Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition

With Edmund Fawcett

Join us for a virtual conversation with Edmund Fawcett to discuss his sharp-eyed history of political conservatism, a tradition as much at war with itself as with its opponents, from its 19th century origins to today’s hard Right.

For 200 years conservatism has defied its reputation as a backward-looking creed by confronting and adapting to liberal modernity. By doing so, the Right won long periods of power and became the dominant tradition in politics. Yet, despite their success, conservatives have continued to fight with each other about how far to compromise with liberalism and democracy—or about which values to defend and how.

Fawcett provides a gripping account of this conflicted history, clarifies key ideas, and illuminates the policy quarrels within the Right today. Fawcett’s vivid narrative covers thinkers and politicians, including forerunners James Madison, Edmund Burke, and Joseph de Maistre; early friends and foes of capitalism; defenders of religion; and builders of modern parties, such as William McKinley and Lord Salisbury. Fawcett also chronicles the cultural critics and radical disruptors of the 1920s and 1930s, recounts how advocates of laissez-faire economics broke the post-1945 consensus, and describes how Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and their European counterparts are pushing conservatism toward a nation-first, hard Right.