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Conservatism between theory and practice: The case of migration to EuropeCONSERVATISM BETWEEN THEORY AND PRACTICE

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Project Towards the Normative Reconstruction of the Welfare State
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal European Journal of Political Research
Title of proceedings European Journal of Political Research
DOI 10.1111/1475-6765.12267


This article explores the neglected relationship between conservatism as political theory and conservatism as political practice using the example of recent immigration to Europe. A cursory glance at how European politicians have responded to migration challenges suggests that they roughly divide into an open-arm, leftist ‘liberal’ camp and a right-wing ‘conservative’ one. The situation, however, is more complex. This article engages with the resources of conservative theory to argue that there are many distinct conservative theoretical positions for any one policy point. Using contemporary migration patterns as a case study, the findings suggest that Conservative parties have not borrowed much from conservative theory in its variety of incarnations. In fact, conservative theory can buttress a course of action that is generous toward migrants and at odds with the claims of right-wing populist movements. While certain strands of conservatism imagine a homogenous people, there are others that are no less pro-pluralism than liberal theories, and sometimes more so.