The conservative political logic: A discourse-theoretical perspective

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In contrast to other core constituents of modern politics, conservatism has not been the object of much discursive-constructivist rethinking. Inspired by Laclau’s work and by Glynos and Howarth’s discoursetheoretical development of the notion of logics, this article sets out to identify the conservative political logic. Conservative politics, it argues, articulate demands as conservation, envisaged as a process of ensuring the desirable continuity of the social order between past, present and future, in opposition to a (demand for) change that is argued to constitute a dislocatory threat to the continuity of the social order. The conservative political logic interpellates citizens as members of that threatened social order, and presents conservative politics as the way to protect this threatened social order. Building on a critical discussion of dominant approaches to conservatism, the article proposes to identify the more formal logic that structures conservative rhetoric as an alternative for a substance-based ideological definition of conservatism. The distinctiveness of the discourse-theoretical perspective on conservative politics becomes more pronounced as the article moves on to argue that conservatism discursively constructs changes as threats to the social order, and, finally, shows how conservative politics discursively construct and reproduce the social order they (cl)aim to conserve.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-29
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Political Ideologies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2018


  • conservatism
  • discourse theory

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