Study Notes

Anti-permissiveness (Conservatism)

A Level
AQA, Edexcel

Permissiveness refers to a situation in which behaviour that some people might disapprove of is allowed (often by a change in the law).

Therefore, anti-permissiveness refers to a lack of change in the law or society to allow such behaviour. Libertarian conservatives differ from neo-conservatives in their views on many lifestyle issues.

There is a particularly sharp distinction between conservatives and liberals over lifestyle issues. Liberalism celebrates the diversity of human life and emphasises tolerance. This even extends to the realm of sexual behaviour. For liberals, the key phrase is that of consenting adults. However, conservatives claim that the increased number of one-parent families, divorce, extra-marital affairs, contraceptive usage and a general decline in social mores undermine the social fabric. Such behaviour is particularly harmful to children; which experience has shown tend to grow and thrive within the security and stability offered by the conventional nuclear family. In a modern context, the Tory Party’s argument that Britain was a broken society under New Labour is consistent with this line of argument.

When considering anti-permissiveness, it should also be noted that certain strands of conservatism emphasise lifestyle issues more than others. For instance, libertarian conservatives take a more relaxed approach to such matters whereas neo-conservatives adopt a more traditional approach. This is a feature of American politics and the culture wars that divide the two main parties. Abortion has been described as the last great divide between Republicans and Democrats. Conservatives in the states argue that the pro-choice side of the debate champion the rights of the living over the as yet unclaimed demands of those yet to be born. On a related point, some of those rights for the living have been discovered from penumbras identified by unelected members of an unaccountable and out-of-touch judiciary. This forms part of the broader conservative critique of the ‘liberal’ judiciary.

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