Conservative Radicalism: A Sociology of Conservative Party Youth Structures and Libertarianism, 1970-1992

By Timothy Evans | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

T he purpose of this study is to describe and analyse an important recent development in modern British politics: the rise within the Conservative Party of what has been called the Libertarian New Right. Various studies have already been published on this phenomenon -- for example, those of Levitas, Gamble and others,1 but most of these are seriously flawed, in so far as they misunderstand the nature of the movement that they purport to be examining.

For many, the words 'New Right' are associated with a reactionary -- and, indeed, a nakedly oppressive -- agenda of social and economic change. New Rightists are said to believe in a reassertion of traditional values. They are thought to be Christian, nationalist, sexist and militarist, supportive of the Monarchy, the family, the police and all other established institutions of authority. They dislike socialists, liberals, trade unionists, feminists, homosexuals, blacks and anyone else who enjoys, or supports the right to enjoy, an alternative way of life. And their agenda is thought to be implemented in two ways: first, by free-market policies, which will subject the most vulnerable members of society to the disciplining force of middle-class employers and managers; second, by strengthening the power of the State -- to ensure obedience to the laws of the market, and directly to coerce those middle-class dissidents who cannot be reached by the market. What combination of these ways is used depends wholly on a pragmatic assessment of the circumstances, since the New Rightist cannot appeal beyond his prejudices to any coherent philosophy.

Following this kind of analysis, the New Right has often been popularly aligned with Fascism and South African apartheid. However, the truth is entirely different. The mainstream within the British New Right explicitly rejects such values. It is instead internationalist,

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Notes for this section begin on page xvii.

-xii-

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