Quotations about conservatives and conservatism, historically and at present. Some definitions of conservativism are around opposing social and cultural change and supporting tradition or socially traditional ideas. Others are about favoring unfettered free enterprise and private ownership. Reactionaries are extreme conservatives, opposing modernization and wanting to return to a social order from the past.

Following are some reflections about conservatism, pro and con, with a few even trying to be neutral and objection.

That man’s the true Conservative
Who lops the mouldered branch away.

— Alfred Lord Tennyson

Conservatives may be right when they argue that the government should not try to determine executive pay packages. But conservatives should at least be willing to speak out against unseemly behavior in corporate boardrooms with the same moral force, the same sense of outrage that they direct against dirty rap lyrics.

— Barack Obama

All conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change.

— G. K. Chesterton

Man made one grave mistake: in answer to vaguely reformist and humanitarian agitation he admitted women to politics and the professions. The conservatives who saw this as the undermining of our civilization and the end of the state and marriage were right after all; it is time for the demolition to begin.

— Germaine Greer

Senator Goldwater would have been a great success in the movies — working for 18th century Fox.

— Hubert H. Humphrey

There are three classes of men; the retrograde, the stationary and the progressive.

— Johann Kaspar Lavater

At the core of conservative social policy about race are old ideas that link racial inequality to non-traditional family formation and its attendant culture of poverty.

— Kimberlé Crenshaw

Evolution provides a scientific foundation for the core values shared by most Christians and conservatives, and by accepting — and embracing — the theory of evolution, Christians and conservatives strengthen their religion, their politics, and science itself. The conflict between science and religion is senseless. It is based on fears and misunderstandings rather than on facts and moral wisdom.

— Michael Shermer, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design

Conservatives, who have presumed that the key to preventing AIDS is abstinence-only education, and liberals, who have focused on distribution of condoms, should both note that the intervention that has tested most cost-effective in Africa is neither… Secular bleeding hearts and religious bleeding hearts will have to forge a common cause.

— Nicholas D. Kristof

There are no conservatives in the United States. The United States does not have a conservative tradition. The people who call themselves conservatives, like the Heritage Foundation or Gingrich, are believers in — are radical statists. They believe in a powerful state, but a welfare state for the rich.

— Noam Chomsky

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.

— Paulo Freire

Society, community, family are all conserving institutions. They try to maintain stability, and to prevent, or at least to slow down, change. But the organization of the post-capitalist society of organizations is a destabilizer. Because its function is to put knowledge to work — on tools, processes, and products; on work; on knowledge itself — it must be organized for constant change.

— Peter F. Drucker

The two parties which divide the state, the party of Conservatism and that of Innovation, are very old, and have disputed the possession of the world ever since it was made.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Conservatism makes no poetry, breathes no prayer, has no invention; it is all memory. Reform has no gratitude, no prudence, no husbandry

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘The Conservative’

Conservatism is more candid to behold another’s worth; reform more disposed to maintain and increase its own.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘The Conservative’

We are reformers in spring and summer; in autumn and winter, we stand by the old; reformers in the morning, conservers at night.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘The Conservative’

Conservatism stands on man’s confessed limitations; reform on his indisputable infinitude; conservatism on circumstance; liberalism on power; one goes to make an adroit member of the social frame; the other to postpone all things to the man himself; conservatism is debonnair and social; reform is individual and imperious.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘The Conservative’
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