The Science Work
Site is for sale:
Category: History

Genesis of the American conservatism: from federalists to neoconservatives


© 2006 A.A. Hvorostyany


The political history of the USA, from the moment of origin of the American statehood and up to now, is inseparably linked with coexistence and the competition of two main, most influential ideological, socio-political, philosophical concepts - liberalism and conservatism. Stability of the American political system, her invariable two-party membership first of all is caused by rivalry of these dominating currents of a social and political and economic thought. Endured difficult process of internal evolution about almost 250-year history of the USA and conservatism, and liberalism, changed together with America, but steadily remained the most influential forces in political arena of the USA. In this regard it is impossible to underestimate their role in the American history.

"Conservative revolution" of the 1980th led to a conservatism prevalence in social and political life of the USA which remains still. Even the democrats who were in power from 1993 to 2001, in fact, continued, though with some reservations, an economic and political policy of three previous republican administrations. At the same time since 1995 the republicans received the majority of seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives of the American Congress. Preservation of influence of the conservative ideas was confirmed also by J. Bush Jr. victories at presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 who came to the power only with slightly updated program of "reyganizm".

Thus, studying the questions connected with origin of the American conservatism, its ideological base, internal evolution are represented extremely important and when studying the contemporary history of the USA.

In domestic literature, especially during the Soviet period, attempts of judgment of influence of the ideological, philosophical concepts dominating during any given period of the American history on the policy pursued by Washington were repeatedly made. It is possible to refer A.Yu. Melvil., E.I. Popova, K.E. Razlogov, V.V. So-grin's works to their number, etc. [1-6]. At the same time these researches published generally in the first half of the 1980th at indisputable richness of the actual material and depth of the analysis of separate provisions, inevitably bear the impress in themselves tendentiousness, the ideological bias which were, in fact, obligatory attributes when studying the American political history during this period. This circumstance leaves the field for a research of the specified perspective and now.

A task of the present article is detection of the fundamental ideas which are been the basis for the conservative direction of a social and political thought of the USA, consideration of their development and the evolution during the American history which led finally to emergence of "neoconservatism", already a quarter of the century dominating in the American political philosophy.

Already during the war of independence of 1776-1783 among political establishment of North American colonies two most influential currents took shape. The first was represented by the so-called "democrats" seeking for broad transformations of political system on the basis of the ideas of classical British liberalism, the theory of "the public contract" of Hobbes-Loka and domination of the representative bodies of the power designed to provide observance of this contract. The second - "moderate", i.e. that part of North American elite which supported the republican ideas of independence of the mother country, but at the same time sought to keep and strengthen that power which they already had in hands by means of participation in colonial councils at governors before war.

The nature of the war of independence which captured the wide layers of the American society, antimonarchical moods dominating in the released colonies rejection of the idea of concentration of the power in hands of one person or narrow group of persons led democrats to the victory. In 1781 the first constitution of the USA - "Articles of Confederation" on which the main completeness of the power was allocated for parliaments of states - le-gistraturam [7] was adopted.

However the mechanism of functioning of executive power was not accurately stated in the Constitution, there was practically no principle of division of the authorities, powers of the federal government were insufficiently accurately issued in legal relations. In real political practice these costs generated an array of problems, not allowing the authorities of the young republic to work rather effectively.

Shortcomings of "Articles of Confederation" underwent sharp criticism from the "federalists" who became, in fact, the first conservative political group in the USA. It is necessary to make a reservation that conservatism, in its classical look, was ideologically issued a bit later, in Chateaubriand's works, Byorka, etc., trying to find an ideological alternative to the Education which generated the Great French revolution. Nevertheless the ideas which were moving forward leaders of federalists - A. Hamilton, J. Madison, J. Jay - on the Constitutional convention of 1787 in Philadelphia quite keep within a classical conservative paradigm. So, the specified leaders acted as supporters of need of the strong central government which would hold the person by nature imperfect and subject to sinful falling in a legal framework. Besides, as society is a harmonious, God-given social organism, it is necessary to protect it from ra-

dikalny transformations, and existence of elite in this regard is the key to reasonable public order, etc. [8].

Many ideas of federalists found the reflection in the Constitution of 1787 which is still the backbone of the American statehood and democracy.

Under the new Constitution the president given wide powers and elected not by direct elections, but electoral college nominated by legistratura from states that became reflection of the idea about value of the educated elite as opposed to "democratism of common people" became the head of state. The constitution proclaimed also supremacy of the federal right over the right of states [8, page 303, 308, 310]. Under pressure of federalists extremely rigid system of amending the basic law was approved that had to promote protection of the American political organization against radical transformations. Also the well-known system of "controls and counterbalances" which provided mutual control of various branches of the power was designed to serve the same purpose. The refusal of its participants to include the Bill of the rights in the Constitution became the evidence of domination on the Philadelphian convention of conservative moods also. And though in 1789. The bill of the rights nevertheless was entered into the Constitution in the form of the first ten amendments, conservatism of the most part of participants of convention does not raise doubts.

Nevertheless in the 1810th as bright leaders of federalists quitted the political scene, and the conservative camp of the USA endured ideological stagnation, in the American society the tendency to democratization begins to be shown more and more persistently. This trend first of all was connected with the fact that progress of industrial revolution allowed to create conditions for appearance of mass electorate - small businessmen, farmers, dealers who were also seeking to take part in political life of the USA.

In these conditions the federalists could not develop a little adequate program and left political arena of the USA. Respubli - the Kansk Democratic Party of the USA broke up to two fractions: Whigs and democrats.

Whigs tried to be fixed on the conservative flank, having opposed suffrage expansion. In realities of the 1830-1840th it could not bring to them great popularity, especially taking into account that Whigs sought to close eyes to the main problem, the concerning America of that time, - slavery.

In the 1850th the two-party system underwent new transformation. Abolitionists of both parties, Whigs and democrats, created own Republican Party. This struck mortal blow to Whigs who soon stopped the existence. The new party supported about enough radical liberal positions business development, free competition, democratization of society, release of slaves, etc.

At the same time the democratic party created by T. Jefferson and during more half a century being a stronghold of the liberal ideas in the USA, passed to conservative positions. But conservatism, in its southern version, significantly differed from the ideological system of a federalistic sample dominating at the beginning of the 19th century in the northeast of the USA. The southern interpretation of conservatism reflected, first of all, the aspiration of planters slaveholders to keep the internal way, the economic structure which was based on operation of work of black slaves. At the same time democrats appealed to traditions of old aristocratic feudal Europe, saw themselves successors of its ideology, morals, ethics in the New World. In this regard their conservatism is close to the ideas of Chateaubriand seeing in preservation of feudal orders in Europe guarantee of forward development, stability as opposed to the cataclysms in the socio-political sphere interfaced to industrial revolution and bourgeois transformations. The statement that society is given to the person from God became one of cornerstones of an ideological system of democrats, has no "contractual" nature and consequently, the sinfulness of attempts of his radical transformation is obvious [1, page 83].

The vast majority of the white population of the South of the USA was consolidated on the basis of conservative ideology of democrats in the aspiration to keep the existing social and economic structure that inevitably attracted to violent confrontation with the bourgeois North which rallied around the liberal ideas.

Civil war of 1861-1865 and the Reconstruction which followed it struck a crushing blow at slaveholding plantatorsky economy, considerably undermined positions of democratic party. Seeking to strengthen the positions in the south, to guarantee domination of the bourgeois and liberal world order, republicans held in the south a number of events for democratization of the region. The civil rights were in full guaranteed to the former slaves, black Americans were included into power structures of the southern states, their economic situation and the social status considerably improved [6].

Nevertheless this liberal "idyll" existed not for long. The victory in civil war and progress of Reconstruction guaranteed maintaining unity of the country and irreversibility of bourgeois transformations. As V.V. Sogrin noted, "the place of the former slaveholding class was taken by capitalist nouveau riches and the new political class connected first of all with Republican Party" [6].

Thus, again, as well as after the war of independence, preservation and consolidation of fruits of the victory became the main objective of political elite of the North. The changed tasks caused also changes in ideology. The liberalism dominating from 1850th in Republican Party was replaced by new reading of bourgeois conservatism. The milestone event which marked transformation of republican ideology

there was a so-called "compromise of 1877". It was that democrats agreed to go for falsification of results of presidential elections on which the victory was gained by their candidate Samuel Tilden, in exchange for the Reconstruction termination in the south.

Success of this political trick allowed democrats to hold a number of the events violating the rights of the black population, and also the poorest layers white in the south of the country. Introduction of a selective tax and qualification of literacy therefore the number of voters in the southern states was reduced by the beginning of the 20th century to 20% became such measure, in particular.

At the same time during the period from 1880 to the 1900th the ideological and political differences between republicans and democrats were reduced significantly. Both parties were closely connected with financial and industrial groups, lobbied their interests, at the same time even organizationally and structurally reminding large corporations. Stay in the White House of weak and dependent presidents and also huge influence of large business on political life of the country is characteristic of this period of the American history.

In an ideological arsenal of both democrats, and republicans the leading place was allocated to classical conservative theses: first, about value of property as main means of achievement of personal liberty and consolidation of a social order, and secondly, about a role of the elite acting as guarantors of stable social system.

In spite of the fact that at the beginning of the 20th century such social and political currents as "progressionists" and "populists", promoted a certain liberalization of the American political life that in particular was expressed in adoption of the law which obliged deputies of the Congress to publish sources of financing of the election campaigns (1910) and the bill, limited the volume of this financing (1911), in general conservatism [6] remained the main discourse of social and political life still. In the 1920th which became history of the USA as an era of "prosperita", voters steadily gave preference to conservative leaders of republicans - to U. Gardingu, K. Coolidge and G. Hoover. At the same time for the 20th the decline of a conservative era is necessary.

Begun in the fall of 1929. "The great depression" struck a crushing blow at the American conservatism after which it could never revive in the former, classical look any more. The radical reforms of "a new course" which included state regulation of the prices and outputs, activity of banking sector and also social insurance of the unemployed, old-age pensions, seemed inconceivable several years ago. Nevertheless these radical measures allowed the United States to get out of an abyss of the economic crisis which changed America, to her politician, economy and ideology.

Unprecedented, quadruple re-election of F.D. Roosevelt for the U.S. presidency, eighteen-year stay of democrats in power,

convincingly testified in favor of popularity and influence in the society of actions of "a new course".

Only in 1951 the republicans managed to return to the White House. At the same time the victory of the popular general, hero of World War II D. Eisenhower at presidential elections of 1950 did not mean conservatism restoration at all. Eisenhower wrote in the diary: "We should pacify and appeal to reason of thick-headed conservatives, and ignore completely and if it is necessary to fight back them. Once any party cancels social security, to liquidate government programs in the field of work and agriculture, about this party will not hear in the American history any more" [9, page 411-412].

Thus if about the period of the 1870-1920th it is possible to speak as about an era of conservative consensus, then the 1930-1970th became time of domination of the liberal ideas. At the same time, certainly, also the liberalism changed. The ideas of the state intervention in economy were absolutely opposite to republican liberalism of the middle of the 19th century. During a specified period the American liberals continued to use the classical liberal ideas about equal rights, fight against a segregation in the south, freedom of thought, religions, etc. complemented with Keynesian model of state regulation of economy.

In the field of domestic policy the main differences between republicans and democrats were that if the first recognized achievements of "a new course" and sought to keep them, then the second supported continuation of business of Roosevelt, a bigger expansion of the regulating functions of the state, fight against poverty, creation of "great society" [10, t. 2, page 244]. Besides, republicans stood on positions of protection of traditional American religious and family values, the basis of their electorate was formed by natives of so-called WAP (white - the Anglo-Saxon puritan) layers of the American society while democrats spoke out in defense of all American minorities - racial, religious, national, sexual, etc. In their electorate much more, than at republicans, Catholics, black, other minorities were presented.

Certain differences between the main American parties were available also in the foreign policy sphere. If republicans were focused on the pragmatic course assuming a possibility of peaceful co-existence with the USSR and the countries of a socialist camp on the basis of power control and the partition of the world into spheres of influence (despite rhetoric of "the doctrine of release" which and remained no more than political slogan), then democrats recognized, first of all, what the USA as the leader of "free world", have to help as much as possible including military, to all countries fighting against communistic totalitarianism. This course brought the USA into Korea and Vietnam, it nearly put the world before threat of a nuclear Armageddon during the Caribbean Crisis of 1962

Nevertheless, all aforesaid distinctions had obviously no considerably - go, basic character. The ideas of state regulation of economy and social guarantees to the population were the cornerstone of programs of both political parties. However since the end of the 1960th the United States began to experience the difficulties undermining fundamental bases of the liberal concepts.

Extremely expanded government, widespread introduction of social programs, active foreign policy which deification was a war in Vietnam extremely negatively affected a condition of the American economy already from the second half of the 1960th the Watergate scandal, for the first time in the history of the USA ended with an impeachment to the president, and the serious energy crisis of 1972-1975 was strengthened by pessimism of the American society, its political and intellectual elite. These moods, in turn, generated disappointment with a course of the last decades, stimulated attempts of reconsideration of political experience for the purpose of overcoming the crisis accepting system character. In this regard more and more representatives of the American establishment turned the looks to the conservative camp.

However to the middle of the 1970th the conservatism still endured the period of deep split and decline. Radical libertarizm and traditionalism and also "moderate", republican conservatism were its main currents.

The Libertaristsky group was originally created on the far-right flank of Republican Party, but in 1971 left its structure, having tried to create the, third party. The Austrian economist F. Hayek emigrating to the USA became one of the main ideologists of this current. In the book "Way to Slavery" he put forward a number of the theses which formed the basis of libertaristsky ideology:

>- any planning of economy and intervention of the state directly leads to political dictatorship;

>- the main dilemma for the American society of those years was as follows - planning (tyranny) or the competition (freedom);

>- any collectivism is totalitarian;

>- the only recovery from the crisis - return to classical liberalism, the 19th century, characteristic of Republican Party of the middle, with the principles of free competition of an individual enterprise initiative peculiar to it [1, page 78].

Other prominent theorist of a libertarizm R. McBride wrote: "The market economy exempted from the state intervention is not only the only moral decision for America and the rest of the world, but also the only way of recovery of economic health and prosperity". The social security system, according to libertarist, represents "the infinite act of robbery" [1, page 83].

In foreign policy the libertarist also addressed isolationism, traditional for the 19th century. They demanded an exit of the USA from the UN, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund, the termination of any state help, even to allies as "the help of one state is based on socialist prerequisites and promotes distribution of socialism and economic stagnation" [1, page 83].

Libertarist and the policy of the federal government in relation to a socialist camp criticized. So, K. Hess with bitterness wrote: "Conservatives like me spent the whole lives for criticism of the federal authority, but with one exception. We trusted Washington with its huge power in fight against global communism. We were not right... Vietnam proved to all conservatives that as soon as you believe in the big government... you become the supporter of genocide" [1, page 63].

Other direction of a conservative thought, opposite to a libertarizm, traditionalism was. In fact, polemic of traditionalists and libertarist was revival of discussions of the middle of the 19th century between republican liberal and democrat conservatives. So, wrote Weaver about the southern conservative tradition which basis is formed by "the feudal organization of society", "a knights ideal", "concepts of the gentleman" and "old nonintellectual religiousness" [1, page 63]. Traditionalists supported continuity of "great conservative tradition in the USA". The American constitutionalism, in their interpretation, is a successor of "the British constitutional tradition", "the great charter" [1, page 63].

It is obvious that by the end of the 20th century traditionalism, with his ecstasy patriarchal ideals of the Middle Ages, the radical libertarizm which was absolutely rejecting the regulating function of the state, demonizing the federal government and calling for foreign policy isolation could not be approved quality of a real ideological alternative of the strategy put by "a new course". "Moderate" republican conservatism also was in deep crisis, was associated with political scandals and economic difficulties of administrations of Nixon-Ford, with defeat in Vietnam. It was necessary to develop new competitive ideological, political and economic system which, combining the ideas of various currents and directions, could become a real alternative to "a new course".

Active development of such strategy begins with the middle of the 1970th in leaders conservative "factories of a thought" - Guverovsky institute of war, revolution and the world, the American enterprise institute, Heritage Foundation, etc. The public could examine theoretical creation of supporters of the arising direction on pages of the magazines "Kommentri", "Public Opinyon", "Neshenel Interest", etc.

The main defect of modern American society adherents of the new direction, soon okreshchyonny "neoconservatism", announced "revolution of the growing claims". The system of social insurance guaranteed by "a new course" generated at many Americans "aspiration to receiving all of the new and new benefits in the increasing and bigger volume", at the same time this volume is defined "not biological", and "psychological factors" [1, page 99]. This "revolution" promoted distribution of dependant moods, undermining thereby traditional American values: diligence, initiative, enterprise. Their destruction caused decomposition of moral foundations of the nation, growth of protest moods, nihilism - the which reached the peak in the late sixties

The main tasks, according to developers of "neo-Conservative" strategy, was restriction of social programs of the state, reduction in taxes (including on an excess profit), encouragement of a private initiative. It had to promote revival of "the American character" and economic recovery. In foreign policy the neoconservatives apprehended traditionally democratic motives about a messianic role of the USA as leader of the free world in its fight against "the world evil" which roots leave by V. Wilson's period, and after World War II to Truman, Kennedy and Johnson's administrations [1, page 197].

Thus, the concept of neoconservatism is based on broad synthesis of the ideas of various directions. From a libertarizm it was taken, though in much the softened option, the idea about restriction of intervention of the state in economy, development of a private initiative and the competition as guarantee of improvement of economy. The appeal to "the American character", Puritan morals and ethics as opposed to moral decay and nihilism of ultraliberals became a curtsey towards traditionalists. From democrats, perhaps, even in more rigid look, the foreign policy doctrine was apprehended.

At the same time this harmonious, on pages of the academic magazines, the concept could and remain only theoretical development if did not draw attention of large business of the USA and the leader of the right wing of republicans - R. Reagan. It which was neoconservatism the basis for the election program of republicans in 1980 managed to inform of the ideas of theorists ordinary voters, to provide them rather broad support including thanks to uncommon communicative abilities of Reagan.

Having come to the power in 1981, Reagan's administration started the wide program of economic reforms soon christened by "reaganomics". It included reduction of a number of social programs, restriction of the state intervention in economy, reduction in taxes, sharp increase in defense expenditures, etc. And though the majority of these reforms was winded actually up during the second presidential term of Reyga-

on, and one of main goals - elimination of federal budget deficit was not executed, there are all bases to speak about success of the neo-Conservative project of the 1980th. First, since 1983 in the American economy nevertheless GDP growth began, growth rates of inflation and unemployment rate were a little reduced. Secondly, the main foreign policy goal was achieved - the USSR was economically exhausted, a socialist camp was in a fever and at Reagan's receiver J. Bush Sr. the Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact stopped the existence. And though, apparently, pressure of the USA nevertheless had no so significant effect on the collapse of the USSR, leaving from political arena of the main military-political and ideological opponent, certainly, was enlisted in an asset of neoconservatives.

The solution of this task allowed to release in the 1990th billions of dollars from the military-industrial sector on development of civil industries of the American economy. At the same time the wide program of development of hi-tech weapon gave a powerful spur to the development of the knowledge-intensive branches of economy, including microelectronics continuing and next decade.

That fact, as today, later quarter of the century after development of neo-Conservative strategy it, developing and being supplemented, is the cornerstone of a political policy of the USA, is an evidence of success of the neo-Conservative project.

Thus it is obvious that in almost 220 years which passed since the Constitutional convention in Philadelphia, the American conservatism passed a big way of internal development. At the end of the 18th century the creation of the effective balanced political system which would be capable to provide harmonious functioning of the government of the young North American republic was the main task of conservatives. The ideas about protection of the state by means of the legal mechanisms put in the Constitution, from radical transformations, value of the "educated elite" which is the guarantor of stable forward development of society were the basis for this political system.

In HZh of century the American conservatism endured two "versions". Its "southern" interpretation was born in the period of aggravation of contradictions between the North and the South of the USA. The conservative ideology of the southern states consisted in aspiration to preservation of the plantatorsky economic and economic way based on slave work. At the same time the southern conservatism saw itself the successor of aristocratic political tradition of feudal Europe which is a counterbalance to liberalism of commerce and industry "common people" of the North.

After the end of civil war and successful "reconstruction" of the southern states this "version" lost the ideological influence owing to the fact that economic differences between the North and the South were in many respects leveled, there was a consolidation of political elite. Maintaining the social and economic advantages got in

the course of civil war, ensuring interests of large business became its main goal. It generated new reading of conservatism. Now non-interference of the state to economy and the social sphere was regarded as of paramount importance, the market appeared the most effective and the natural regulating mechanism.

However the global economic crisis and the "great depression" which began after it struck mortal blow to "classical" conservatism of the end of H1H - the beginnings of the 20th century. At the same time transformations of "a new course", though led to domination of liberalism during almost half a century, laid the foundation of the certain social and economic problems shown nearly forty years later. Extremely expanded government, considerable social payments, falling of a private initiative and growth of taxation led to considerable delay of growth rates of the American economy.

Managed to find a solution the developed problems with the help of the new conservative current which arose in the late seventies - the neoconservatism combining, on the one hand, reduction of intervention of the state in economy, a certain reduction in taxes, stimulation of a private initiative with preservation of certain social guarantees to the population. Within already twenty five years this current dominates in social and political life of the USA.

At the same time experience of the last decades indicates that any ideological system, during all American history, did not manage to keep the domination more than 30-40 years, so, quite possibly, in the nearest future we can become witnesses of new radical shift of conceptual fundamentals of the American policy and ideology.

1. Yu.A. Melvil. Social philosophy of modern American conservatism. M, 1978.
2. Yu.A. Melvil. The USA - shift to the right? M, 1986.
3. MelvilYu. And., RazlogovK.E. Counterculture and new conservatism. M, 1981.
4. E.I. Popova. Foreign policy of the USA in the American ideology. M, 1985.
5. SogrinV.B. Ideology in the American history. M, 1985.
6. V.V. Sogrin. Reinterpreting the American democracy: genesis, stages, present//USA and Canada: policy, economy, culture. 2002. No. 5.
7. American presidents. Rostov N / D, 1997.
8. American federalists: Hamilton, Madison, Jay: Izbr. articles. Benzon, Vermont, 1990.
9. YakovlevN.H. Silhouettes of Washington. M, 1983.
10. P. Johnson. Present: In 2 TM, 1995.

Rostov state university On November 22, 2005

Solberg Sven
Other scientific works: