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216 × 138 × 34 mm
376 pages
01 May 2011
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Conservatism Kieron O'Hara

The real meaning of ‘conservative’ – today denoting groups as diverse and incompatible as the religious right, libertarian free-marketeers and free-spending neo-conservatives – has been lost to politics. Yet the original conservative ideology, first developed in the eighteenth century by Edmund Burke, was concerned with managing change. Kieron O’Hara argues that genuine conservatism has its own relevance in a complex and dynamic world where change is rapid, pervasive and dislocating. Conservatism transcends traditional politics, and has surprising applications – not least as the most appropriate and practical response to climate change.

Kieron O’Hara’s Conservatism is a revision for the modern age of the traditional conservative philosophy. It shows what a properly conservative ideology looks like and demonstrates that many self-styled ‘conservatives’ actually promote destructive change in their own and others’ societies. Drawing on great conservative thinkers such as Burke and Adam Smith, philosophers ancient and modern from Plato to Wittgenstein, and contemporary social commentators including Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Ulrich Beck and Jared Diamond, this new and strikingly original theory of conservative philosophy lays bare our lack of understanding of our own societies, and shows how risk pervades society and how it should be managed. It also proves that conservatism is distinct from neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism and the extreme positions of today’s ‘culture warriors’. O'Hara shows how conservatism is an ideology sensitive to cultural differences between the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, East Asia and elsewhere, while highlighting the issues of technology, trust and privacy. Conservatism will appeal to anyone interested in the history – and future – of political philosophy and social thought.

‘a wide-ranging investigation into what Anglo-Saxon Conservatism might be . . . Conservatism is a survey of commendable breadth. It captures the essence of a creed that so often decries change, but has proved remarkably adept at surviving it.’ — The Economist

‘[an] entertaining and erudite book.’ — Jonathan Ford, Financial Times

‘succeed[s] in showing that conservatism, as he defines it, is an attitude of mind that those of all parties would benefit from adopting, Indeed, there is a sense in which, given OHaras definition, any sensible attitude to politics must be conservative . . . These insights alone make the book worth the price.’ — Times Higher Education

‘This is a strikingly up-to-the-minute book on conservative philosophy . . . What OHara seeks to do is to bridge the gaps between philosophy, ideology and political practice . . . makes an important contribution to the debate over contemporary conservatism.’ — The Salisbury Review

‘Both timely and provocative, this ambitious work analyses conservatism from first principles and argues that that liberalism, neo-conservatism and indeed radicalism of all kinds are incompatible with a truly Conservative worldview. OHara draws heavily on Burke and Oakeshott to make the case for change-resistant, knowledge-based policy-making, to be conducted by politicians who are humble enough to recognize the limitations of government and the value of thoughtful opposition. An important antidote to soundbite politics, this well-referenced text also provides clear thinking on one of the most hubristic and target-driven policy agendas of our time, by charting a sane and realistic strategy for "green conservatism".’ — Jill Kirby, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies 2007-2011

‘Combining up-to-the minute examples with the writings of philosophers, economists, and artists down the ages, Kieron OHara both defines and argues for a small-c sceptical conservatism capable of coping with change just as long as that change is bottom-up rather than top-down, cautious rather than gung-ho, supported by evidence rather than ambition and arrogance. This book insists that principles can, and should, inform ideology. It also suggests that the attitude of mind it describes and defends neednt be the preserve of right-wingers. Moreover, it can work for the good of all, not just an elite intent on defending its privileged position in the status quo. Anyone interested in the politics and economics of the twenty-first century including those who make the decisions that affect our lives will gain a great deal of wisdom as the result of reading this fascinating, well-informed and highly approachable book.’ — Professor Tim Bale, University of Sussex, author of The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron

‘Kieron OHara writes with panache, and brings clarity to a subject which most commentators misunderstand.’ — Mark Garnett, Lecturer in Politics, Lancaster University, author of From Anger to Apathy: The British Experience since 1975 (2007) and biographer of Sir Keith Joseph and William Whitelaw

‘The core of his message is that Conservatives need to rediscover the importance of scepticism in thought and pragmatism in action . . . a compelling, and often persuasive, read . . . OHara neatly knocks on the head any idea that Conservative philosophy lacks relevance in todays fast-changing world.’ — David Cameron in The Guardian on Kieron OHaras previous book After Blair

‘meant for the everyday reader, yet the informed readerwill also find rigorous sources and challenging, cogent reasoning . . . a probing and enticing read, at once cogent and coherent . . . a significant contribution for anyone interested in conservatism.’ — Political Studies Review

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Kieron O’Hara is a Senior Research Fellow in Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, and a Research Fellow for the Centre for Policy Studies. He is the author of several books, including After Blair: David Cameron and the Conservative Tradition (2007), The Enlightenment: A Beginners Guide (2010) and, with Nigel Shadbolt, The Spy in the Coffee Machine: The End of Privacy As We Know It (2008).

      The Rt Hon. David Willetts MP

1. First Principles
Part I: What Conservatism Is
2. Knowledge
3. Change
4. What Conservatism Stands For
Part II: What Conservatism is Not
5. Misperceptions
6. Misconceptions
7. Conservatism and Liberalism
Part III: What Conservatism Might Be
8. The Viability of Conservatism in the Modern and Postmodern Worlds
9. Green Conservatism
10.The Hardest Political Task: Telling the Truth

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