Social conservatism is a political philosophy and variety of conservatism which places emphasis on traditional power structures over social pluralism, and seeks to "reverse or stem the direction of change". Social conservatism in North America rose in the early 1800s as a reaction to the perceived anti-Christian and anti-constitutional aspects of slavery, as articulated by William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln. They also engaged with the economic insecurity of lower-class Protestant Americans, McCarthyism and other challenges to social institutions. Social conservatives often promoted the organisation and politicisation of social issues. Sociologist Harry F. Dahms suggests that social conservatism relates to a "commitment" to traditional values concerned with family structures, sexual relations, patriotism, gun ownership and military invasions, describing Christian doctrinal conservatives (anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage) and gun-use conservatives (pro-NRA) as the two domains of ideology within. Social conservatives also value the rights of religious institutions to participate in the public sphere, thus supporting government-religious endorsement and opposing state atheism.

Social conservatism and other ideological views

Some social conservatives such as George W. Bush and Michael Gerson are otherwise apolitical, centrist or liberal on economic and fiscal issues. Social conservatives may sometimes support economic intervention where the intervention serves moral or cultural aims. Historian Jon Wiener has described social conservatism as historically the result of an appeal from "elitist preservationists" to lower-class workers to 'protect' wealth from immigration. Many social conservatives support a balance between protectionism and a free market. This concern for material welfare, like advocacy of traditional mores, will often have a basis in religion. Examples include the Christian Social Union of Bavaria, the Family First Party and Katter's Australian Party, and the communitarian movement in the United States. There is more overlap between social conservatism and paleoconservatism, in that they both have respect for traditional social forms. Social conservatism is not to be confused with economically interventionist conservatism, where conservative ideas are combined with Keynesian economics and a welfare state, which is practised by some European conservatives, e.g. one-nation conservatives in Britain or Gaullists in France.

Social conservatism by country


In Canada, social conservatism, though widespread, is not as prominent in the public sphere as in the United States. It is prevalent in all areas of the country but is seen as being more prominent in rural areas. It is also a significant influence on the ideological and political culture of the western provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Compared to social conservatism in the United States, social conservatism has not been as influential in Canada. The main reason is that the neoliberal or neoconservative style of politics as promoted by leaders such as former Liberal Party of Canada Prime Minister Paul Martin and Former Conservative Party of Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper have focused on fiscal conservatism, with little or no emphasis on moral or social conservatism. Without a specific, large political party behind them, social conservatives have divided their votes and can be found in all political parties. Social conservatives often felt that they were being sidelined by officials in the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and its leadership of so-called "Red Tories" for the last half of the twentieth century and therefore many eventually made their political home with parties such as the Social Credit Party of Canada and the Reform Party of Canada. Despite the Reform Party being dominated by social conservatives, leader Preston Manning, seeking greater national support for the party, was reluctant for the party to wholly embrace socially conservative values. This led to his deposition as leader of the party (now called Canadian Alliance) in favor of social conservative Stockwell Day. The party's successor, the Conservative Party of Canada, despite having a number of socially conservative members and cabinet ministers, has chosen so far not to focus on socially conservative issues in its platform. This was most recently exemplified on two occasions in 2012 when the current Conservative Party of Canada declared they had no intention to repeal same-sex marriage or abortion laws.

Islamic world

Most Muslim countries are somewhat more socially conservative (such as Tajikistan, Malaysia and Indonesia) than neighbouring countries that are not Muslim. However, due to their interpretation of Islamic law also known as Shariah, they have some differences from social conservatism as understood in the nations of West Europe, North America and Oceania. Many people believe that the Islamic type of conservatism (even if it has many commons with the typical social conservatism) is more a part of Religious Conservatism than Social Conservatism.

Arab world

The Arab world has recently been more conservative in social and moral issues due to the rising influence of Western liberalism.


Hindu social conservatism

Hindu social conservatism in India in the twenty first century has developed into an influential movement. Represented in the political arena by the right-leaning Bharatiya Janata Party. Hindu social conservatism, also known as the Hindutva movement, is spearheaded by the voluntary non-governmental organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The core philosophy of this ideology is nativism and sees Hinduism as a national identity rather than a religious one. Due to an inclination towards nativism, much of its platform is based on the belief that Islamic and Christian denominations in India are the result of occupations, and therefore these groups should be uprooted from the Indian subcontinent by converting their members back to Hinduism.M S Golwalkar (1966), Bunch of thoughts, Publishers: Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana In terms of political positions, Hindu social conservatives in India seek to institutionalise a Uniform Civil Code (which is also a directive under Article 44 of the Constitution of India) for members of all religions, over the current scheme of different personal laws for different religions. For instance, polygamy is legal for Muslims in India but not Hindus.

Muslim social conservatism

There are several socially conservative Muslim organisations in India, ranging from groups such as the Indian Union Muslim League which aim to promote the preservation of Indian Muslim culture as a part of the nation's identity and history.

South Africa

Social conservatism had an important place in Apartheid South Africa ruled by the National Party. Pornography, gambling and other activities that were deemed undesirable were severely restricted. The majority of businesses were forbidden from doing business on Sunday. Despite the legalisation of same-sex marriage and polygamy, in modern-day South Africa, the population remains heteronormative on issues such as homosexuality with 80% of the population against homosexuality.

United States

Social conservatism in the United States is a right-wing political ideology that opposes social progressivism. It is centered on the preservation of what adherents often call 'traditional' or 'family values', though the accepted aims of the movement often vary amongst the organisations it comprises, making it hard to generalise about ideological preferences. There are, however, a number of general principles to which at least a majority of social conservatives adhere, such as opposition to abortion and opposition to same-sex marriage. The Republican Party is the largest political party with socially conservative ideals incorporated into its platform. Other socially conservative parties include the Constitution Party and the Prohibition Party. Social conservatives are strongest in the South, where they are a mainstream political force with aspirations to translate those ideals using the party platform nationally. In recent decades, the supporters of social conservatism played a major role in the political coalitions of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Other areas

There are also Social Conservative movements in many parts of the world (in Latin America, East Europe, Balkans, Caucasus, Central Europe, Mediterranean countries, Southeast Asia, Oceania, etc).

List of social conservative political parties


*Prosperous Armenia


* Democratic Labour Party * Katter's Australian Party * Australian Conservatives * Pauline Hanson's One Nation


* Alliance for the Future of Austria * Freedom Party of Austria


* Vlaams Belang

Bosnia and Herzegovina

* Alliance of Independent Social Democrats


* Alliance for Brazil * Social Christian Party * Brazilian Labour Renewal Party


* Bulgarian Socialist Party * IMRO – Bulgarian National Movement

Czech Republic

*Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People's Party


*Danish People's Party

El Salvador

*Nuevas Ideas *Nationalist Republican Alliance


*Conservative People's Party

Faroe Islands

*Centre Party


*Christian Democrats *True Finns


* Movement for France


*Familien-Partei Deutschlands (Family Party of Germany)


*Alliance of Patriots of Georgia


* Greek Solution * Independent Greeks * New Democracy (Greece) * Other small parties


* Hungarian Justice and Life Party * Fidesz * Christian Democratic People's Party (Hungary)


* Shiv Sena * Bharatiya Janata Party * Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh


* Aontú * Renua Ireland


* Shas * Agudat Yisrael * Degel HaTorah * The Jewish Home - HaBayit HaYehudi * National Union - Tkuma * Noam * Otzma Yehudit


* The People of Family (''Il Popolo della Famiglia'') * Christian Italy (''Italia Cristiana'') * Union of the Centre * Lega Nord * Brothers of Italy * National Movement for Sovereignty * Diventerà Bellissima


* Liberal Democratic PartyInada, Miho; Dvorak, Phred
"Same-Sex Marriage in Japan: A Long Way Away?"
. ''The Wall Street Journal''. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
* Komeito


*National Alliance


* Patriotic Union


*Order and Justice


* Alternative Democratic Reform Party


* United Malays National Organization (UMNO)


*Social Encounter Party *National Action Party


*Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova


* Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) * Christian Union (CU) * Political Movement Denk (Denk) * Reformed Political Party (SGP) * Forum for Democracy (FvD) * Partij voor de Vrijheid(pvv)

New Zealand

*Conservative Party of New Zealand *New Zealand First


* People's Democratic Party


* Christian Democratic Party * The Christians Party


* Law and Justice * United Poland * Agreement


* Social Democratic Party * People's Movement Party


* United Russia * LDPR * CPRF


* Christian Democratic Movement * Direction – Social Democracy * Network * Slovak National Party * We Are Family * Kotleba – People's Party Our Slovakia


* Slovenian Democratic Party * New Slovenia


* Vox *People's Party


* Serbian Radical Party * Dveri * Healthy Serbia * Better Serbia * People's Freedom Movement * Serbian Party Oathkeepers * Serbian Right

South Africa

* African Christian Democratic Party

South Korea

* People Power Party (South Korea) * Democratic Party of Korea * People Party * Minsaeng Party


*Alternative for Sweden *Sweden Democrats


*Evangelical People's Party of Switzerland *Federal Democratic Union of Switzerland *Swiss People's Party


* Justice and Development Party * Nationalist Movement Party * Felicity Party * Great Unity Party

United Kingdom

* Heritage Party * UK Independence Party

Northern Ireland only

* Democratic Unionist Party * Traditional Unionist Voice * Aontú

United States

* Republican Party * Constitution Party * Prohibition Party * American Solidarity Party * Christian Liberty Party

Social conservative factions of political parties

* Christian Democratic Party (The Republicans) * Blue Labour (Labour Party) * Cornerstone Group (Conservative Party) * House Freedom Caucus (Republican Party) * Republican Study Committee (Republican Party) * Blue Dog Coalition (Democratic Party) * Paleoconservatism * Traditionalist conservatism * Social conservatism in Canada * Social conservatism in the United States * Pro-life movement * Family values

See also

*Christian right *Social inertia: the prevention of social change *Social liberalism *Victorian morality




Further reading

* Carlson, Allan, ''The Family in America: Searching for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age'' (2003) * Carlson, Allan, ''Family Questions: Reflections on the American Social Crisis'' (1991) * Fleming, Thomas, ''The Politics of Human Nature,'' (1988) * Gallagher, Maggie, ''The Abolition of Marriage: How We Destroy Lasting Love'' (1996) * Himmelfarb, Gertrude, ''The De-moralization Of Society'' (1996) * Hitchens, Peter, ''The Abolition of Britain''. (1999) * Jones, E. Michael, ''Degenerate Moderns: Modernity As Rationalized Sexual Misbehavior''. (1993) * Kirk, Russell, ''The Conservative Mind,'' 7th Ed. (2001) * Magnet, Myron, ''Modern Sex: Liberation and Its Discontents'' (2001) * Medved, Diane and Dan Quayle, ''The American Family: Discovering the Values That Make Us Strong'' (1997) * Sobran, Joseph, ''Single Issues: Essays on the Crucial Social Questions'' (1983) . {{DEFAULTSORT:Social Conservatism Category:Conservatism Category:Right-wing politics Category:Social philosophy Category:Social policy Category:Political science terminology