On 17 November 2021, the Israeli conservative philosopher Yoram Hazony gave a lecture by the invitation of the Mathias Corvinus Collegium as a guest of the Budapest Lectures series. The president of the Herzl Institute talked about the fundamentals of conservatism and differences between the liberal and conservative thought on nation, family and God in the event titled ‘Conservatism: a rediscovery’.
Mr Hazony, as always, gave a lucid insight on the evolution of conservatism and liberalism from a historical perspective. The latter has become an indisputably dominant civic faith in Europe and America as well after the Second World War. This dominance of liberal thought has not been seriously challenged since then.
In recent years, we could witness the emergence and prevalence of nationalism and conservatism in such democratic countries as Hungary, Italy, Britain or Israel. This arousal could be interpreted as a reaction to the aggressive progression of liberalism striving to permeate and change every aspect of life, such as gender, family, and religion. Along this line of thought, we could also mention a cultural revolution, as the progressive, liberal thought moves towards neo-Marxism. ‘It is a cultural revolution, this is not liberalism, it is not about individual freedom. But if we throw away our traditions and biblical values our society is built on, only destruction remains’ – highlighted the Israeli philosopher.
But what I found most brilliant in Mr Hazony’s lecture is the way he compared conservative and progressive liberal thoughts on different issues like economy, nation and family.
Mr Hazony admitted that liberalism has seen great success in economy and fostered avoidance of over-regulating and excessive intervening into the market. Economic liberalism has helped Europe to recover after the world wars and brought prosperity to those countries who follow it.
But the new kind of liberalism has left the economic dimension and become an aggressive ideology that affects every area of life and the family, he added. But those liberal methods, which are applicable in the economy and market cannot be used in other fields.
‘When a young man and woman decide to marry what kind of relationship do they want?’ – asked Hazony. ‘They are planning to spend their lives together for decades, they do not want to have a marriage based on market rules which is: if someone better comes, then I will change. This is a liberal attitude, not a conservative attitude.’
According to the conservative viewpoint, no matter what pain or grievance comes in the marriage I will stay in it
This is exactly the opposite of the market logic. The essence of liberal economic policy is to do what is profitable in the short term and in the event of a crisis, we get out of business and invest elsewhere. Of course, there is pain in a marriage, but we say it is worth it, therefore, we will not find a way out. Because what conservatives think is that human relations provide the solution to problems. Keeping only the individual, short-term interests in mind and turning away from everything that is uncomfortable for us is what many mistakenly regard as freedom. But it will ruin the family, the congregations and the nation – highlighted Hazony.
The same could be applied to the nation. Sometimes bad people run the country, sometimes the nation does nice things, sometimes it does not. But you cannot tell that I am leaving, I am looking for another nation. This is the basic principle of conservative nationalism and patriotism.
Being a young, conservative, newly-wed man, it was very inspiring and reinforcing to hear such words and to realize that we are not alone here in Hungary with such conservative values and thoughts, and as Mr Hazony closed his lecture, I was reaffirmed that conservatism indeed has a place and future.
Dávid Nagy, researcher at Danube Institute