodox Church authorities’ formal traditionalism and historical inertia. Secondly, Vitaly Averianov appeals to the work of the physicist and Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine (1917–2003). According to him, the discovery of non-linear dynamic systems disclosed the ‘uncertain’ character of science and offers a post-Newtonian, post-mechanic, and ‘unstable’ view of the world. As Averianov puts it:
‘We situate ourselves at the intersection between Orthodox mysticism and theology, which are embodied by Lossky, who coined the term [of dynamic conservatism], and on the other hand, systems theory and synergetics.’
In 2009, the authors of the Russian Doctrine convened in the ‘Institute for Dynamic Conservatism’, which subsequently merged with the ‘Izborsky Club’ founded in 2012 by Aleksandr Prokhanov. Born in 1938, Prokhanov is a well-known figure in Russia as one of the leading ideologues of the putsch against Gorbachev’s regime in August 1991, as a prolific writer of more than sixty novels, and as the current editor-in-chief of the extreme right-wing newspaper Zavtra. In 2006, he articulated a theory about the restoration of the Russian ‘Fifth Empire’, according to which the new Russian ‘imperial style’ should combine ‘the technocratism of the 21st century and a mystical, religious consciousness’. More recently, Prokhanov adopted Averianov’s formula, ‘dynamic conservatism’, to describe his own worldview, which is meant to ‘ensure the conservation of resources, including the moral, religious, cultural, and anthropological resources, for modernisation’.
Prokhanov’s reactionary modernism is rooted in the Russian philosophical tradition of ‘Russian cosmism’, which regards scientific and technological progress as humanity’s instruments to achieve the spiritualisation of the world and of human nature. The philosopher Nikolai Fedorov, regarded as the founding figure of Russian cosmism, offered to use technological progress and scientific methods to materialise the Bible’s promises: the resurrection of the dead, the immortality of soul, eternal life, and so on. Fedorov articulated a scientistic and activist interpretation of Orthodoxy, according to which humanity was bound to move towards a new phase of active management of the universe, thereby seizing its ‘cosmic’ responsibility. Following on from Fedorov, 20th-century scientists such as Konstantin Tsiolkovskii, the ‘grandfather’ of the Soviet space programme, or Vladimir Vernadskii, the founder of geochemistry, also belong to the collection of authors gathered under the name ‘Russian cosmism’, since they too advocated a ‘teleologically-oriented’ vision of technological development.
Prokhanov and other Izborsky Club members claim the legacy of Russian cosmism in their attempt to craft a specifically Russian ‘technocratic mythology’, as an alternative to the Western model of development.
A strategic ideology branded by a lobby group at the crossroads of intellectual and political milieus
Introduced as a rallying ‘imperial front’ for the variety of patriotic ideologues of the country (neo-Soviets, monarchists, orthodox conservatives), the Izborsky Club seeks to ‘offer to the Russian government and public […] a new state policy with patriotic orientation’. With more than fifty full members and forty associated experts—including academics, journalists, economists, scientists, ex-military, and clerics—the Club gathers together the largest group of conservative public figures in contemporary Russia. Aleksandr Dugin (1962–), the notorious Eurasian philosopher, is one of its founding members. Despite Dugin’s promotion of Orthodox traditionalism and his critique of technological modernity, his membership of the Club was based on his long-standing relationship with Prokhanov. In this new context of their ideological alliance, Valerii Korovin (1977–), Dugin’s younger disciple and another member of the Izborsky Club, has spelled out a reformed understanding of traditionalism, which regards technological modernity as an instrument for the promotion of Russia as an imperial great power in confrontation with the West:
'We have to separate scientific and technical modernisation and its social equivalent. There is a formula that Samuel Huntington introduced—‘Modernisation without Westernisation’. Russia is developing scientific and technical progress! Our scientists are the best in the world. They create breakthrough technologies. With this, we achieve modernisation while rejecting all Western delights in the field of human experiments. That is—no liberalism, no Western values, no dehumanisation, no mutants, clones, and cyborgs!’
In spite of its ideological variety, the Izborsky Club therefore put forward a ‘traditionalist technocratism’ or the ‘combination of ultramodern science with spiritual enlightenment’ as stated in one of its roundtables in September 2018, or as a glance at the Club journal’s iconography rapidly evinces.
In blunt opposition to democratic convergence theories, the Izborsky Club brands dynamic conservatism as a strategic ideology for Russia’s development as a great power. The concept of ‘dynamic conservatism’ goes further than simply challenging the normative argument of Francis Fukuyama’s modernisation theory. It also contradicts its empirical claim, which contends that democracy is the regime naturally propelled by the development of modern natural science. Indeed, Fukuyama argues that the success of ‘the Hegelian-Marxist concept of History as a coherent, directional evolution of human societies taken as a whole’ lies in 'the phenomenon of economic modernisation based on the directional unfolding of modern natural science. This latter has unified mankind to an unprecedented degree, and gives us a basis for believing that there will be a gradual spread of democratic capitalist institutions over time.'
Based on this technological determinism, liberal modernisation theories claim that economic modernisation, especially in its latest innovation and information based ‘post-industrial’ phase, is incompatible with an authoritarian regime and central planning. What is more, liberal-democratic modernisation’s theorists expect that a ‘post-industrial society’ would eventually lead to the convergence of societies and the ‘end of ideology’.
By contrast, ‘dynamic conservatism’ holds that the success and performance of the Russian techno-scientific innovation complex requires the strengthening of the state’s sovereignty under an authoritarian power. They oppose what they perceive as ‘the myth of post-industrialism, aimed at undermining and permanently destroying the real industrial sector of the domestic economy’, and instead advance the need for ‘super-industrialism’ and total ideological mobilisation. In this endeavour, Izborsky Club members frequently refer to the Chinese experience as a lasting challenge to the technological determinism described by liberal modernisation theories. They have voiced their admiration for China’s ability to maintain state ownership and state control in the organisation of its economy. Furthermore, they seek inspiration in China’s process of defining a national idea, the ‘Chinese dream’, combining a ‘harmonious society’ and a technologically advanced economy. Likewise, the Izborsky Club advocates a vision of a ‘Russian dream’ based on a national-scientific and spiritual mythology as an alternative to the ‘American dream’.
The Izborsky Club has secured close ties with political, military, and religious elites. The Club’s foundation in 2012 was supported by Andrei Turchak (1975–), who was at the time the governor of the region of Pskov and is now the Secretary-General of the ruling party ‘United Russia’. Moreover, the Club received a financial grant from the presidential administration in its first years of operation. Members of the government or of the presidential administration have often attended the Club’s roundtables and discussions. The Club also entertains close ties with governors and regional political elites in the federal districts, where it has established about twenty local branches.
The ideology of dynamic conservatism has also attracted the interest of the Russian Orthodox Church’s authorities. Vitalii Averianov’s experience working for the Church as the former chief editor of the newspaper ‘Orthodox Book Review’ and as chief developer of the most read Orthodox website Pravoslavie.ru, has been key to engaging with the Church at the time of the publication of the Russian Doctrine. Patriarch Kirill (1946–), then Metropolitan and chairman of the Church’s Department of External Relations, displayed public support for the doctrine. In 2007, when discussing the text at the World Russian People’s Council, a forum headed by the Orthodox Church, he declared:
‘This is a wonderful example of Russian social thought of the beginning of the 21st century. I believe that it contains reflections that will still be interesting to people in 10, 15, and 20 years. In addition to purely theoretical interest, this document could have practical benefits if it became an organic part of the national debate on the basic values of Russia.’
Finally, the Izborsky Club is vocal about its proximity with the military-industrial complex. The rhetoric, symbols, and iconography used by the Club in its publications portray the army as the natural cradle of the ‘Russian idea’ that they advocate for: ‘Our present military and technical space is the embodiment of the Russian dream.’
Beside Prokhanov’s declarations, such as ‘The Izborsky club will help the army prevent an “Orange revolution” in Russia’, actual cooperation with the military-industrial complex has been demonstrated by the regular organisations of the Izborsky Club’s meetings in military-industrial factories. Also significantly, in 2014, a Tupolev Tu-95 bomber was named after the Izborsky Club and decorated with its logo, thereby following the Soviet tradition of naming military airplanes after famous national emblems.
In today’s Russia, the patriotic, spiritualised ideology of technological development has been increasingly able to compete with the secular and Western-oriented liberal socio-technical imaginary. This polarity is brought to light by the leadership of technology-related state corporations. The nomination of Dmitrii Rogozin (1963–) as the head of Roscosmos, the state corporation for space activities, in 2018, contrasted with the nomination of Anatolii Chubais (1955–) as the head of Rusnano, the government-owned venture in charge of investment projects in nanotechnologies, in 2008. While Chubais is a symbolic representative of the Russian liberals, as vice-president of the government in charge of the liberalisation and privatisation program of the post-Soviet economy during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency, Dmitrii Rogozin is one of the key leaders of the conservative political elites. He is the former deputy prime minister in charge of defence industry (2011–18), the co-founder of the far-right national-patriotic party Rodina, and a close ally of the Izborsky Club. In line with the agenda advocated by the Izborsky Club, Rogozin has been an active promoter of a nationalist, romantic, and messianic vision of the Russian space programme. According to him:
‘The Russian cosmos is a question of the identity of our people, synonym for the Russian world. For Russia cannot live without space, outside of space, cannot limit the dream of conquering the unknown that drives the Russian soul.’
While Vladimir Putin’s discourse runs through a wide and heteroclite ideological spectrum spreading from traditional conservative social values to neoliberal policies of technological development, the ideology of the Izborskii Club flourishes in specific niches in the ruling elites. The impact of their vision on the direction Russia is taking relies on the balance of power negotiated among these elites.
 Vladimir Putin, ‘Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly’, Official website of the President of Russia, 12 December 2012, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/17118; Vladimir Putin, ‘Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly’, Official website of the President of Russia, 12 December 2013, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/19825; Vladimir Putin, ‘Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly’, Official website of the President of Russia, 4 December 2014, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/47173; Vladimir Putin, ‘Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly’, Official website of the President of Russia, 1 December 2016, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53379.
 See for instance his references to the Russian people’s ‘genetic code’ and ‘common cultural code’. Vladimir Putin, ‘Direct Line with Vladimir Putin’, President of Russia, 17 April 2014, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/20796.
 This liberal-progressive vocabulary was particularly dominant in Vladimir Putin’s March 2018 address to the Federal Assembly. The discourse included 12 occurrences of the word ‘breakthrough’ (‘proryv’), 60 occurrences of the word ‘development’ (‘razvitie’), 10 occurrences of the word ‘change’ (‘izmenenie’) and 40 occurrences of the word ‘technology’ (‘tekhnologiia’). Vladimir Putin, ‘Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly’, Official website of the President of Russia, 1 March 2018, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/56957.
 In 1972, the creation of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Austria provided a place for scientific collaboration between the United States and the USSR until the late 1980s. See Eglė Rindzevičiūtė, The Power of Systems: How Policy Sciences Opened up the Cold War World (Ithaca ; London: Cornell University Press, 2016); Jenny Andersson, The Future of the World: Futurology, Futurists, and the Struggle for the Post Cold War Imagination (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2018).
 As evidenced by the participation of Soviet delegates in the meetings of the Hasting Institute and the Kennedy Center in the United States to establish an ethical framework on biotechnology, and the USSR’s adoption of the DNA manipulation rules of the US National Institute of Health that were established at the Asilomar Summit. Loren R. Graham, ‘Introduction: The Impact of Science and Technology on Soviet Politics and Society’, in Science and the Soviet Social Order, ed. Loren R. Graham (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Pr, 1990), 1–16.
 Kevin Limonier, Ru.Net: Géopolitique Du Cyberespace Russophone, Carnets de l’Observatoire (Paris : Moscou: Les éditions L’Inventaire ; L’Observatoire, centre d’analyse de la CCI France Russie, 2018).
 Slava Gerovitch, From Newspeak to Cyberspeak: A History of Soviet Cybernetics (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2002).
 Egle Rindzevičiūtė, ‘The Future as an Intellectual Technology in the Soviet Union - From Centralised Planning to Reflexive Management’, Cahiers Du Monde Russe 56, no. 1 (March 2015): 111–34.
 This argument is developed by Richard Sakwa : ‘the Soviet developmental experiment represented an attempt to create an alternative modernity, but in the end failed to sustain itself as a coherent alternative social order’. See Richard Sakwa, ‘Modernisation, Neo-Modernisation, and Comparative Democratisation in Russia’, East European Politics 28, no. 1 (March 2012): 49; Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, ‘The Civilizational Dimension of Modernity: Modernity as a Distinct Civilization’, International Sociology 16, no. 3 (September 2001): 320–40.
 As famously articulated in Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York : Toronto : New York: Free Press ; Maxwell Macmillan Canada ; Maxwell Macmillan International, 1992); Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (New York: Basic Books, 1973); Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties: With a New Afterword (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1988).
 This argument was also formulated by Maria Engström in Maria Engström, ‘“A Hedgehog Empire” and “Nuclear Orthodoxy”’, Intersection, 9 March 2018, http://intersectionproject.eu/article/politics/hedgehog-empire-and-nuclear-orthodoxy.
 On the ‘village prose’ movement and the different forms of conservatism in the late Soviet Union, see Yitzhak M. Brudny, Reinventing Russia: Russian Nationalism and the Soviet State, 1953-1991, Russian Research Center Studies 91 (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1998).
 See Juliette Faure, ‘A Russian Version of Reactionary Modernism: Aleksandr Prokhanov’s “Spiritualization of Technology”’, Journal of Political Ideologies, 27(1), published online at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13569317.2021.1885591.
 On the younger generation of Russian conservatives, see Alexander Pavlov, ‘The Great Expectations of Russian Young Conservatism’, in Contemporary Russian Conservatism. Problems, Paradoxes, and Perspectives, ed. Mikhail Suslov and Dmitry Uzlaner (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2020), 153–76.
 Jeffrey Herf, Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
 See the list of experts and contributors involved in the writing of the Doctrine: http://www.rusdoctrina.ru/page95506.html
 ‘Russkii Sobor Obsudil Russkuiu Doktrinu’, Institute for Dynamic Conservatism (blog), 21 July 2007, http://www.rusdoctrina.ru/page95525.html.
 Vitalii Averianov, ‘Nuzhny Drugie Liudi', Zavtra, 14 July 2010, http://zavtra.ru/blogs/2010-07-1431.
 Vitalii Averianov, ‘Dinamicheskii Konservatism. Printsip. Teoriia. Ideologiia.’, Izborskii Klub (blog), 2012, https://izborsk-club.ru/588.
 In Order Out of Chaos : Man’s New Dialogue with Nature, that he co-authored with Isabelle Stengers, Ilya Prigogine concludes that science and the ‘disenchantment of the world’ are no longer synonyms. See Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers, Order out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature (London: Flamingo, 1985).
 Averianov, ‘Dinamicheskii Konservatism. Printsip. Teoriia. Ideologiia.’, art. cit.
 On the Izborsky Club, see Marlène Laruelle, ‘The Izborsky Club, or the New Conservative Avant-Garde in Russia’, The Russian Review 75 (October 2016): 634.
 Aleksandr Prokhanov, ‘Imperskii Stil’, Zavtra, 30 October 2007, http://zavtra.ru/blogs/2007-10-3111.
 Quoted in Dmitrii Melnikov, ‘"Valdai" na Beregakh Nevy’, Vesti.ru (2012) : https://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=944192&cid=6
 Juliette Faure, ‘Russian Cosmism: A National Mythology Against Transhumanism’, The Conversation (2021): https://theconversation.com/russian-cosmism-a-national-mythology-against-transhumanism-152780.
 George Young, The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers (Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).
 Michael Hagemeister, ‘Russian Cosmism in the 1920s and Today’, in The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture, Bernice G. Rosenthal (Ed.) (Ithaca ; New York: Cornell University Press, 1997).
 Faure, ‘Russian Cosmism: A National Mythology Against Transhumanism’, art. cit.
 See the ‘about us’ page of the Izborsky Club’s website: https://izborsk-club.ru/about.
 Laruelle, ‘The Izborsky Club, or the New Conservative Avant-Garde in Russia’, 634.
 Other prominent members of the Izborsky Club include the economist Sergei Glaziev, the Nobel Prize physicist Zhores Alferov (1930-2019), Metropolitan Tikhon Shevkunov, the writers Iurii Poliakov and Zakhar Prilepin, leading journalists for Russia’s TV ‘Channel One’ such as Maksim Shevchenko or Mikhail Leontev, who is also the press-Secretary for the state oil company Rosneft.
 See Faure, ‘A Russian Version of Reactionary Modernism: Aleksandr Prokhanov’s “Spiritualization of Technology”’, art. cit., p. 9.
 ‘Na Iamale Otkrylos Otdelenie Izborskogo Kluba', Izborskii Klub (blog), 1 April 2019, https://izborsk-club.ru/16727.
 ‘Stenogramma Kruglogo Stola Izborskogo Kluba "V Poiskakh Russkoi Mechty i Obraza Budushchego"’, Izborskii Klub (blog), 10 October 2018, https://izborsk-club.ru/15978.
 See for instance the cover pages of the Club’s journal 2018 issues : https://izborsk-club.ru/magazine#1552736754837-283c3fe0-bb20
 Francis Fukuyama, ‘Reflections on the End of History, Five Years Later’, History and Theory 34, no. 2 (May 1995): 27.
 Francis Fukuyama reformulates Friedrich Hayek’s argument. See Friedrich Hayek, ‘The Use of Knowledge in Society’, The American Economic Review 35, no. 4 (1945): 519–30. The compatibility between a centralised and authoritarian political system and the development of an economy of innovation was however considered by Joseph Schumpeter in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1942, Harper & Brothers).
 Bell, The End of Ideology, op. cit.; Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, op. cit.
 Averianov, ‘Nuzhny Drugie Liudi', art. cit.
 According to Aleksandr Prokhanov, ‘without ideology, there is no state at all’, see Aleksandr Prokhanov, ‘Raskol Intelligentsii’, Institute for Dynamic Conservatism Website, 11 October 2013, http://dynacon.ru/content/articles/2039/.
 See for instance Aleksandr Nagornii, ‘Kitaiskaia Mechta Dlia Rossii', Izborskii Klub (blog), 9 April 2013, https://izborsk-club.ru/1130.
 Faure, ‘Russian Cosmism: A National Mythology Against Transhumanism’, art. cit.
 Faure, ‘A Russian Version of Reactionary Modernism: Aleksandr Prokhanov’s “Spiritualization of Technology”’, art. cit.
 The ‘about us’ section of the Izborsky Club website writes : ‘The governor of the Pskov Region A.A. Turchak played an important role in the creation of the Club.’ See : https://izborsk-club.ru/about
 For instance, the Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinskii took part in the inauguration ceremony of the Club in September 2012.
 For a list of the Izborky Club delegations in the regions, see : https://izborsk-club.ru/contacts
 ‘Vsemirnii Russkii Narodnii Sobor Rassmatrivaet "Russkuiu Doktrinu" v Kachestve Natsionalnogo Proekta'’, 28 June 2007, http://www.rusdoctrina.ru/page95531.html.
 ‘Stenogramma Kruglogo Stola Izborskogo Kluba "V Poiskakh Russkoi Mechty i Obraza Budushchego"’, art. cit.
 Aleksandr Prokhanov, ‘Izborskii Klub Pomozhet Armii Predotvratit "Oranzhevuiu Revoliutsiiu" v Rossii', Izborskii Club (blog), 13 March 2019, https://izborsk-club.ru/16616.
 Laruelle, ‘The Izborsky Club, or the New Conservative Avant-Garde in Russia’, art. cit.
 Rogozine has founded the Rodina Party with Sergei Glaziev, a permanent and founding member of the Izborsky Club. Regarding his strong personal relationship with Aleksandr Prokhanov, see Aleksandr Prokhanov, ‘Strategicheskii Bombardirovshchisk “Izborskii Club”’, Zavtra, August 21, 2014, http://zavtra.ru/content/view/strategicheskij-bombardirovschik-izborskij-klub/.
 Dmitrii Rogozin, ‘Rossiia Bez Kosmosa Ne Mozhet Ispolnit Svoi Mechty', Rossiiskaia Gazeta, 11 April 2014, https://rg.ru/2014/04/11/rogozin.html.
Constructing ‘alternative’ ideological narratives in conservative thought: Populist strategy from village politics to a post-truth world
by Richard James Elliott
One of the most remarkable traits of modern conservatism in Britain and the United States is its populism—its ability to speak for and to a working class audience. Traditionally, conservative parties attracted popular support by pitching themselves to the masses as steadfast bastions of property and the established order. Yet in recent years, disruptive political movements on both sides of the Atlantic—Brexit in Britain and Trumpism in America—have magnified the importance of the direct (and personal) dialogue between conservative leaders and their working class supporters.
Calls from leading Brexiteers for Britain to ‘take back control’ from the European Union continue to resonate with disempowered voters in deprived regions of England, amplifying the reach of Boris Johnson’s opportunistic brand of conservatism. In the United States, Donald Trump speaks directly to the concerns of his working-class base, delighting thousands of adoring supporters at mass rallies, while—at least until recently—captivating (and enraging) millions more instantaneously via Twitter. And across the airwaves, conservative pundits like Fox News’s Tucker Carlson address viewers face-on, speaking directly to camera in an ersatz conversational style in order to give the impression that right-wing talking points emerge out of a straightforward and ‘authentic’ dialogue among reasonable Americans.
Using this approach, conservative leaders have been able to cultivate personal loyalty, to construct an ‘alternative’ narrative of political events around core ideological beliefs, and to undermine the credibility of the experts and journalists that question the new political orthodoxy. To those outside the bubble, this ‘alternative’ narrative often appears like a bewildering display of mendacity, bombast, nationalism, and self-aggrandisement, bearing little resemblance to reality. But for all the talk of transition to a ‘post-truth’ era of politics (and the cannibalism of conservatism), the current state of affairs is not as unprecedented as we often tend to imagine.
The ‘alternative’ narratives that have developed out of the contemporary dialogues between conservative leaders and their working-class supporters draw on many of the same strategies that have been used over the past three centuries to mobilise mass support during periods of intense political partisanship. By examining two rich historical examples (without losing sight of the clear differences in historical context) it should be possible to elucidate how these strategies work in practice. Moreover, it should become easier for us to step outside our own experience and reflect on some of the ways that populism expands and transforms conservative ideology.
The first example is a classic propaganda pamphlet targeted towards the labouring classes. Hannah More’s Village Politics (1792) was published at the height of the French Revolution, as the moderate constitutional aims of the early revolutionary years gave way to much more radical demands for social and political transformation. More’s popular pamphlet reflects the growing anxiety of the British ruling elite that revolutionary ideas would spread across the Channel, inspiring the lower orders to rise up and overthrow the existing political system. More sought to counter this threat (manifested in the immense popularity of Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man) by addressing the labouring classes directly in the form of a dialogue between two characters: Tom Hod, the mason, and Jack Anvil, the blacksmith. At the beginning of the dialogue, Tom reveals that a book of revolutionary ideas has caused him to grow dissatisfied with his lot. He demands ‘Liberty and Equality, and the Rights of Man’. Jack initially laughs off Tom’s sudden political transformation, before countering his demands with a discussion of the violent excesses of the French Revolution and the natural superiority of the English constitution. As Tom gradually cedes ground, Jack demonstrates that the ‘Rights of Man’ are all abstract theoretical principles with no real foundation. And he reminds Tom of the tangible benefits of the existing order (from a day off every week on the Sabbath to the ‘superfluity’ of ale). Ultimately, Tom abandons his new revolutionary ideas, accepting that ‘we’re better off as we are’.
The second example plays on many of the same themes. C. S. Price’s Love and Mr. Smith (1932) was one of a series of ‘Plays for Patriots’ intended for use as propaganda during the interwar period. These mini-dramas were official campaign materials (approved by the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Parties), performed by party-members to an audience of local electors. Crucially, the plays were not simply am-dram electioneering: they reflected real anxieties among conservatives about the dangers of socialism and the threat of class war. Love and Mr. Smith centres on the tension that arises in a working-class household when ‘good old-fashioned’ conservative values are challenged by the arrival of a communist interloper. Mr. Smith returns home from a political meeting fuming that the local Conservative candidate has been heckled by communists intent on stirring up trouble. His daughter has invited Billy Johnson, the young man that she is walking out with, for dinner. But it soon emerges that Johnson is one of the communist agitators that disrupted and ultimately broke up the meeting. Mr. Smith is outraged, and proceeds to lecture Johnson and the audience on the perils of social disintegration if the communists get their way. Fortunately, the drama is resolved when the middle-class curate arrives and explains that Johnson was fighting back against the bully tactics of his comrades, and Johnson renounces his former political beliefs for the love of Mr. Smith’s daughter.
Neither historical example is especially subtle. But the similarities between Village Politics and Love and Mr. Smith highlight some of the most effective strategies employed by conservative cultural and political leaders to construct an ‘alternative’ ideological narrative for their working-class supporters.
First, the narrative is presented in the form of a horizontal (i.e. a non-hierarchical) dialogue between ‘authentic’ working characters, encouraging the audience to identify with the message presented to them without closely scrutinising its provenance. Both historical examples then build upon this conceit by contrasting the horizontal transmission of conservative ideas with the vertical transmission of revolutionary ideas from detached intellectual sources (books) and pernicious left-wing elites (philosophers and party apparatuses). While the audience is encouraged to laugh at Tom the mason for gesturing towards the intellectual authority of The Rights of Man and proclaiming that ‘I find here that I'm very unhappy, and very miserable; which I should never have known if I had not had the good luck to meet with this book’, the message is clear: revolutionary ideas (and all related discontents) are artificially imposed from above, while conservative principles arise naturally out of the community.
And yet, there is a certain irony to this horizontal dialogue, given the didactic tone and the condescension that the authors privately felt towards their working-class audience. More commented that Village Politics was ‘as vulgar as [the] heart can wish; but it is only designed for the most vulgar class of readers’, while historian David Jarvis has noted that ‘Plays for Patriots’ were informed primarily by middle-class prejudices about the workers, and for this reason draw on very simple stereotypes. To contemporaries that saw through the conceit (and that cared about such things), the cognitive dissonance must have been jarring. The insincerity of conservative strategy was obvious, while its success was positively bewildering.
Second, the narrative is played out in the sphere of domestic drama, building personal stakes that transcend the political message. Love, friendship, family prosperity, and the social order are all thrown into turmoil by the prospect of revolution. Mr. Smith reminds everybody around the dinner table that communists ‘envy the people who’ve got the grit an’ the stomach to work ‘ard an’ get on’, inciting the weak and desperate to class war. By turning the communist preoccupation with the welfare of the working classes on its head, he elevates the domestic concerns of the household over the political concerns of the party activist. At the same time, he explicitly challenges the communist conception of the worker, bolsters a competing vision of working-class respectability, and primes the audience to remember that their own security and happiness is tied to a conservative political outlook.
Nonetheless, for all the anxiety, the audience is inclined to root for a happy resolution in both domestic dramas because the characters are relatable, pragmatic, and funny. Poor Billy Johnson has to suffer through a traumatic first meeting with his sweetheart’s parents before he can reveal that he has turned his back on communism for the love of Mr. Smith’s daughter. The eventual dénouement draws sympathy and laughs from the audience in equal measure. Likewise, in Village Politics, Jack’s repeated references to Sir John, the local landowner, his ‘rantipolish’ wife, and her desire to tear down and rebuild the estate with the changing fashions lends an element of mirth to a staid, conservative analogy for revolutionary reform. In the end, it is the personal stakes of this amiable cast of characters—and the humour that they bring to the dialogue—that enables the audience to look past the contrivances and identify with an ‘alternative’ ideological narrative.
Third, the narrative defines conservative values relative to a ‘foreign’ ideological antithesis, allowing the audience to fall back on the simple dichotomy of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Throughout their debate, Tom never really challenges Jack’s assertion that ‘Liberty, Equality, and the Rights of Man’ are quintessentially French principles and are thus intrinsically alien. In fact, Jack makes hay with this distinction, contrasting French freedom (‘They make free to rob whom they will, and kill whom they will’) with English freedom (‘a few rogues in prison keep the rest in order, and then honest men go about their business, afraid of nobody’), before demanding to know ‘suppose the French were as much in the right as I know them to be in the wrong; what does that argue for us?’
Ultimately, the nationalist distinction between English conservative values and foreign revolutionary dogmas applies a subtle psychological lever that makes it possible for conservative leaders to draw their supporters towards quite radical patriotic affirmations. As Jack and Tom proclaim: ‘While Old England is safe, I'll glory in her and pray for her, and when she is in danger, I'll fight for her and die for her’.
Fourth, by drawing and expanding upon all three preceding strategies, the audience is persuaded of the existence of a conspiracy to subvert natural social relations and suppress the truth. Though Jack has some success in casting doubt onto the value of foreign innovations, Tom remains obstinately convinced that his new revolutionary principles are sound until Jack pulls back the curtain: ‘Tis all a lie, Tom. Sir John's butler says his master gets letters which say 'tis all a lie. Tis all murder, and nakedness, and hunger’. The abstract theoretical principles of the revolution are a cover for an all-out assault on civil society. As Jack makes plain: ‘when this levelling comes about, there will be no Infirmaries, no hospitals, no charity-schools, no Sunday-schools’, and no security in marriage, because ‘for every little bit of tiff, a man gets rid of his wife’. Or, as Mr. Smith puts it rather more bluntly, the communists would have ‘No Gawd, no country, no marriage’.
At this point, it doesn’t really matter that the conspiracy appears wildly outlandish and all-encompassing, because it plays into a much more fundamental aspect of the ‘alternative’ ideological narrative: its anti-intellectualism. The plan to overthrow civil society is being perpetrated by a self-serving intellectual elite determined to further its own power at any cost. In Village Politics, this elite is embodied by Tim Standish, the local philosopher, who talks ‘Nonsense, gibberish, downright hocus pocus’, and is every bit the treacherous rat: ‘He is like many others, who take the king's money and betray him’. Men like Tim Standish should be grateful for the patronage of their social superiors, and should feel an obligation to preserve the status quo. Instead, they actively challenge it: they are guilty of the ancient Socratic crime of corrupting the youth with radical and dangerous ideas. Emphasising this point has two major consequences. First, it absolves all ‘misguided’ idealistic working class participants in the dialogue from blame (as Jack tells Tom, ‘they've made fools of the most of you’), and opens the door for reconciliation and even romance. Second, it primes the audience to believe that any attempt by intellectuals to appeal to reason is simply another attempt to deny the truth.
For those that are willing to buy into the narrative, the only reliable source of information becomes the ‘horizontal’ dialogue with likeminded conservatives. And at this point, it becomes more logical to deny expert authority and to reject evidence that appears to contradict the party line than to try to come to terms with a complicated reality. Thus, the narrative really does become an ‘alternative’ framework for understanding and explaining the world.
Of course, Village Politics and Love and Mr. Smith only provide a glimmer of insight into the kind of strategies that conservatives use in order to shape ‘alternative’ ideological narratives for their working-class supporters. But both of these examples do reveal continuity across time that may help to explain the flourishing of ‘alternative’ ideological narratives in the ‘post-truth’ world of today. Core aspects of conservative ideology clearly do incentivise cultural and political leaders to cultivate a direct dialogue with their working-class supporters, and to use that dialogue to shape the political reality. All it takes is a charismatic, amiable, or funny candidate, and the right kind of political appeal.
 Hannah More, Village Politics (1792).
 Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man (1791-92).
 C. H. Price, Love and Mr Smith – A Play in One Act (June 1932). This play, and many others like it, form a rich body of propaganda literature in the Conservative Party Archive.
 As quoted in M. G. Jones, Hannah More (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952), p. 134.
 David Jarvis, ‘British Conservatism and Class Politics in the 1920s’, English Historical Review, cxi (1996), p.63-4.