What is conservatism?

Some people call themselves “conservative” while they defend classical liberal values (free-market, rule of law, limited government, democracy, etc.). If, at the same time, they defend conservative values on social issues (see the proper definition above), they are liberal conservatives, not classical liberals.

What to call “conservative” might depend on the context.

  • In the US, “conservatives” could refer to people adhering to Enlightenment classical liberal values plus traditional values of the protestant culture. They are still “liberal conservatives”, strictly speaking. See Ronald Reagan. Apparently, this is the definition given by the Oxford language dictionary “(in a political context) favouring free enterprise, private ownership, and socially traditional ideas.”
  • In the UK, “conservatives” could refer to people opposing to Enlightenment classical liberal values (but still for a liberal government inherited from English history) plus traditional organization of the society by the Anglican Church of England. They are still “liberal conservatives” strictly speaking. See Edmund Burke and Roger Scruton.
  • In France, “conservatives” could refer to people opposing to Enlightenment classical liberal values, supporting the restoration of the monarchy, and supporting the Catholic Church. They are “conservatives”, strictly speaking. See Joseph de Maistre and Charles Maurras.

We can also use “conservative” in a very general sense “not usually liking or trusting change, especially sudden change” (Cambridge).

Then, it can be applied even to communists, as alluded in the Britannica article, or pointed by liberal economist Pascal Salin. Obviously, this is not how is understood the term “conservative” in most contexts.

“Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of the Left and Right” - National Constitution Center

“Conservative intellectual Yuval Levin and the National Constitution Center’s Jeffrey Rosen explore the origins of the left/right divide by examining the views of the men who best represented each side of that debate at its outset: Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. Levin and Rosen will bring the conversation to today’s political discourse—on issues ranging from abortion to welfare, education, economics, and beyond.”

Good explanation. It is interesting how different conservatism is depending on culture whereas liberalism is mostly the same everywhere.