Conservatism is not a political position or ideology, as classical liberalism, fascism, or social democracy are. Individual conservatives do (generally) have political positions; however, they may be communists or theocrats or libertarians or social democrats or what-have-you. Saying that a person "is conservative" does not, in and of itself, tell you much about that person's political views.

Conservatism, politically speaking, is a claim about one's political position. It is the claim that one's political position represents tradition, history, or the restoration of the values and social structure of a (usually idealized) past. This claim is not necessarily based on historical fact: The traditions to which specific conservatives claim allegiance may have historical basis, or may not; this is not overly relevant.

In the former Soviet Union, there are Communists who would like to turn back the clock to the heyday of the USSR. They are conservative. In the USA, there are theocrats such as James Dobson who seek to "re-establish" a mythicized social order which they believe was destroyed by the 1960s and feminism. They are conservative. In the UK, there are aristocrats and capitalists who want to preserve and recover the importance of the nobility and to dismantle socialism. They, too, are conservative.

There can even exist two (or more) opposing trends in one society which each have grounds to call themselves "conservative". Societies have many traditions, and many views and interpretations of history. In one sense, after all, it is conservative in America to protect the relatively tolerant status quo against the religious radicalism of Dobson, Robertson, and company.

Calling it that, though, would be as confusing as labeling cans of propane "inflammable".

Note: The author of this node is not conservative.