And now for something completely different: a book on the recent fortunes of conservatism in America that is not an exercise...


THE WORLD TURNED RIGHT SIDE UP: A History of the Conservative Ascendancy in America

And now for something completely different: a book on the recent fortunes of conservatism in America that is not an exercise in ideological hyperbole. As a British journalist covering the US since the 19605, Hodgson (The Colonel, 1990, etc.) brings a relatively detached perspective to his subject. A self-described conservative-turned-Whig, he questions the coherence of the conservative movement, noting that the leaders of the oxymoronic ""conservative revolution"" include the scions of high society and accumulated wealth, but he does not dismiss the movement out of hand. He points out conservative achievements, most prominently Reagan's role in ending the Cold War, without using them to excuse failures. His approach combines a journalistic narrative with a solid intellectual history. Albert Jay Nock, Ayn Rand, Friedrich Hayek, and Russell Kirk are, he argues, the parents of contemporary conservative ideology, and the account of how their disparate ideas were molded into a more or less unified coalition is outstanding. The contributions of an odd mix of figures, from William F. Buckley to Richard Viguerie, are considered in relation to events ranging from the disastrous 1964 Goldwater presidential campaign to the Reagan victory in 1980. While desegregation was a critical catalyst in the rise of conservatism, and while race remains a powerful issue, Hodgson argues that anti-Communism was the glue that held the conservative coalition together. Ironically, the Communists' ""defeat"" by Reagan poses a problem for maintaining cohesiveness among conservatives, and Hodgson devotes the final chapter to speculation about the future of the movement. This is the least satisfying component of the book, but his ability to tell a story makes up for his unpersuasive speculations. Committed partisans from left or right will not be satisfied, but readers who fall somewhere in the middle will find this insightful and entertaining.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 1996


Page Count: 336

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996