A Level Politics

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FAQ: What is New Right Conservatism?

Posted by Matt Walker on October 10, 2009

Thatcherism Newspaper commentators have been pouring over the details of David Cameron’s 2009 Tory conference speech. For some, he has demonstrated that he is a Thatcherite, a man of the New Right. The New Right is a strand of conservatism which emerged in the 1970s and influenced policy making particularly amongst US and UK conservatives. New Right thinking has two main strands to it: neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism.

Neo-liberalism stresses the need to liberate the economy from the ‘dead-hand’ of government. Governments, it is suggested, cannot run economies effectively and simply ‘crowd-out’ the more efficient ‘invisible hand’ of the free market. Government should be small, meaning that it should do less, leaving as much as possible, including public services, to the private sector. Individuals should be allowed as much latitude as possible to act as free economic agents.

Neo-conservatism on the other hand stresses that on social and moral issues, individual liberty and diversity should be constrained. Government needs to be strong, having sufficient authority over people to make sure that they behave themselves. The nuclear family should be the basis of society, with alternative family structures being a threat to social stability. A child without a father, for example, lacks a strong male role model and is more likely to misbehave. Neo-conservatism emphasises social conformity – diversity undermines social cohesiveness, and therefore social stability.

Hence the title of Andrew Gamble’s book on the New Right, The Free Economy and the Strong State.

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