Defence of inequality has always been a core principle of the Conservative Party in Britain. Yet the Conservatives have enjoyed great electoral success in a British society marked by widespread inequalities of wealth and income. This important new book initially examines the intellectual and political arguments which Conservatives use to justify inequality, including Conservative ideas about human nature, the apparent inevitability of inequality as indicated by historical trends and the way in which Conservatives link economic inequality with individual freedom. This study also notes how Conservatives themselves disagree over how much inequality is desirable or acceptable. Should inequality be unlimited, in order to promote liberty, incentives and rewards? Or should inequality be kept within certain bounds to prevent social breakdown and political upheaval? These debates within the Conservative Party have become even more relevant since Margaret Thatcher's leadership in the 1980s, and they continue today as David Cameron pledges to heal a 'broken society'. This book ends by examining how the Conservative Party has attracted considerable support from less well-off sections of British society, those who might otherwise have been expected to support political parties promoting equality. This wide-ranging study will be particularly valuable to students interested in the ideas and debates surrounding British Conservatism, past and present. It will also be of great interest to readers wanting to understand how the Conservative Party proved so successful electorally during most the twentieth century, to the extent that it attracted the support of up to one-third of the working class, thereby deflecting the potential challenge of socialism. Indeed, the Conservative Party has enjoyed significant opinion poll leads over Labour in recent years, in spite of a growing gulf between rich and poor and deepening inequality.
The Politics and Philosophy of Inequality