Progressives vs conservatives: This is why we can’t just all get along by Will Jones for Christian Today
Since 2016 and the Brexit and Trump breakthroughs it is often said that the biggest divide in politics is between the ‘somewheres’ and the ‘anywheres’, the nationalists and the globalists. This is true, but it is also only one symptom of the deeper divide that exists on a number of fronts between conservatives and progressives.
This is the divide between those who believe the world has a given order that ought to be respected because it makes things go best in the long run, and those who do not believe this and think invoking such order is little more than a tool of oppression wielded by the powerful against those they exploit.
This social order which conservatives endorse and progressives renounce consists mainly of two fundamental principles: respect for the nation state with its associated national cultures and people groups, and respect for the family including the sanctity of marriage and the sacred bond between parents and children. Religious conservatives take this order to be God-ordained, a created order, whereas secular conservatives are content just to accept it as given and objective but not in need of supernatural explanation (though many secular conservatives remain respectful of the role of religion in culture).
Either way, this conservative respect for natural and social order contrasts sharply with the progressive outlook which is typically hostile to claims of inherent order in nature and society. Progressives tend to follow Marx in regarding such ideas as devices created by the powerful (in Marx’s case, the owners of capital, these days, more likely straight white men) to perpetuate inequalities and restrict people’s freedom of action.
Progressives and conservatives both say they want people to be happy, but they understand very differently what this involves. Whereas conservatives see happiness as emerging from respect for the natural and social order, for progressives almost the opposite is the case: the individual’s pursuit of happiness must as far as possible be achieved by not conforming to the social order. This is because to do so is to become complicit in oppression and to succumb to the ‘false consciousness’ of being happy when enslaved.