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The Conservatism series,
part of the Politics series
Cultural conservatism
Liberal conservatism
Social conservatism
National conservatism
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"SoCon" redirects here. For the athletic conference, see Southern Conference.

Social conservatism, is a political philosophy that supports what its adherents believe to be "traditional morality". It is not opposed to social change per se. However, since social conservatives cannot generally agree amongst themselves about what constitutes "traditional morality", there are really no policies or positions that universally define all social conservatives.

Definition and Core Principles Edit

There are two main principles which drive Social Conservatism:

Limit the definition of family. Social Conservatism opposes divorce except for infidelity, sex outside of marriage, commercialization of sex, sequential monogamy, domestic partnerships, and same-sex marriage. However this is a generalization, since not all social conservatives agree with each other on these principles: for instance, Roman Catholic social conservatives do not believe in divorce for any reason, while other social conservatives accept divorce for any number of reasons. Roman Catholic social conservatives would also add "opposes contraception in any form" and "opposes in vitro fertilization" to the above list. Many social conservatives — for instance Dick and Lynne Cheney — accept and actively support family members who enter into domestic partnerships or who are part of gay families. Groups who consider themselves social conservatives hold a wide range of views on issues related to the family.

Sanctity of human life. Social Conservatism is often believed to generally reject abortion, euthanasia, (often) stem cell research, and (sometimes) the death penalty. Socially conservative Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish maintain that their respect for the sanctity of human life requires of them a pacifist view of war. But social conservatism, like social progressivism, also embraces human rights and the dignity of the individual in societies where these values have a long history of popular support. (In societies with no standing tradition of respecting human rights or individual liberties, these values are considered liberal or even radical.) As with matters related to the family, social conservatives do not generally agree among themselves about even these issues. Many social conservatives reach the conclusion that their respect for traditional notions of individual autonomy, limited governmental power, and privacy require them to support a pro-choice policy on abortion (as explained in "Bearing Right" by William Saletan, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton are well-known advocates of this viewpoint.) Prominent social conservatives such as Nancy Reagan are vocal supporters of stem cell medical research. Social conservatives who oppose the death penalty are a distinct minority, as most social conservatives support the death penalty because it is a traditional (or Biblical) form of punishment.

Social Conservatives believe that their personal views are inalienable and ought to be protected by other laws and policies developed by governments, and taught in school, or the view points at least discussed in schools.

The opposite of Social Conservatism is Social Progressivism.

Social Conservatism is almost universal among the Christian Right. The basic principles are believed to derive from Natural Law — that is, the system of social norms that may appear to arise "naturally" in human societies through time and across cultures — rather than being a construct specific to one culture or time.

Therefore, the way Social Conservatism plays out in practice varies between locations, depending on the social, religious and national traditions of a particular place. It may be, for instance, Socially Conservative to promote traditional Western marriage in a Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, or LDS community, but socially conservative to promote polygamy in a devoutly Muslim or Mormon fundamentalist community. What is considered to be Socially Conservative is therefore very much relative to what is considered traditional in each society. However, they all have in common the idea of protecting or enhancing their respective understanding of what constitutes "family" vis-à-vis that of the State.

Social vs. Other Conservatisms Edit

There is no necessary link between Social and Economic or Fiscal Conservatism. In fact, some Social Conservatives are otherwise apolitical or even left-wing on fiscal issues. For example, Social Conservatives may also support a degree of government intervention in economic life for what they feel is to the benefit of the community, and as such will tend to support the concept of a social market economy to further this aim. This concern for material welfare, like advocacy of traditional mores, will often have a basis in the religion of the Social Conservatives in question. Examples of such Social Conservatives include the Christian Social Union of Bavaria, the Family First and Democratic Labor Party of Australia,the so-called red tory movement in Canada, and possibly the Communitarian movement in the United States.

There is more overlap between Social Conservatism and Paleoconservatism in that they both have respect for traditional social forms. However, Paleoconservatism has a strong Cultural Conservative strain which Social Conservatism, in and of itself, is not necessarily allied with. For example, John Burger, writing in Crisis Magazine in 2005 said:

"The presence of a significant population of culturally Catholic immigrants offers hope that their culture will permeate a decadent American society and contribute to the re-evangelization of native-born Catholics. . . Abortion is still illegal in most Latin American countries. And in most areas, it’s not even part of a person’s consciousness."[1]

Social Conservative Political Parties Edit

A few examples only. Many Christian Democratic Parties around the world are Socially Conservative.




Resources Edit


Social Conservative Groups in Canada

Social Conservative Groups in USA

Social Conservative News Services

See also Edit

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