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Title: British Conservatism and the concept of the nation
Author: Lynch, Philip
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1992
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This thesis examines the concept of the nation found in British conservative thought (the "conservative nation"), and its relevance to the policies and doctrine of the Conservative Party, especially in the Thatcher years. I argue that as a political doctrine, nationalism is essentially nebulous, gaining distinctive character from the discourse with which it is jointly-articulated and from its environment. Thus the British conservative nation is a distinct form of nationalist doctrine, built on core conservative values and on specific socio-historical factors. Its key themes are: (i) tradition; (ii) organicism; (iii) community; (iv) hierarchy; (v) antirationalism. The conservative nation has also been bolstered by the use of historical myths and symbols eg imperialism, Unionism and the monarchy. The ideal-type conservative nation fuses ethnic (cultural) and civic (political) accounts of the nation, but contains significant sub-categories based on a separation of the political and cultural models. Chapter Two traces key moments in the development of the conservative nation, notably Burke's conservative state patriotism and the late 19th century emergence of the Conservative Party's "national strategy", based on a coherent idea of the nation and populist nationalism. Chapter Three looks at the breakdown of the concept into its political and cultural components by New Right theorists. It focuses on Hayek and Oakeshott as proponents of the political account, plus, Scruton and Casey as adherents to a cultural account. Chapter Four examines Powell's redefinition of the nation and the ultimate failure of his attempt to construct a nationalist strategy to cover policy on immigration, the European Community and the Union. The second half of the thesis looks at Thatcherism's revival of the language of nationhood, but argues that doctrinal tensions and the need for pragmatic issue management worked against the development of a coherent concept of the nation or a consistent national strategy. Chapter Five examines Thatcherism as (a) Mrs Thatcher's personal values; (b) a political doctrine, noting the tensions between its - free market and strong state branches; and (c) as statecraft or issue management. The Falklands Var and policies on the territorial Union provide examples of the relative successes and failures in Thatcherism's "politics of nationhood". Subsequent chapters use detailed case studies on the European Community and the politics of race to illustrate Thatcherism's use of nationalist rhetoric, and its failure to construct a coherent national strategy across these policy areas. Chapter Six assesses British policy on the EC, the integration process and ideas of sovereignty. Chapter Seven outlines the main themes of the debate between Euro-sceptics and Euro-enthusiasts in the Conservative Party. In Chapter Eight I examine the problems which the management of an ethnically plural society has posed for Thatcherism and the conservative nation in general, assessing policies an immigration and integration. The thesis concludes by contrasting the shortcomings of the Thatcherite account of the nation with the positive themes of identity and community inherent in the conservative nation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (Great Britain) (ESRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: JN101 Great Britain Political science Public administration