NEOCONSERVATISM: The Autobiography of an Idea by Irving Kristol

NEOCONSERVATISM: The Autobiography of an Idea

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The ""godfather"" of neoconservatism traces the history of that movement and sets out some of its major concerns in this volume of essays (most previously published in the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, and elsewhere). How to view neoconservatism: Trahison des clercs? Felix culpa? Common sense? The movement famously began with a group of dissident liberals who were not entirely convinced by President Johnson's Great Society policies in the mid-'60s. Over the next decade, in journals like Commentary and The Public Interest (which Kristol edits) they did the ""vision thing,"" helping transform the moribund Republican party. The reason for their impact can be seen within these pages. Kristol is unapologetically in favor of bourgeois values; insistent upon our ""theotropic"" nature; disdainful of militancy; skeptical of art's ability to take over from religion; and committed to capitalism. He has a great journalist's gentle counterintuitiveness and genius for the almost obvious. When he talks about the corrosive nature of ""the adversary culture of intellectuals"" or the hazards--and ease--of economic ignorance in a capitalist society, or points out that spiritual needs are ""independent, primary forces in human history,"" Kristol not only commands our attention, he sets the grudging cogs of reassessment going in the brain. He writes with humility and deep concern. He is provocative, never inflammatory. He is willing to tackle issues that cause that rest of us to give a Gallic shrug and throw up our hands. If his historical context is sometimes broadbrushed ad absurdum, it often reveals a new perspective; if the self-made man's burble occasionally rises lightly from the page, it is somehow a lovely relief from the Limbaugh department. Kristol remains an agenda-setter par excellence: to read this work is to refine one's political stance, whether pro or con. A valuable book, a pleasure to read.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1995
Page count: 300pp
Publisher: Free Press