CfP Research Workshop Critiques of Liberalism and Challenges to Democracy: Understanding the Conservative Standpoint

Critiques of Liberalism and Challenges to Democracy: Understanding the Conservative Standpoint

Research Workshop – COST Action CA 16211 RECAST, Working Group 2: Languages and Ideologies

University of West Bohemia, Pilsen, Czech Republic, 14–15 February 2019

The common understanding of conservatism as an ideology draws attention to its unique
elements that make it into an identifiable discourse. Many scholars believe that, like any other
ideology, conservatism retains some core elements, i.e. concepts and values, which provide its
internal structure. Although this structural aspect is neither immutable nor agreed upon,
conservatism as a language or ideology has been regarded as having some recognisable
characteristics, and as such it is susceptible to rhetorical analysis.
But the integrity and internal coherence of conservatism might also be understood differently.
Whether we focus on conservatism from a historical perspective or the plurality of contemporary
critiques of liberalism, a conservative standpoint constitutes a challenge for the basis of certain
values of European political and societal order related primarily to liberal egalitarian conceptions
of the individual, social justice, pluralism, equality, respect and/or tolerance, and democratic
inclusion.

Bringing the challenges to liberal democracies into the spotlight, we can hear of the withering
away of democratic civic competences, the increased individualization and alienation of societies
from democratic politics, the rising tension between the universalist roots of liberal rights and
particular culture and group-based claims. Different concepts, values, and rhetorical figures
commonly regarded as part of conservative ideologies appear to have been scattered across the
ideological spectrum in response to the obvious troubles liberalism experiences in the face of
these challenges. Is there a general retreat to conservative values, language, and arguments that
cut across and impact many of the contemporary stands in political debate and ideologies – for
instance environmentalism, populism, nationalism, neoliberalism, but also feminism or
multiculturalism? In the face of a looming crisis of liberal democracy, environmental concerns,
and social turmoil, is there a “disposition” toward being conservative regardless of our
proclaimed ideological inclinations?
The key task of this workshop is to explore, whether from a historical or normative perspective,
the position of conservatism as a thread connecting an otherwise diverse critical reaction towards
liberalism and liberal democracy.
We invite paper proposals from a wide range of disciplines, including political science, political
theory, history, philosophy, law, or journalism.

 

We welcome papers dealing with questions such as:
• Where does conservatism stand in the context of contemporary and historical ideological
configurations? What are the rhetorical strategies involved in these configurations?
• Is contemporary conservatism a fully fledged ideology or should we rather approach it as a
standpoint, group of values, or style of politics attached to different ideological strands and
rhetorical strategies travelling across the whole ideological spectrum?
• Is conservatism merely a response to those who attack the status quo? Is there a necessary
defensive trait? Could we even talk about the “conservatism of fear”?
• With regard to the current challenges of liberal democracies (environmental, societal,
institutional, moral, or economic), what are the conservative standpoints and how are they
framed within political programmes and ideologies?
• How has conservative political thinking been redescribed historically? Has its position vis-àvis
other ideologies changed, and how?
• Has conservatism’s interaction with liberal democracy shifted from its birth as an ideology up
till today, or can we see the original conservative dispositions being reinstated in contemporary
contexts? What is conservatism’s contribution to the debates on the tensions of democracy?

Please submit your proposal (title, abstract of up to 200 words and short bio)
to pilsencostworkshop@gmail.com by 15 December 2018

Participants will be notified of acceptance by 7 January 2019