George Lakoff (Moral Politics) and Corey Robin (The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burkes to Sarah Palin) offer a similar take on the conservative mind. For Lakoff, one of the defining elements of conservatism is competition; without competition, there would be no conservatism. It is through competition that the individual actualizes himself and becomes the person that he is to be.
For Robin, conservatism is defined by its reaction to something that the conservative cherishes and is being taken away. Quoting George Nash in The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945, Robin notes that conservatism is defined by “resistance to certain forces perceived to be leftist, revolutionary, and profoundly subversive of what conservatives at the time deemed worth cherishing, defending, and perhaps dying for.” Conservatism, then, exists only in reaction to something else, that which is taking away what it cherishes.
For Lakoff, if there were no competition, there would be no conservatism; in Robin’s analysis, there would be no conservatism if there was nothing which threatened that which they cherish and wish to maintain. As Robin continues, referencing Michael Oakeshott’s On Being Conservative, “The conservative would enjoy familiar things in the absence of forces seeking their destruction, but his enjoyment ‘will be strongest when’ it ‘is combined with evident risk of loss.'”