Social conservatism

Social conservatism is the belief that society is built upon a fragile network of relationships which need to be upheld through duty, traditional values and established institutions.[1] This can include moral issues.[2] Social conservatism is generally skeptical of social change, and believes in maintaining the status quo concerning social issues such as family life, sexual relations, and patriotism.[3]

Social conservatism encompasses a range of what may be thought of as reactionary positions on social issues.[4] It developed as a reaction to what was perceived as dangerous tendencies within the liberal movements toward political radicalism and a wholesale rejection of "traditional values".[5] In North America, since the mid to late 20th century, social conservatism arose as a response to federal action on social issues—such as civil rights, the abolition of the death penalty, LGBT rights and abortion—which members perceived as a threat to conservative values and societal order.[6][4] Social conservatives also value the influence of religion in the public sphere, thus supporting state Churches or accommodationism, while opposing secularism and state atheism.[7][8]

Social conservatism and other ideological views

There is no necessary link between social and fiscal conservatism; some social conservatives such as George W. Bush[9] and Michael Gerson[10] 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.[11]

Social conservatism is not to be confused with economically interventionist conservatism, where conservative ideas are combined with Keynesian economics and a welfare state, which is practised by some European conservatives, e.g. Gaullism in France.

Social conservatism in different countries

Islamic world

Most Muslim countries are socially and morally conservative (such as Sudan, Malaysia and Gambia) due to their interpretation of Islamic law also known as Shariah.

Arab world

The Arab world has been historically conservative in social and moral issues due to the strong influence of Islam. All Arab countries have strong censorship laws against illicit and immoral content.

Arab States of the Persian Gulf

Saudi Arabia is the home of Islam and its two holy shrines, the king's (Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud) title is "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques". Saudi Arabia's role in the Islamic world enforces it to adhere to strict interpretation of Islam, of which it follows the most strict madhab of Islamic jurisprudence imam Hanbal.


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 an 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.[12]

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,[13] 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.


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. It is also a significant influence on the ideological and political culture of the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia as they were largely settled by American immigrants in the 19th century.

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.[14] Without a specific, large political party behind them, social conservatives have divided their votes and can be found in all political parties.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

South Africa

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,[18] gambling[19] and other activities that were deemed undesirable were severely restricted. The majority of businesses were forbidden from doing business on Sunday.[20] Abortion was illegal, except in case of rape, and danger to the mother's life. Sex education was also restricted.[21]

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.[22]

United States

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 is the largest political party with socially conservative ideals incorporated into its platform. Other socially conservative parties include the Constitution Party and the Prohibition Party.

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 decades, the supporters of social conservatism played a major role in the political coalitions of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.[23]

List of social conservative political parties








Bosnia and Herzegovina





Costa Rica

Czech Republic


Faroe Islands











Northern Ireland










New Zealand















South Africa

South Korea




United Kingdom

Northern Ireland only

United States

Social conservative factions of political parties

See also


  1. Heywood 2017, p. 69.
  2. Hall, Peter A.; Lamont, Michèle (22 April 2013). Social Resilience in the Neoliberal Era. Cambridge University Press. p. 166. ISBN 9781107034976.
  3. Dahms, Harry F. (2014). Mediations of Social Life in the 21st Century. Emerald Group Publishing. p. 101. ISBN 9781784412227.
  4. Farney, James Harold (2012). Social Conservatives and Party Politics in Canada and the United States. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9781442612600.
  5. "Conservatism - By Branch / Doctrine - The Basics of Philosophy". Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  6. Riley, Jim. "Liberalism & Conservatism".
  7. Dean, John W. (11 July 2006). Conservatives Without Conscience. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 77. ISBN 9781101201374.
  8. Wald, Kenneth D.; Calhoun-Brown, Allison (2007). Religion and Politics in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 240. ISBN 9780742540415.
  9. Veronique de Rugy and Tad DeHaven (31 July 2003). ""Conservative" Bush Spends More than "Liberal" Presidents Clinton, Carter". Retrieved 30 March 2011.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  10. "Michael Gerson - Compassionate to the End". Washington Post. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  11. Rowland, Howard S. (2010). Things to Think About. Xlibris Corporation. p. 171. ISBN 9781453571286.
  12. M S Golwalkar (1966), Bunch of thoughts, Publishers: Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana
  13. Press Trust of India (2 August 2003). "Muslim leaders oppose uniform civil code". Express India. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
  14. John Middlemist Herrick and Paul H. Stuart, eds. Encyclopedia of social welfare history in North America (2005) p. 143
  15. David M. Haskell, Through a lens darkly: how the news media perceive and portray evangelicals (2009) p 57
  16. Murray Dobbin, Preston Manning and the Reform Party (1991)
  17. "Same-sex marriages declared legal and valid by federal justice minister Rob Nicholson". National Post. 13 January 2012.
  18. JCW Van Rooyen, Censorship in South Africa (Cape Town: Juta and Co., 1987),
  19. Bet and board in the new South Africa. (legalisation of gambling could lead to growth of casinos, lotteries)(Brief Article)The Economist (US) | 5 August 1995
  20. Apartheid mythology and symbolism. desegregated and re-invented in the service of nation building in the new South Africa: the covenant and the battle of Blood/Ncome River
  21. "The New South Africa – The Same Old Bondage". Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  22. Dale T. McKinley. "South Africa's Social Conservatism: A Real and Present Danger".
  23. Darren Dochuk, From Bible Belt to Sun Belt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism (W.W. Norton & Company; 2010) shows how migrants to Southern California from Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas provided evangelical support for social conservatism.
  24. "Depuis 2011, le FN est devenu «protectionniste au sens large»". Libé 21 April 2014. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  25. DAN BILEFSKY (13 April 2010). "Hungarian Winner Vows Battle Against the Far Right". Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  26. Jörg Flecker. Changing working life and the appeal of the extreme right. ISBN 978-0-7546-4915-1.
  27. "Gay Marriage Bill In Northern Ireland Blocked Again By Socially Conservative Democratic Unionist Party". 27 April 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  28. Il programma del Popolo della Famiglia di Mario Adinolfi (intelligonews)
  29. Programma (Italia Cristiana)
  30. Parties and Elections in Europe. Retrieved on 24 August 2013.
  31. Piero Ignazi (2008). Partiti politici in Italia. Il Mulino, Bologna. p. 58.
  32. "La famiglia è una sola: quella naturale - Lega - Salvini Premier".
  33. La Lega:"No a matrimonio e adozioni gay"
  35. Giuseppe Vatinno (20 February 2017). "Gianni Alemanno parla del Movimento Nazionale per la Sovranità". Affaritaliani. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  36. "Nello Musumeci, "il missino" che ha riunito la destra - Il Tempo". 8 November 2017.
  37. Inada, Miho; Dvorak, Phred. "Same-Sex Marriage in Japan: A Long Way Away?" Archived 16 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine. The Wall Street Journal. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  38. "The politics of homophobia in South Korea". East Asia Forum. 4 July 2016.
  39. "정당들 '동성애 합법화' 반대 공감… 방법론선 온도차". Naver. 8 January 2019. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  40. "지방선거 코앞…교계 '낙태·동성애 문제' 최대 이슈". Daily Good News. 8 January 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2018.


  • Heywood, Andrew (2017). Political Ideologies: An Introduction. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-137-60604-5.

Further reading

  • Carlson, Allan, The Family in America: Searching for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age (2003) ISBN 0-7658-0536-7
  • Carlson, Allan, Family Questions: Reflections on the American Social Crisis (1991) ISBN 1-56000-555-6
  • Fleming, Thomas, The Politics of Human Nature, (1988) ISBN 1-56000-693-5
  • Gallagher, Maggie, The Abolition of Marriage: How We Destroy Lasting Love (1996) ISBN 0-89526-464-1
  • Himmelfarb, Gertrude, The De-moralization Of Society (1996) ISBN 0-679-76490-9
  • Hitchens, Peter, The Abolition of Britain. (1999) ISBN 0-7043-8117-6
  • Jones, E. Michael, Degenerate Moderns: Modernity As Rationalized Sexual Misbehavior. (1993) ISBN 0-89870-447-2
  • Kirk, Russell, The Conservative Mind, 7th Ed. (2001) ISBN 0-89526-171-5
  • Magnet, Myron, Modern Sex: Liberation and Its Discontents (2001) ISBN 1-56663-384-2
  • Medved, Diane and Dan Quayle, The American Family: Discovering the Values That Make Us Strong (1997) ISBN 0-06-092810-7
  • Sobran, Joseph, Single Issues: Essays on the Crucial Social Questions (1983) ISBN 1-199-24333-7.
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