When we think about liberalism and conservatism, we often think about the political ideologies that they are associated with. I would like to take a step back and try to deconstruct these concepts into the fundamental forces that create them. Understanding these forces and their role in building societies can help explain why existing structures are the way they are.
Let’s start with some definitions (from dictionary.com)
Liberalism — Favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
Conservatism — The disposition to preserve or restore what is established and traditional and to limit change.
What does this mean?
At the most fundamental level, conservatism is a force fighting to keep the existing system, while liberalism is a force pushing for changes to the system.
Order and Chaos
You might think liberalism and conservatism are unique to human societies; however, the forces that create them are the same forces that make up every system in the universe; order and chaos. Conservatism = Order = maintaining the existing pattern. Liberalism = Chaos = changing the existing pattern.
Order and chaos are critical for the development of every existing system, even life itself.
Life on Earth:
The evolution of life on Earth is a constant battle between order and chaos.
In life, conservatism would be the existing genetic code, providing a clear set of instructions for building a system that has proved successful through natural selection.
Without conserving a majority of the genetic code from one generation to the next, the creation of complex life would be impossible. Every iteration of the organism would be completely different.
Liberalism in biological life is represented as the genetic variability that allows for change from one generation to the next. Genes are tested with every iteration of the organism — some mutations increase probability for survival/reproduction of the organism, making them more likely to be passed to the next generation.