Philosophia 45 (2):551-568 (2017)

Steve Clarke
Charles Sturt University
There is widespread agreement about a combination of attributes that someone needs to possess if they are to be counted as a conservative. They need to lack definite political ideals, goals or ends, to prefer the political status quo to its alternatives, and to be risk averse. Why should these three highly distinct attributes, which are widely believed to be characteristic of adherents to a significant political position, cluster together? Here I draw on prospect theory to develop an explanation for the clustering of attributes that is characteristic of conservatives. I argue that a lack of political ideals is the underlying driver of conservatism. I will provide reason to believe that people who lack political ideals are disposed to prefer the political status quo to its alternatives; and reason to believe that people who prefer the political status quo to its alternatives are disposed to be risk averse, at least with respect to significantly many of the risks that arise in the social and political domain. I also consider and reject some other potential explanations for the clustering of attributes that is characteristic of conservatives and sketch some policy implications that follow from the explanation I develop.
Keywords Conservatism   Political ideals  Prospect theory   Reference point   Risk aversion   Status quo
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11406-017-9845-9
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 50,308
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

A Case for Conservatism (B. Smart).J. Kekes - 1998 - Philosophical Books 41 (1):64-64.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Forms of Political Thinking and the Persistence of Practical Philosophy.E. Simpson - 1996 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 46:117-142.
What Is Conservatism?John Kekes - 1997 - Philosophy 72 (281):351 - 374.
Four Concepts of Politics.Jani Kristian Väisänen - 2016 - International Journal of Žižek Studies 10 (3).
What If the Pious Don’T Want to Deliberate?Nicholas Tampio - 2014 - Political Theory 42 (1):106-118.
A Social Ecological Critique of Neo-Conservatism.Raymond Bahr Wrabley - 1988 - Dissertation, Arizona State University
Review: Jeremy Waldron, Political Political Theory. [REVIEW]David Runciman - 2016 - European Journal of Political Theory 18 (3):147488511667113.
Conservatism in the 1990s, Our Common Purpose.John Roy Major, Carlton Club & Conservative Political Centre Britain) - 1993 - Carlton Club Political Committee in Association with the Conservative Political Centre.
Political Ideals and the Feasibility Frontier.David Wiens - 2015 - Economics and Philosophy 31 (3):447-477.


Added to PP index

Total views
11 ( #755,669 of 2,326,000 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #658,522 of 2,326,000 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes