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Social conservatism is a group of political ideologies centred on preserving traditional beliefs, attitudes and philosophy. The aims of social conservatism vary from organisation to organisation, and from country to country. Thus, there are really no policies or positions that could be considered universal among social conservatives.
In the United States, since the mid to late 20th century, social conservatism has referred to a movement that arose as a response to federal action on social issues, which members perceived as a threat to conservative values. This form of social conservatism is generally skeptical of social change, and believes in maintaining the status quo concerning social issues such as drug legalization, LGBT issues, and abortion.
Social conservatism is distinct from cultural conservatism which focuses on cultural aspects of the issues, such as protecting one's culture, although there are some overlaps.
Social conservatism and other ideological views
There is no necessary link between social and fiscal conservatism; some social conservatives such as George W. Bush, and Michael Gerson are otherwise apolitical, centrist or liberal on economic and fiscal issues. Social conservatives may sometimes support economic intervention where the intervention serves moral or cultural aims. Many social conservatives support a balance between fair trade and a free market . This concern for material welfare, like advocacy of traditional mores, will often have a basis in religion. Examples include the Christian Social Union of Bavaria, the Family First Party and Katter's Australian Party, and 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.
Karen Stenner has argued that social conservatism should be seen as a form of authoritarianism, in contrast with traditionalist conservatism. This position was echoed in John Dean's Conservatives Without Conscience. Social conservatism is often associated with the position that the government should have a greater role in the social affairs of its citizens, generally supporting whatever it sees as morally correct choices and discouraging or outright forbidding those it considers morally wrong ones.
Social conservatism in different countries
Hindu social conservatism
Hindu social conservatism in India in the twenty first century has developed into an influential movement. Represented in the political arena by the right-leaning Bharatiya Janata Party and far-right wing Shiv Sena. Hindu social conservatism, also known as the Hindutva movement, is spearheaded by the voluntary non-governmental organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The core philosophy of this ideology is nativism and sees Hinduism as a national identity rather than a religious one. Due to inclination towards nativism, much of its platform is based on the belief that Islamic and Christian denominations in India are the result of occupations, and therefore these groups should not receive concessions from the state. In terms of political positions, Hindu social conservatives in India seek to institutionalise a Uniform Civil Code (which is also a directive under Article 44 of the Constitution of India) for members of all religions, over the current scheme of different personal laws for different religions. For instance, polygamy is legal for Muslims in India but not Hindus.
Muslim social conservatism
There are several socially conservative Muslim organisations in India, ranging from groups such as the Indian Union Muslim League which aim to promote the preservation of Indian Muslim culture as a part of the nation's identity and history, to radical organisations such as the Mujahadeen and Lakshar-E-Taiba which aim to eradicate all other religions in South Asia.
In Canada, social conservatism, though widespread, is not as prominent in the public sphere as in the United States. It is prevalent in all areas of the country but is seen as being more prominent in rural areas.
Compared to social conservatism in the United States, social conservatism has not been as influential in Canada. The main reason is that the neoliberal or neoconservative style of politics as promoted by leaders such as former Liberal Party of Canada Prime Minister Paul Martin and Former Conservative Party of Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper have focused on economic conservatism, with little or no emphasis on moral or social conservatism. Without a specific, large political party behind them, social conservatives have divided their votes and can be found in all political parties. In fact, many Canadian politicians who hold socially conservative views on a personal level often choose not to pursue them in their political life, including Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Social conservatives often felt that they were being sidelined by officials in the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and its leadership of so-called "Red Tories" for the last half of the twentieth century and therefore many eventually made their political home with parties such as the Social Credit Party of Canada and the Reform Party of Canada. Despite the Reform Party being dominated by social conservatives, leader Preston Manning, seeking greater national support for the party, was reluctant for the party to wholly embrace socially conservative values. This led to his deposition as leader of the party (now called Canadian Alliance) in favor of social conservative Stockwell Day. The party's successor, the Conservative Party of Canada, despite having a number of socially conservative members and cabinet ministers, has chosen so far not to focus on socially conservative issues in its platform. This was most recently exemplified on two occasions in 2012 when the current Conservative Party of Canada declared they had no intention to repeal same-sex marriage or abortion laws.
Social conservatism had a huge place in Apartheid South Africa ruled by the National Party. Television in South Africa was not introduced until 1976 out of fear that it would reduce the influence of Afrikaans. Pornography, gambling and other activities that were deemed undesirable were severely restricted. The majority of businesses were forbidden from doing business on Sunday. Abortion was also illegal, except in case of rape, and danger to the mothers life. Sex education was also restricted.
Despite the legalisation of same-sex marriage and polygamy, in modern-day South Africa, the population remains socially conservative on issues such as homosexuality with 80% of the population against homosexuality.
Social conservatism in the United States is a right-wing political ideology that opposes social progressivism. It is centered on the preservation of what adherents often call 'traditional' or 'family values', though the accepted aims of the movement often vary amongst the organisations it comprises, making it hard to generalise about ideological preferences. There are, however, a number of general principles to which at least a majority of social conservatives adhere, such as opposition to abortion and opposition to same-sex marriage.
The Republican Party (United States) is the largest political party with socially conservative ideals incorporated into its platform.
Social conservatives are strongest in the South, where they are a mainstream political force with aspirations to translate those ideals using the party platform nationally. In recent years, the supporters of social conservatism played a major role in the political coalitions of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
List of social conservative political parties
- National Party of Australia
- Australia First Party
- Family First Party
- Democratic Labour Party
- Christian Democratic Party
- Australian Christians
- Liberal Party of Australia
- Fortitude (UPF)
- Conservative Party of Canada
- Family Coalition Party of Ontario
- Christian Heritage Party of Canada
- Alliance of the North
- A number of Union for a Popular Movement members in France as considered socially conservative.
- including the Christian Democratic Party, UMP affiliate
- Movement for France
- National Front
- National Republican Movement
- Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) ("Alternative for Germany")
- Deutsche Zentrumspartei (ZENTRUM) (German Centre Party)
- Partei Bibeltreuer Christen (PBC) (Party of Bible-abiding Christians)
- Partei für Arbeit, Umwelt und Familie (AUF-Partei) (Party for Labour, Environment and Family)
- Christlich-Demokratische Union (CDU) (Christian Democratic Union)
- Christlich-Soziale Union (CSU) (Christian Social Union)
- Hungarian Justice and Life Party
- Christian Democratic People's Party (Hungary)
- The Homeland Not For Sale Movement Party
- Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino
- Bagumbayan–Volunteers for a New Philippines
- National Unity Party
- Ang Kapatiran
- Nacionalista Party
- Evangelical People's Party of Switzerland
- Federal Democratic Union of Switzerland
- Swiss Democrats
- Swiss People's Party
Northern Ireland only
- Democratic Unionist Party (NI only)
- Ulster Unionist Party (NI only)
- Traditional Unionist Voice (NI only)
- America First Party
- America's Independent Party
- Constitution Party
- Prohibition Party
- Republican Party
- Christian Liberty Party
- Blue Dog Coalition
Social conservative factions of political parties
- Christian Democratic Party (Union for a Popular Movement)
- Blue Labour (Labour Party)
- Cornerstone Group (Conservative Party)
- House Freedom Caucus (Republican Party)
- Republican Study Committee (Republican Party)
- Traditionalist conservatism
- Social conservatism in Canada
- Social conservatism in the United States
- Pro-life movement
- Family values
- Christian right
- Social inertia: the prevention of social change
- Social liberalism
- Victorian morality
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