Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
"When philosophy paints its grey in grey then has a shape of life grown old. By philosophy's grey in grey it cannot be rejuvenated but only understood. The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk." -- G.W.F. Hegel, 'Preface', Philosophy of Right.
Links - weblogs
Links - Political Rationalities
Links - Resources: Philosophy
Public Discussion
Cafe Philosophy
Philosophy Centres
Links - Resources: Other
Links - Web Connections
'Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainity and agitation distinquish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones ... All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.' Marx

Conservatism contra liberalism « Previous | |Next »
December 14, 2005

The conservative interpretation of the Cronulla riots involves a critique of multiculturalism and liberalism.

Sean Leahy

The basic conservative critique of multiculturalism is well known. It says that the failure of some migrants to successfully integrate with Australian society was at the root of racial tension in Sydney. Multiculturalism gives rise to a a nation of tribes. It holds that many of the cultures coming in here are not coming to integrate and be part of the community ... Community is understood as Anglo Australian--Britishiness. As James Jupp, writing in The Australian, observes :

For 30 years, Australia has officially been a multicultural society, a sensible response to mass immigration. This means that there is no single ethnic, racial or religious group that can call itself Australian to the exclusion of others. This has been repeated over and over again, but is obviously not accepted by many Australians of British or Irish descent, including the mob at Cronulla waving their Australian flags.

The One Nation conservative criticism is spelt out by "Evil Pundit:
A large part of the problem is that multiculturalism encourages the development of separate ethnic and religious subcultures that are often hostile to the host society. It also exacerbates these problems by suppressing any criticism of such subcultures, allowing the problems to grow until they erupt in large-scale violence.

This conservatism is deeply opposed to multicultural society, holds that a harmonious multicultural society is a utopian ideal, and regards Australia's multicultural experiment to be a failure. The cultural wars have meant that those who support multiculturalism are denounced as elites, latte drinkers or doctors' wives.

Australian conservatism's critique of liberalism arises out of its nationalism. It understands liberalism as a doctrine of an abstract individual, emphasizes individual freedom of action, condemns excessive bureaucratic involvement by government and values expert knowledge.

Liberalism's defense of individual freedom downplays the conservative emphasis on nationhood and nationalism because it endangers the freedom of the individual. So the conservatives target classical liberalism, libertarianism, and modern internationalist liberalism, as these deny the historical concept of the nation state by rejecting the notion of any common interest between individuals who traditionally shared a common heritage. In the place of nationhood it proposes to generate a new international social pattern centered on the individual's quest for optimal personal and economic interest. Within the context of extreme liberalism, only the interplay of individual interests creates a functional society - a society in which the whole is viewed only as a chance aggregate of anonymous particles.

The essence of modern liberal thought is that order is believed to be able to consolidate itself by means of all-out economic competition, that is, through the battle of all against all, requiring governments to do no more than set certain essential ground rules and provide certain services which the individual alone cannot adequately provide.

Conservatism understands that nationality and society are rooted in biological, cultural and historical heritage. The difference between these two concepts becomes particularly obvious when one compares how they visualize history and the structure of the real. Nationalists are proponents of holism. Nationalists see the individual as a kinsman, sustained by the people and community. which nurtures and protects him, and with which he is proud to identify. The individual's actions represent an act of participation in the life of his people, and freedom of action is very real because, sharing in the values of his associates, the individual will seldom seek to threaten the basic values of the community with which he identifies.

As there is no place for an Aussie nationalism in liberalism we have the fear that Australia's "unique culture" is threatened by multiculturalism and immigration. Hence One Nation conservatism wants to reclaim the cultural agenda to say that Australians have their own culture.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 08:05 AM | | Comments (10) | TrackBacks (1)

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Conservatism contra liberalism:

» different perspectives from Public Opinion
Another way of looking at the Cronulla race riots--- an interpretation from the perspective of the Pacific Rim and the 10-nation ASEAN meeting. Pryor The irony is that John Howard was never a fan of multiculturalism. He is a one nation conservative who... [Read More]



The problem is that mutliculturalism is a more stable society as it is a natural outgrowth of liberty. Monoculturalism or the unitarism involved with nationalism is naturally fractous as it is based on exclusion, exception and coerced assimilation. The mobs at Cronulla are just a non-state extension of that coercion - which the federal government has been practicing for the last ten years.

yes the link between monoculturalism and violence is quite explicit.

David Flint, the former head of the Australian Press Council and Chair of the Australian Broadcasting Authority, says that:

[Cronulla] was a response that followed the failure of NSW governments for many years to perform their most basic function: the proper provision of law and order... In the vacuum of law and order that Bob Carr had bequeathed to the state, the youngbloods revolted and chose the only course that seemed to be left to them: the path of the vigilante.

As the rank and file know, this will not do. Innocent victims will suffer, and law and order is the function of the state, not the vigilante. Only a policy of zero tolerance by an empowered police force and by the courts will bring the gangs to reason, and that requires not more spin, but true leadership.'
The lack of zero tolerance towards Lebanese- Australians by the state means the vigilantes have to take matters into their hands, and keep doing until the state adopts zero tolerance.

That is a justification of the Romper Stomper violence---which is what Alan Jones, the broadcaster also did on 2GB.

The contradiction between social conservatism and economic liberalism pointed out here is extremely pertinent. However there is a cognitive process which exponents of such a dual rhetoric (eg Howard) go through in order to make it plausible, which is not addressed above.

Firstly it must first be emphasised, as Howard does in his speeches, that the social sphere (eg. 'one nation' nationalism in this instance) and the economic sphere are understood as following different rules. One may support the other (eg. the process of economic liberalism is in the best interests of the nation - thank you Business Council of Australia), but they are afforded seperate philosphical rationales.

And secondly, both social conservatism and economic liberalism are packaged with a sense of moral righteousness in opposition to their perceived opposition. The triumphant, self-reliant economic individual is contrasted with the figure of welfare dependancy and national economic stagnation (can anyone else hear the moral gloating when Howard and Costello speak of the regulated economies of France and Germany). While at the same time the morality of social conservatism is constrasted with the 'relativism' of the left's project of multiculturalism and problems which it is seen to spawn. Eg. in this case hostile communities which refuse to integrate to 'our values'. While economic liberalism and social conservatism contain numerous contradictions and often conflict, as we have seen in the number of church groups come out against the IR reforms, through such a rhetoric of morality, the two are able to be presented together in a superficially coherent disocurse.

In his response Sydney's race riots Howard's response is to keep this arrangment in tact by condeming the actions and violence of those white Australians in Cronulla, but to do little to question their underlying resentment towards non white Australians. For Howard the morality of his Australian first and foremost approach to nationalism (nine years of which surely underlines and supports the actions of those in Cronulla), can not be questioned, therefore 'racism' is not a term which he is willing to use.

Gary, "Only a policy of zero tolerance by an empowered police force"

You see the sham in NSW parliament? It was a state version of support the troops with anti-liberty legislation following.


"That is an important point- backing the police. The police can be assured that they have our full support to use these new laws to rid our streets of the violence, the thugs, the hooligans and the criminals who have been responsible for the actions we have seen. Front-line police should not need to look over their shoulder wondering if sound policing decisions will be second-guessed. They will not be. Police will be free to use these powers as intended by this Parliament. Good, firm, effective policing will be rewarded, not questioned."

That is the national-security state at the state rather than federal level. Same rhetoric.


"The Opposition supports rushing the bill through the House, but there are some difficulties about it. Opposition members do not oppose the passage of the bill but we wish to highlight a number of concerns with it. The bill simply is not strong enough in almost all its provisions."

They are fighting over who can be tougher on crime. The legislation itself is secondary, it is the political projection of public opinion they are more concerned about.

Power of the media to influence public opinion; Conservative media orgs in NSW have demonstrated their ability to exploit and manipulate the anxieties and ignorance of working class anglos in the state. Packer, Stokes, Murdoch, Jones, et al hold a form of effective veto over government policy. Five days post the Cronulla race riots, Sydney commercial AM radio is still broadcasting 24/7 Arab bashing, they won’t let up. How can the NSW govt prevent islamophobic news broadcasting?
In the past Jones and other Sydney shock jocks have attempted to export their redneck talkback programs to Melbourne but all have ended in failure. Why are these orgs able to sell racism to the anglo working class in Sydney but not in Melbourne? I can only presume that working class anglos in Melbourne are better informed and educated on issues pertaining to race.

Further to my last message, I wonder if Irish australians were targeted by the media of the day during the course of the 1916 Irish rebellion and over Irish catholic opposition to concription during WW1.


Things have shifted on the street. Consider this report in the Sydney Morning Herald. We have vigilantes in Sydney.


you are right.The shock jocks in Sydney are a real problem.

How far do they go in defending vigilantes in the Arab bashing?

if you read this account of Australian conservatisnm by Geg Melleuish in the IPA Review you will see that there is nothing about the established authority of the state, or the use of violence.

Yet what matters for conservatism is that the established authority is not weakened, whereas what matters for liberals is to keep state power in check.
Conservatives do not object to coercion or arbitrary poweras long as it is used for the right purposes--to ensure social order or security and the authority of the state.

Once again we see conservatism surfacing in a liberal polity.

Gary, Still only a couple and not worth locking down whole suburbs for. Freedom of movement, association and property rights dont need to be trampled to stop a couple of idiots. The coppers have enough laws to work with already.

Have you read the global guerillas site? Courtesy of Iemma's legislation being enacted we have a virtual state on our beaches. It aint quite Sydney or NSW anymore. The government has made it into something else. Something that is hostile to socialisation, liberty and economy - under a permutation of police (martial) law.

Our beaches have become a failed state.