Neoconservatism is a complex and contradictory conglomerate of ideas, principles, norms that create various forms of modern conservative ideology. There are two interpretations of neoconservatism:
- as modern conservatism, adapting traditional values and ideas to the realities of the postindustrial (late industrial) epoch, and
- as an ideological trend, enriching and developing in the process of rivalry between liberalism and social democracy. In both cases, the emergence of neoconservatism is associated with the 1960s-1970s, when the acceleration of the pace of social life, the imbalance in it of the balance of spiritual and ecological principles. The emergence of various global problems challenged the acceptability of certain primary values of industrial civilization, when, under the constant pressure of accelerating changes, a serious crisis in orientations arose, manifested in the complication of the processes of social adaptation of man. In these conditions, neo-conservatism managed to update those provisions of its own ideology that were consistent with the needs of people in joining the beginning of a new era: the priorities of the family and religion, the moral mutuality of the citizen and the state, respect for the law, the preference for strong state order and stability, the preservation of universal moral attitudes, obstacles to the spiritual devastation of human souls, etc.
The neo-conservative renaissance of recent decades has contributed to significant changes in the “theoretical appearance” of traditional conservatism:
- from the opponents of scientific and technological progress, neo-conservatives have become convinced of its supporters, because only with its help can the survival of human civilization be ensured. As early as 1973 Strauss proclaimed at the Congress of the Christian Social Union that being a conservative means “stepping at the head of progress”;
- in the second half of the 1970s, the thesis about the “anti-ocratic” nature of conservative thinking, about the rejection of ideological theories and concepts was debunked and the task of ideological rearmament was set in connection with the fact that “non-ideological politics is an unarmed policy”. At the same time, neo-conservatism remained, in B. Gudvin’s opinion, “a kind of chameleon, since its appearance depends on the nature of its enemies”;
- modern conservatives from the inevitability of change turned into initiators of innovation but without “antihistorical rush – from above” and not “crowd methods – from below.” Kaltenbrunner claimed in 1975 that “it is the conservative of our time that knows not only that much has changed, but that much needs to be changed”;
- neoconservatives re-formulated the model of relations between the individual and society, the citizen and the state. In modern attitudes, the individual must first of all rely on his own strength and local solidarity of his fellow citizens, while the state, based on the moral principles of preserving the integrity of society, must provide the citizen with the life conditions on the basis of the rule of law, giving him the opportunity to participate in the organization of civil society institutions, maintaining a balance between the relationship of society with nature, etc .;
- neoconservatism today advocates private property, free market, individual freedom in society, but always subordinates them to the requirements of stability and continuity. Human rights are considered from their natural and social justification;
- in the ethnocultural sphere, neo-conservatism proceeds from the belief that under any universalism there is a certain ethnocentrism that imposes its values and world-view on other peoples, that each people has its history, culture, character, psychology, traditions, customs, and only all of them together constitute what is generally considered to be humanity.
Neoconservatism is a multi-layered and complex education, in which conflicting ideas, concepts, attitudes and principles coexist. As L. Allison noted in 1984, conservatives are at the same time “individualists and collectivists, adherents of authoritarianism and freedom, mystics and reasonable, practical people.” The diverse and contradictory ideas and recipes for solving the problems arising in the modern world put forward by different currents of the neoconservative movement, make it difficult to distinguish the corresponding ideological and political groups and trends.
In most cases, in this connection, there are neoconservatives, new right-wing, traditionalist or paternalistic conservatives. At the same time, it is complicated to determine the point at which this or that variant of modern conservatism begins or ends. Suffice it to say that in the Western literature there is a serious disagreement in the reckoning of R. Reagan, M. Thatcher and G. Kohl to one of these directions, which some authors call neoconservatives, others – new rightists, and the first two are often regarded as conservative radicals.
The discrepancies between the known varieties of modern conservatism are rooted not so much in the initial principles as in the degree of concentration of attention on certain aspects. This also applies to conservative traditionalists in their national variants – Gaullism in France, torism in England or Social-conservatism in the FRG. 80-ies. This century was marked by the intensification of activity and the strengthening of the positions of conservative forces in the leading countries of the West. In 1983, the International Democratic Union was formed, uniting the conservative parties of Western Europe, the Republican Party of the United States, the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan and the Australian Conservatives. M. Thatcher welcomed the new “conservative international as a great center of thought and spirit.”