I browsed through numerous posts and articles saying that Brexit and Trump are linked. It is resurgence, they said, of the conservative right, and a slap in the face of the liberal right. Some were gloating, and others reeked of despair. It was clear that some were Conservatives. Others were Liberals.
But what kind of liberal? Classical Liberal or Neo liberal? Or that person could be a libertine, fiscally liberal, conservatively liberal or socially liberal. He could even be a socialist liberal.
A typical conservative could be classically conservative or nationalistically conservative. Then there are liberal conservatives, religious conservatives, cultural conservatives, libertine conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and even extreme right wingers.
These are just words. The definitions are complex, and busy as we are, we don’t want to take the plunge. Let us simplify.
As always, there are no blacks and whites in the world. Even the whitest egg is a bit grey, and the blackest obsidian hides a tiny tinge of whiteness.
These are basically attitudes, and it is probably not good to label people, unless they want to label themselves. These are better understood as part of a spectrum, extending from extreme left to extreme right:
Communism, socialism, liberalism favouring regulated market economics- these three fall to the left of the spectrum, from extreme to the moderate end, in that order.
Liberals supporting unregulated free market, conservatism, totalitarian fascism, religious fascism, etc form the right side of the spectrum.
It may turn confusing. There may be different variations and side branches to the spectrum. So let us say that anarchists, communists, socialists, anti-capitalists, anti-imperialists, greens, left liberals, social democrats and social liberals are LEFT.
Classical liberals, right-liberals, capitalists, nationalists, imperialists, monarchists, fascists, neo-conservatives, cultural supremacists, religious fundamentalists, social authoritarians, and traditionalists are RIGHT sided.
It is extremely confusing. So let us generalize:
Both liberals and conservatives are towards the middle of the spectrum. Liberals are also split. Liberals supporting regulation of markets for redistribution to the poorer sections by the state falls to the left.
Both liberals and conservatives generally believe in Democracy and Free market economics.
Liberals support, to a greater extent than conservatives, ideas of equality and liberty. They usually support freedom of speech, freedom of the press, universal human rights, secularism, multiculturalism and international co-operation.
Conservatives today support all these!
Historically, conservatism meant that one was in favour of traditional monarchy, and or theocracy. Or they usually supported a combination of this and inherited privileges, like the feudal lords or the caste system. Now, no conservative supports these. (Or they have to be re-classified into the more extreme right side of the spectrum).
It is just that modern conservative gives a little more respect and leeway to culture, ethnicity, religion, established order and emphasises stability and continuity. They have some sympathy for religion, traditional hierarchy and hates affirmative action. Many feel that hard working citizens are subsidizing lazy free boarders.
The liberals accuse the conservatives of being secretly more right wing than they are, like being fascist or religiously fundamentalist. The conservatives try to brand liberals as communists or anarchists.
So, a conservative today, like Mr. Trump who believes in democracy, free markets, and at least theoretically believes in equality of people is actually a liberal by yesterday’s standards! Interesting, isn’t it?
Is there a revival of conservatism in the west, as, seen by the Brexit and Donald Trump?
There could be. The reason is globalisation and loss of privilege.
The west was the chief beneficiary of the scientific revolution, capitalism and imperialism. These are the three horses on which, the Americas and Europe rode to global ascendancy.
It was ridiculously easy for a high school graduate to live and prosper, with enough security in old age, in these countries, till 20 years back. (Starting from around 1960). Globalisation was pushed by them as means of furthering their agenda by entering and benefitting from third world markets.
But they are catching up. Intelligent machines took over a lot of labour. Labour could be outsourced. Immigration became a necessity, as the demography made them a land of ageing people. What follows?
Loss of privilege. Loss of jobs. Relative sense of stagnation and insecurity. Cultural invasion by foreigners threatens their way of life- hence, conservatism. It is rather simple, really.
History moves and the heavy wheels of demographics, technology and connectivity roll ponderously but inexorably. We can wait, watch and enjoy (or despair) in the sidelines.