- Risk-Averse Conservatism: the basic idea here is that societies are very complicated things indeed, and lives are on the line if we mess up. As bad as things are now, we may still want to be very cautious in reforming things; because short of a state of Hobbesian anarchy they could always be much worse, and our ignorance of the nature of society is such that we are disturbingly likely to blunder into the bad state (or at least a worse one) should we try to interfere with the present order. People in this group are likely to say `Chesterton fence!' more often than a randomly selected member of the population, will probably have read Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, maybe also take inspiration from some of what Oakshott said in critiquing rationalism in politics (I don't know Oakshott as well as I should), and if they are a bit historically aware maybe also the Tamworth manifesto. Looking at this list, it seems like a peculiarly British tradition of thought? That probably just reflects my education!
- Libertarian Conservatism: this is probably the form of conservatism most familiar to philosophers who are most of my reading audience, so I will say least on it here. Just a note on why I do think (contrary even to some of its proponents) it is properly classified along with the rest of the conservative genre. I take a lot of the spirit of libertarianism to be pacifistic: the underlying emotional core is that coercion is a very bad thing -- one cannot permissibly reach a better state in a way that involves violating people's liberty or engaging in some involuntary coercion (maybe there can be voluntary coercion in some kinds of sexual practice or if I make a binding agreement against future changes of mind -- I don't want to enter into that here). We really should walk away from Omelas. This quite naturally introduces a kind of status quo bias: it makes it harder to move away from wherever we now find ourselves. So, yeah: Rand, Nozick, Hayek -- you know the drill here.
- Western-Civ Conservatism: comes in (at least) two very sociologically different forms, though I think outsiders often class these together. There is a shared belief that there is something about Western Civilisation which makes it very special and worthy of promotion and protection and special reverence, at least from those of us in the West. There is then disagreement about what the source of this specialness is. The (a) group think that what makes it special is the racial constituents of Western Civ -- the fact that it was distinctively European, a group whose peculiar biological stock make them especially good at civilisation building, or at least a group whose peculiarities are such that unless we act to protect their contributions via some sort of racial selection in who gets to occupy positions of power, cultural esteem, or maybe just physical presence in nations, we shall lose their extremely valuable contributions to world life. Folk arguing for this are effectively the intelligentsia of the alt-right, who have recently occupied so much of our cultural attention. The (b) group are more institutionalist, and usually focus especially on religious and Christian institutions. Some ideological innovation that just happened to occur in the West allowed for massive and special and superior progress to occur there -- maybe it was the Catholic Church, maybe it was Calvinism, maybe it was capitalism or the right kind of property arrangements, maybe all of the above -- and it is vital that we preserve this, preferable that we expand it, for this is the source of the goodfullness and superiority of the West. I see both (a) and (b) Western Civ Conservatism types online -- and they actually get into very heated arguments; this is a difference which doesn't look that significant from the outside but seems (as far as I can tell) to be felt as deeply meaningful from the inside. Both (a) and (b) to some extent represent very traditional lines of conservative thought in the West, but are currently undergoing somewhat of a renewal so it is not yet clear who they will claim as intellectual ancestors -- e.g. I see Weber appealed to far less than I would have guessed given the character of what (b) types say. In any case, a safe bet is that folk in group (b) will have a very high opinion of Aquinas but a more directly relevant intellectual expositor is Weaver, and group (a) must surely see Spengler as some sort of forerunner, though I am a bit less certain of this.
To clarify, I don't think these are always kept entirely separate -- in fact one of my more controversial-among-anyone-who-would-care opinions is that Anna Julia Cooper mixes Risk Averse Conservatism and Western Civ Conservatism (and then both (a) and (b) types) in her thought, in ways that are generally under-appreciated. I just think that these are logically separable ideologies in a way that can make a difference to this debate. Ok, that said, now a few notes on this. First, I think Libertarian Conservatism is pretty well represented in the academy. Tendencies towards it are pretty common in business schools and economics departments; Nozick is required reading in political philosophy; my more thoughtful leftwing academic friends generally cite Hayek's `The Use of Knowledge in Society' as one of the most insightful challenges to their position out there. This is also, mind you, the form of conservatism that is closest to liberalism. But in so far as the claim is that there are just no forms of conservatism that get any love in the academy, I think this falsifies it.
Second, I actually agree that the Risk-Averse Conservatism doesn't get enough attention or due respect in the academy. It is not that I agree with the kind of social philosophy that tends to result from it, and I think that with effort one can generate the sort of considerations characteristic of it even as an outsider. But, it's a set of considerations worth taking into account when one advocates for social change; there are actual examples of disaster following from not being significantly aware of this point. People generally make their own best advocates, so it is worth having about some inclined to think this way, and in any case we could at least make some texts from this tradition required reading -- they do not seem to be the kind of thing that one just encounters as part of a liberal education, and I think that is a shame. I don't think this tradition is actively suppressed, I think people literally just do not so often think about it.
Third, there is a strand of thought that I have not included here and that some might think I should -- something like Realist Conservatism, whose advocates might be a certain-reading-of Thucydides, Han Fei, or Carl Schmitt. The underlying thought here is something like -- the world is a fundamentally amoral place, one has simply to act effectively to achieve one's goals in a more or less ruthless fashion without any expectation that righteousness or justice shall be rewarded or even noticed. The problem for me is that I have never really understood why this is associated with the right; certainly there have been conservative proponents of it, but I don't think it is such a stretch to put Lenin or Mao in this tradition either (I think Mao actually was a fan of the `legalist' tradition that Han Fei fits into?) and I think that telling.
Fourth, I do not claim that the above typologies represent the underlying psychological bases of adhering to any of these positions. I think it quite possible that desire to maintain certain gender relations, for instance, is highly significant in determining people's thought towards Risk Averse Conservatism -- but I think there is none the less a difference between the role this plays in that kind of defence of conservatism and, say, the role it plays in Western Civ conservatism, where it can often be an explicit part of the platform. I am trying to track that difference in ideological form, rather than make a claim about political psychology.
Fifth, there is something interesting about the fact that Risk Averse and Libertarian Conservatism are not straightforwardly tied to a particular cultural form, whereas Western Civ is obviously so linked -- though I left it vague what exactly the Western Civ people see as ever so valuable in, well, Western Civ; this because I have not yet been sure myself from reading their stuff. I am focussing on stuff one encounters in the British and American academy or broader society because that's where I know, but I think one can generate analogous arguments to the Western Civ conservatism in other places. Indeed, from what I know of Confucianism and its role in modern China (which in both cases but especially the latter is very limited!) my impression is that not only can one generate some notable equivalencies, but that even the division between (a) and (b) types might reoccur. Note that I said that the first two are `not straightforwardly' tied to a cultural form rather than just ruling out because: one might think that attitude to risk or the value placed on non-coercion are themselves culturally determined, or subtle expressions of cultural conditioning.
Sixth, I think that it is overwhelmingly Western Civ, and especially but not only type (a), that people are complaining about when they talk about Conservative under-representation or repression in the academy. This for two reasons: in one direction, I think it is the form most likely to actually get one shouted down or cast under social suspicion for advocating. While I don't think Risk Averse Conservatism is well represented, I would be shocked if one got in serious social trouble for arguing that after all social reform is difficult and we should be very careful when we change this that or the other law -- whereas I would not be surprised if one is not so welcome in polite society for trying to advocate that one just so happens to be part of the master race. In the other direction, I do think it is just that kind of disaffected übermensch stuff that people most often point to when they want to say that conservatism is under-represented (I've seen a surprising number of apparently sincere people engage in things that I am barely parodying when I summarise it as: ``The untermench are mean to me when I try and point out that maybe I am the master race!'' One can't help but feel that if they were really that über of a mensch they probably wouldn't be so easily thwarted by tepid statements from the American Philosophical Association.)
And the problem here is that Western Civ, unlike the other two, rests much more heavily on contentious empirical claims. I think that a lot of people on the left (and many also on the right in its other forms) think that they are justified in not crediting Western Civ (a) especially for just the same reason that they are justified in not giving creationism more representation in biology departments -- it rests upon refuted empirical claims, and the academy simply has no general duty to take seriously demonstrably false claims. All the more so, one supposes, when said claims tend to result in serious harm towards people, since there is at least some reason to think there is a historical link between advocating Western Civ positions and genocide and colonialism, and I see relatively little recognition of that or clear differentiation from such murderous projects among people online advocating for Western Civ type (a) or (b). I think it is for similar reasons, for instance, that one finds very few academics advocating Stalinism or Maoism, and one suspects that they would soon find themselves unwelcome in polite society if they did so. I think if members of this group want to be taken more seriously they would do well to first focus on the latter project of differentiating themselves from historical projects of mass murder, since it will be hard to gain a hearing while people see Leopold's Congo somewhere downstream of one's position.
(A friend of mine points out to me that Western Civ (b) type gets some representation in legal theory through this text being required reading, and that Divinity faculties may also contain plenty of people who would agree with Western Civ (b) type. Good points both, and even further complicates the notion that Conservatives do not have representation in the academy!)
So there we go. I think that ``Conservatives are under-represented or repressed in the academy'' is neither straight forwardly true nor false, and must rather be evaluated against a more fine grained under-standing of what conservatism amounts to. Once one does so one sees that the point at which it is most plausible that there is repression is the point at which one might think it is reasonable given general academic norms, but that is not to say I have no sympathy for the position that we ought to take more seriously certain strands of conservative thought.