Jake Scott: Conservatism is the true refuge for troubled youth

Recent discussions around conservatism have considered how it can appeal to young people. In fact it is already appealing more and more to young people. Yes, I am well aware that young people’s voting record challenges this assertion. However the growth of online groups such as Young Tory Society, UK Young Conservatives and Unionists Online, Young Liberal Society and The Britannia Alliance tells a different story. Whatever the recent appeal of Mr Corbyn, polling shows Generation Z to be the most conservative since World War Two.

In his article The Communitarian Critique of Liberalism, Michael Walzer explains why political liberalism is so deeply unsatisfactory in terms of four ‘mobilities’ that define contemporary Western culture. It is in the reaction to these we see the seeds of why conservatism appeals to young people, a demographic traditionally associated with liberal-Leftism.

‘If you aren’t a liberal before thirty, you don’t have a heart', Walzer wrote in America at the end of the 1980s. American capitalism’s over-reliance on individualism had severed the ties between people and their homes, he observed, when the (necessary) economic liberalisation of the free market had displaced traditional loyalties in favour of hyper-mobility, rootless wandering and hollow individualism.

No wonder since the Blair years and the tearing down of every institution but the market – a trend the Conservative Party has seemed unwilling to reverse – young people have likewise found themselves without a real sense of belonging, as if their only loyalty is to themselves and their own ambitions, but leaving them with a deep sense of longing, a desire perhaps to find that somewhere that we can call ours. Conservatism offers, if not the answer, the route to the answer.

Walzer’s first reason for the loss of identity is 'geographic mobility’. Young people move school several times in their life. Then comes university, a major factor of geographic mobility. Multiple job changes are further contributors to instability. This is without considering that so many young people’s lives have been disrupted physically by parents' divorce, or family moves. No wonder, then, that many young people have no attachment to a particular place.

In answer, conservatism is a philosophy of belonging; at the macro-level appealing to the nation as a communal home, a vessel for culture, language, custom, tradition and all the vestiges of identity garnered from generations of shared history. So, while we may feel like colliding atoms in our day-to-day lives, it is a recognition of this country, our home, as a place to belong that offers the remedy to geographic mobility. It is the fact that a Cornishman can travel to York, to Coventry, to Anglesey, always feeling at home.

On the micro-level too, conservatism offers an answer. Joining clubs, founding our own societies, campaigning with charities, praying in churches, synagogues and mosques – all of this provides us with a sense of belonging, by stressing that it is the community that provides us with an identity.

And, on a less spiritual and more material plane, it is for this reason that conservatives place so much emphasis on home ownership. It is the motive behind Mrs Thatcher’s ‘property-owning democracy’ and the current Conservative government’s push for house ownership as opposed to merely renting social housing from the state. It is in the home that we can mark out a territory that is free from state interference. As Roger Scruton poetically put it, if I own a home I can not only shut out the world I do not want, but I can let in the world that I do. If a society is built on all of us having a place that is mine, it will necessarily lead to a society that we can share.

The second reason for identity loss that Walzer discusses is ‘social mobility’, although his emphasis is not on how that term is typically understood. Walzer stresses the role of education in the loss of communal identity, arguing that ‘fewer Americans stand where their parents stood’ and that ‘the passing on of beliefs or customary ways is uncertain at best’. The educational system in England has continuously moved away from knowledge of, or belief in, our country, whilst imbuing young people with a sense of rejection of their parents’ past.



How can conservativism answer this problem? There are two main points of recognition: the first is that family life is still the most important part of society. Your family gives you everything up to a certain point, and guides you through the rest of your life after that. It is our parents’ love and guidance that exposes us to the multitude of influences we inevitably share. The second is tradition, which is not a series of chains constructed to keep you in place, but rather the beaten path through a treacherous world. The recognition that tradition is a form of social knowledge – of enduring answers to long-forgotten questions – opens your eyes to its value, and the importance of listening to the voice of generations long gone.

Following this, Walzer suggests a third contributor to a loss of social identity: 'marital mobility'. To Walzer, the collapse of families contributes fatally to the loss of social identity. 'Insofar as home is the first community and the first school of ethnic identity and religious conviction, this kind of breakage must have countercommunitarian consequences.’ Once the value of family is seen young people, having experienced the downside of instability, will want to build their own strong family units, where they can pass on their own traditions.

Walzer points in conclusion to the 'institutional instability' generated by a decline in identity created by the above three mobilities, as loyalty to the old bonds that traditionally determine voting behaviour – family, community, tradition, economic class –have declined and the old institutions of authority – church, local association, unions, monarchy, Parliament – have been undermined, and no longer offer the loci of identity around which socio-political duty can be based. Instead, selfish interest governs individuals’ decisions.

It is in face of this disintegration that conservatism once again appeals to young people, revealing itself in small ways, for example that visits to church buildings are reported to have inspired young people to convert to Christianity.

Roger Scruton’s theory of modern Leftism identifies the modern 'culture of repudiation’ which centres around the phenomenon of oikophobia and which he describes as the rejection of the old symbols of home. In response, conservatism can become a philosophy of oikophilia, a way of helping young people find a place – physically, spiritually, politically, socially – in an otherwise hostile global world. Conservatism must become the philosophy of coming home.

Jake Scott

  • Waggler

    And yet, remaining a local is essential for a male Brit to stand a chance of qualifying for social housing. Leave the jurisdiction of your council and it doesn’t want to know you.

    Leaving, studying, working, earning, saving and buying your home are the essential processes for a male hopefully joined by a female in preparation for starting a family.

    Earning enough to support our family, community and ourselves then becomes the driving force for national prosperity.

  • Uusikaupunki

    This nation was our home….it’s beginning to look to me more and more as a place I don’t recognise.

    • Jenny Keane

      Thanks to Blairs Diversity plan!

  • Tricia

    Wonderful to know that some young people are wanting to turn the tide! My granddaughter is 20 years old and has just been encouraged to look towards Directorship in a company. I just hope that she can meet a young man with conservative traditional ideas of marriage, who will be willing to work at creating home and family. I think many young people are looking at their grandparents generation and seeing that it is possible to live together for 50 or 60 years and they would like some of that stability. Unfortunately the Conservative Party is a Liberal party and that needs to change! Cameron has done almost as much damage to society as Blair and Theresa was his side-kick.

    • Jenny Keane

      Yes how I agree. I think the fact theat so many Grandparents have bee shuffled off into Care Home has moved ‘Family Life’ too far forward. A whole generation is missing out on that vital link to who and what they are. Chatting to Grand Parents was part of growing up Due to people moving around the Country, Divorce, The Financial crisis which caused huge social displacement for so many, young people have grown up in a socially insecure period. They have too much time to introspect, to self-examine to question themselves, hence we have this huge Mental Health crisis. I would bet that much of the Mental Health issue is lack of someone to chat to, to discuss feaars and doubts with, someone who will actually reassure, whilst actually listening and finding out what the root problem is. Young speak more to an instrument than a person, a phone cannot give a loving hug, hold a hand, it is an object. It has no empathy or feeling, no warmth or understanding. So we have a confused young generation and a lonely old generation. It is pretty obvious why young are lonely and need human company, it is refelected in their Grand Parents who are lonely and need human comcany!

  • Damaris Tighe

    Wonderful summary of conservative philosophy Jake.

  • Nick Muir

    If conservatism is the true refuge of youth they’re keeping it well concealed. I was in the Midland Hotel in Manchester during the last party conference. Let’s just say that it reassembled a scene from the Fall of the House of Usher. If the yoof were there they were well hidden.

    • Sargv

      It’s wishful thinking, most of it.

      There is a massive general unhappiness with the status quo among the youngest generations, and some of them (aforementioned “GenZ” – right-wingers even call them “Zyklons” even poll as significantly more right-wing than Millennials and Boomers on some dimensions (more so around racial relationships, esp. in the US; but they are the most liberal on all things sexual at the same time).

      But that backlash is not conservative, and it’s not aligned to any existing political party. It’s hardly political at all – i.e. Alt-Right movement is 100% cultural, and treats Conservatives worse then Liberals (“first hit for a traitor”).

      • Nick Muir

        During the last election I was out shopping in the local Coop. I saw a crowd of around 100+ in the car park and went to investigate. It was the ward Labour party preparing to go canvassing. I chatted to a few of them. They were all young and very open and friendly. The conservatives did not campaign in my constituency. Go figure.

  • The party need to do far more to get involved with social media and get activists to ensure that the Tories have as big a presence as the other parties. I think that there are too many in the party who take the snobbish view that it’s ‘not for them’, to the younger generation this shows that they are ‘out of touch’ with modern youth.

    • Blazeaway

      The Conservatives are not conservative.

      • Perhaps not, but my comment remains if they are to stand any chance against left wing activists who have nothing else to do.

  • Stinky Britches

    Good article. A pretty decent outline of a sound and sensible basic conservative philosophy.

    Now if only we had a decent conservative party to adopt such a position.

  • therealguyfaux ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    “The business of Progressives is to keep on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to keep mistakes from being corrected.” — G.K. Chesterton

    All you need do to convince younger people of the essential preferability of Conservatism, i.e., individual liberty, over Progressivism, i.e., collectivism in pursuit of a chimera called “social justice,” is to pose the question: “Which philosophy accommodates the other’s viewpoint better?” I.E., William F. Buckley, to the effect of, “Liberals claim they are willing to countenance differing opinions, and are then shocked to discover that there ARE differing opinions.”

    It is well and fine that one feel that one “belongs,” that one has a “home,” whether literal or metaphorical, but the Conservative says that this sense of where “home” is has evolved in ways that have worked to the advantage of most of the people most of the time. Progressives counter that far too many people have felt they are left out far too often. However, lest the Progressives lose their self-declared moral high ground, they will concede no ground to the Conservatives.

    The Conservatives, for their part, say, “Good. You’re entitled to your opinions. Just don’t force them on ME.” If the Progressives’ vision of society is enacted, the Oakeshottian “tendency towards Conservatism” is thwarted, leaving nobody ever quite sure where “home” is, and a feeling that “We may have come far enough for now, and need to take a deep breath” is derided as at a minimum “complacency” and at a maximum condemned and punished as “anti-societal.”

    George Orwell observed that the pacifist rags were still being published after the declaration of war in 1939 precisely because it was felt that, as they could not possibly induce enough people into defeatism to where they posed a real danger, it was more trouble than it was worth (and bad publicity to boot, considering who the enemy was and the sort of society THEY had) to shut them down. In a society where people create their own communities and do not have ones forced upon them, i.e., the American First Amendment freedom of association ideal, people feel more at ease. It should have been possible all along to have laughed some of the more ridiculous “Social Justice” schemes out of existence, but interference by the State, whether by the Government of the day, or by the official church, or by the state broadcaster (to name only a few institutions) to stifle the laughter of the populace, emboldened the nutters and intimidated the for-want-of-a-better-term normals.

    Were the thumb in favour of “downtrodden minority viewpoint du jour” taken off the scale, people might feel more at ease being “normal,” and varying gradations of “Conservatism” would more easily take root and bear fruit.

  • Sargv

    It might be a bold statement for TCW, but morality is not given, but instrumental. It shifts when the World changes. Some things define our current World, and those are cheap fossil fuel (=globalism), anti-biotics (=low infant mortality + promiscuity without consequences + longevity = ageing society) and the massive soft-socialist state that buys voters loyalty with money borrowed from future generations on the premise of stellar work ethics – and luck – of their grand-grand-grandparents.

    All of the above are finite resources. None of it will last another century.

    Without fossils, we’ll be back to localism: no cheap flights to Spain, no imported food from Peru, no Chinese electronic goods, no easy social mobility.

    Without antibiotics, sex will be dangerous again, so chastity will be a virtue; infant mortality will require from women to give births to many, which will means extended education will be the wasted on them; the sexes will polarise again; longevity will drop, and all the populations will be much younger.

    Without the massive state, there’ll be no redistribution of wealth. Inequality will shoot through the roof. People will start to self-segregate and self-police. Communities and extended families become much more important.

    But in general, the world will be impoverished and grim.

    Liberalism is merely a social consequence of prosperity. We allow our kids and neighbours to recklessly chose their ways because we have enough resources to bail them out when they fail. When there are not enough resources for a safety net, societies tend to cement sure-way, safe-bet paths through life, which are aligned around biological realities and enforce them on the youth to save them from future troubles.

    Our current indolent and luxury lifestyle was enabled by a few almost magical findings. We do not replenish them anywhere close to “fast enough”. Young people grasp that – it’s in the air.