Women and the Politics of Conservative Renewal - Lecture by Lana Starkey

Since the end of the Cold War, hyper-globalization, European integration, deregulation, and devolution have cemented the power of a liberal elite, who have increasingly practiced a distant, self-serving, technocratic style of politics and embarked on a totalizing ‘socially progressive’ ideological project that at its core, aims to dismantle traditional institutions, in particular the family. This ‘progressive’ ideology has taken hold most visibly in the Anglosphere, where in Australia, for example, conservative politicians have been maligned and, in some cases, expelled from political parties for defending traditional gender roles and the family, and where the ‘world’s first referendum on identity politics’ – the Voice to enable Aboriginal representation in parliament – was recently held. In light of these attempts to dismantle traditional institutions and Western culture, which are no longer merely confined to the ivory tower, conservative populist movements have emerged across Europe, and commentators from the Anglosphere have looked to these European movements, and in particular Hungary, for ideas of how a larger conservative consensus that defends traditional values might emerge. This paper will follow this lead; however, it will examine the distinctive role of women in the conservative renewal. Women are essential to understanding and defending traditional values regarding homeland, family, traditional education and gender roles, and national history. Significantly, where conservative populist politics have been most successful, women have played a crucial and in the case of Italy a leadership role in defining conservative renewal. This paper will examine the way women like Giorgia Meloni in Italy, Isabel Díaz Ayuso in Spain, Marine Le Pen in France, and until recently Katalin Novak in Hungary are redefining the conservative agenda.