How to Be a Conservative Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: How to Be a Conservative builds the case for traditionalists and conservative people who view society through the lenses of someone who’s defending their nation, the long-lasting values of the world, the free market, and many other healthy principles.

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Nowadays, people view right-winged parties as regressive nationalists who can’t adapt to the changes of the world. As opposed to far-right-wing extremists, conservative people simply identify with the national values, a democratic state, the free market, and a rather traditional lifestyle. Still, the confusion between the two brings many daily challenges for conservationists, who have to face prominent judgment from the liberal environment.

To tackle this challenge, How to Be a Conservative by Roger Scruton approaches this subject with caution and presents the core principles of a conservative person, so as to shed some light on the subject. Scruton manages to inspire people to become more educated on the conservative philosophy through this book. It presents the true nature of a traditionalist as he highlights his belief in a free state built on honest work and freedom.

Here are my three favorite lessons from the book:

  1. The conservative philosophy implies constructing a state from below up. 
  2. A true conservative society is also democratic and works to keep its institutions open and accessible to all the people.
  3. Being a nationalist means being fond of your country, not following it blindly to mass destruction.

Now, let’s dig a little bit deeper into these lessons and see what they truly mean!

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Lesson 1: A healthy society should be built from below, instead of being ruled from above.

A true conservative person believes in a society built from the bottom up, from its people to their representatives. A healthy society is defined by its people and follows the will of the majority. Unfortunately, many states fail to understand and implement these principles. This was also the case of communist Czechoslovakia or even the UK under Margaret Thatcher. 

The ideology of a party is not the main aspect people should focus on. Instead, the focus should be on how they plan on implementing it. Throughout history, societies have fallen prey to all sorts of regimes. As such, people have started to shift towards absolute democracy with no intention of looking back. The problem with this sudden shift is that they leave behind what’s important: their legacy, history, and values.

For this reason, conservators are trying to preserve these cultural ideas. While still being pro-development, one can also be pro-preservation of the nation’s values and principles. Moreover, without a moral compass and a history, society is easier to divide and conquer. That’s because there’s nothing to stick people together under a common purpose. 

There’s no point in rushing to bring the future closer by leaving the past behind. As such, an ideal society has representatives that offer extreme care and consideration towards the families, the traditions, the history of that society, and other similar aspects. Moreover, the elected officials ought to work to preserve these. Doing so will build a better, more developed society having such implications in mind.

Lesson 2: A conservative society strives to offer equal opportunities and keeps all institutions involved in the market.

One of the many unfortunate implications of communism is the nationalization of all institutions, businesses, and all other entities. Having the idea of the greater good and a centralized administration to serve all people equally, this practice has brought people tremendous misfortune during the twentieth century. Not only is this philosophy utopic, but so much power in the hands of a few can prove to be dangerous. 

Scruton learned this first-hand during his experiences in the communist states. He saw that private clubs and schools were closing due to the fact that they were providing “unfair” opportunities and access to networks to those who were privileged enough to join them. The entire approach was wrong. The solution is to make them more accessible to the masses. Thus, giving more people opportunities to seize and chances to succeed. 

Moreover, by shutting them down, a state is only forcing the privileged to find loopholes to fulfill their wishes. They can still buy houses in the catchment area with great schools. This, in turn, divides people to a high extent. Therefore, allowing people to form their own societal layers and institutions is another trait of a healthy society promoted by conservators.

Lesson 3: Nationalism became a controversial word, but it actually promotes a healthy society.

Nowadays, people associate the word nationalism with the atrocities of the twentieth century. And for a reason! Just think about all the destruction and harm done in the name of nationalism. A primary example is extreme antisemitism displayed in policies and practices that almost wiped all Jewish people off the earth. 

However, being a nationalist used to mean something different. And that is what conservators today are aiming for today. Essentially, it is about the way one person feels about their country, the people they coexist with, and overall a family-like sentiment associated with one’s nation. If you look at the bigger picture, a nation resembles a family from many points of view.

For example, There’s a lot of fighting between parties. However, everyone will eventually look for a solution that works for the family or the nation in this matter. Similar to a family, a nation has a shared identity and the members have a sense of belongingness to their country of origin. This sentiment is hard to shake off. No matter where you go, you can’t forget your family. Because you grew up with it, just like you did with your country and its specific culture.

Perhaps this is the reason why people look for the food they grew up with even if they moved someplace else. Or anything else that can give them back that feeling of belonging. Acknowledging this shared identity is what makes a person nationalist. And this is the philosophy that conservators are trying to spread around.

How to Be a Conservative Review

How to Be a Conservative explores the true nature of a conservative person, their aim for equality, a nation-based state, the free market, and a democratic approach to society overall. The book debunks the ongoing myths about traditionalists being regressive and nostalgic, and offers a fresh perspective on what being a conservator implies. The author was born in a rather leftist family, but after paying a visit to the communist states in Europe, he decided that the far-wing doctrines and a left-based philosophy can ruin a society.

Who would I recommend our How to Be a Conservative summary to?

The 50-year-old who is passionate about politics and wants to expand their knowledge, the 40-year-old leftist who wants to challenge their belief and explore alternatives, or the 45-year-old who likes the right-side of politics.

Last Updated on May 19, 2023

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Maria Deac

While working with my friend Ovi's company SocialBee, I had the good fortune of Maria writing over 200 summaries for us over the course of 18 months. Maria is a professional SEO copywriter, content writer, and social media marketing specialist. When she's not writing or learning more about marketing, she loves to dance and travel all over the world.