An impressive sampler of improbably influential essays that in the aggregate suggest neoconservatism is more a sensibility than a coherent political doctrine.
In aid of providing an overview of an increasingly influential school of thought, editor Gerson has assembled works written by 20-odd intellectuals, including several (George Gilder, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Thomas Sowell) who might resent or reject being labeled ex-progressives, let alone neocons. Be that as it may, the anthology affords vivid perspectives on a sociopolitical movement that developed over 30 years ago in reaction to what its founding fathers and mothers deemed liberalism's naivete about Communism, antipathy toward religion, hatred of market capitalism, excessive tolerance for aberrant behavior, and allied failings. Among other examples of what might be called neoconservatism's flair for mannerly invective, Gerson offers: Nathan Glazer's prescient (i.e., 1969) case against student radicalism ("The Campus Crucible''); Jeane Kirkpatrick's classic Cold War apologia ("Dictatorships and Double Standards''); Irving Kristol's exasperated meditation on the left's bent for making cultural equivalents of democracy and obscenity ("Pornography, Obscenity, and the Case for Censorship''); Sowell's devastating take on enforced equity ("Affirmative Action: A Worldwide Disaster''); Moynihan's unsettling article on social norms as a moving target ("Defining Deviancy Down''); and Charles Krauthammer's New Republic charge that, "helpless in the face of the explosion of real criminality, for example, we satisfy our...needs with a crusade against date rape.'' Included as well are the provocative likes of Midge Decter, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Michael Novak, Norman Podhoretz, Aaron Wildavsky, James Q. Wilson, and others who (although disillusioned with the welfare state) are by no means antigovernment.
Uncommonly sensible and civil discourses from a bridge group whose ideas are fast entering the mainstream, if not the realm of conventional wisdom.