Politics in Minutes (2016)

One-nation conservatism

Aparticular form of paternalistic conservatism emerged in Victorian Britain that stressed the traditional value of community and played down the authority of a ruling class. This was in response to liberal and socialist movements, which had demanded social change by highlighting inequalities in society. So-called ‘one-nation’ conservatism – the phrase coined by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (pictured) – attempted to appeal to the inherent conservatism of the working class, and at the same time minimize the perception of an ‘us and them’ society. In contrast with the class struggle that had been proposed by Karl Marx (see here), one-nation conservatives interpreted the social hierarchy as an organic entity, with each of the social classes having obligations and duties to the others, and to society as a whole. The lower classes accept the obligation to provide their labour and forego some privileges, and in return the upper classes take on the duty of paternalistic care, reflected in a more progressive attitude to reform of social and welfare policy.