THE AUTHORITY of FEELING in MID-TWENTIETH-CENTURY ENGLISH CONSERVATISM

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Abstract

Conservatism claims to be a philosophy of common sense and everyday experience, in which sensation takes priority over reason. This article asks how this was understood by both Conservative thinkers and grassroots members in mid-twentieth-century England, and how it sat alongside other ways of understanding the feelings and experiences of ordinary people, in a period in which these came to be regarded as a privileged form of political authority. The article shows that the Conservative everyday was rooted in individual sensory experiences, but always underpinned by the collective evocation of reverence, majesty, and awe. It traces understandings of the everyday and the awesome through political texts and grassroots publications, showing that the tension between them is what gives Conservatism its distinctive character. This is conceptualized in Burkean terms as the beautiful and the sublime. The latter guarantees order, hierarchy, and allegiance, while the former works to soften and socialize power - making it seem a matter of custom and common sense. The article suggests that this combination enabled Conservatism to adapt to the challenges of mass democracy but became ever harder to sustain in the emotional culture of post-war England, when feelings became a marker of personal authenticity, rather than cultural authority.

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APA

Robinson, E. (2020, December 1). THE AUTHORITY of FEELING in MID-TWENTIETH-CENTURY ENGLISH CONSERVATISM. Historical Journal. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X19000682

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