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American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1932236446
ISBN-10: 1932236449
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The conservative movement, formed since World War II, was most closely associated with anticommunism. It is for some a political entity, for others a philosophical construct, but overall, its complexities and differing internal opinions are likely not to be understood by the average American. American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia seems intended to define and illuminate the variety of thought and ideas within the conservative movement rather than establish an absolute definition of what conservatism is. According to the introduction, the entries were chosen because they were "of substantial importance to the shaping of postwar American conservatism considered primarily in its intellectual (rather than simply political or social) aspect."

A large percentage of the articles are biographical, treating individuals ranging from Edmund Burke and Adam Smith to William F. Buckley Jr., Newt Gingrich, and Garry Wills. Other entries are political or philosophical in nature. Abortion, Affirmative action, Diversity, Individualism, and Protectionism are presented from the conservative point of view. Few of today's "hot button" issues are covered. For example, the only reference to stem cell research in the index is to a mention within the article on George W. Bush.

In terms of format, this is a standard A-Z one-volume encyclopedia. Most articles are followed by a bibliography and see also references. The list of contributors draws heavily from college and university faculties.

Librarians and libraries pride themselves on their balanced collections and attempt to capture a sort of intellectual universality in their choices. With that in mind, this volume would seem to fill a gap that might exist in many collections. It has been given, however, a rather peculiar Library of Congress classification number--E743 (late-nineteenth, early--twentieth-century American history)--so it will not have many cohorts on the reference shelves of those libraries using the LC system.

The encyclopedia should appeal to public and academic libraries that have an interest in political philosophy, and its bargain price should make it affordable for most. Danise Hoover
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


“Now American conservatism can claim another mark of distinction: an encyclopedia all its own.”
The New York Times

“For conservatives, this is the book of the year—a must-own title.”
John J. Miller, National Review Online

“The strong and interlocking entries found in this encyclopedia will make it of great value to all who are interested in American conservatism. Its clarity and richness will suggest fresh and intriguing relations among conservative ideas, thinkers, movements, organizations, and politics. Certainly for all but the stubborn, habituated, and ideologically tenacious of right and left, it will end the ironclad identity of American conservatism with the political right and the Republican party.”
Joseph Amato, Journal of Social History

“This well-edited encyclopedia arrives just as a new debate over the meaning of conservatism is opening. American Conservatism will prove useful for quick retrieval of basic information about key figures, events, and publications. But it promises to be especially valuable on account of its lengthier essays on a wide range of topics. No conservative—indeed, no student of American history and politics—can do without this excellent volume.”
Terry Eastland, Publisher, The Weekly Standard

“An excellent source of information and insight, American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia, is the mirror image of my own Encyclopedia of the American Left, destined to fascinate, inform, and enrage, neither doctrinaire nor long-winded but well-written and entertaining.”
Paul Buhle, Brown University

“This volume is an enormously ambitious undertaking which succeeds mightily. At once both authoritative and provocative, American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia is an indispensable reference for conservatives and those who seek to understand them.”
Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online

American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia took about 15 years to complete, and the result is impressive: over 250 contributors wrote 626 entries filling almost 1,000 pages. There are entries on figures from Lord Acton to Tom Wolfe, on subjects from abortion to the welfare state, and on organizations from the America First Committee to Young Americans for Freedom. But the best accomplishment of the editors (Bruce Frohnen et al.) isn't in having assembled so many words…it's in having assembled so many different opinions.”
The American Enterprise Online

“This is a splendid, and comprehensive, gathering of titles, ideas, people, trends, events, and organizations that comprise the history of American conservatism, no matter how you define it.”
The Weekly Standard

“This particular reference book has weightier things in mind, and it succeeds admirably in identifying the lodestars of conservative thought and values in politics, religion, and the arts… Perhaps the most interesting entries concern philosophy, religion, and the arts, where the editors demonstrate a fine grasp of the cultural wellsprings that conditioned and nurtured conservatism.”
Christopher Willcox, The New York Sun

“This, I trust we can agree, is all for the good; and it is one of the abiding merits of this fine book that most any reader who fancies his own Conservatism the 'true' one, will— if he reads with a probing intellect—find his fancy rebuked. Diversity is among the most brutalized of words in our day; yet in Conservatism we find a diversity deep and humane and exhilarating.”
Paul J Cella, RedState.com

“Producing this encyclopedia was an enormous project; the entries took years to comission, collect, and compile. It is a wonderful resource with many virtues, and should be owned by every serious and inquisitive conservative.”
Claremont Review of Books

“A marvelous miscellany . . . Great browsing territory.”
Wall Street Journal

“Sometimes using the word 'conservative' as a political adjective reminds one of what St. Augustine said about time: Everyone knows what it is until they are asked to define it. Fortunately there is now an impressive volume to aid in this quest for clarity.”


Product Details

  • Paperback: 1000 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute (February 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932236449
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932236446
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.9 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,788,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Larry Arnhart on March 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
No other book provides such a rich survey of the intellectual history of American conservatism. With almost 1,000 pages of entries written by some of the most prominent American conservatives (people such as Russell Kirk, M. E. Bradford, and Murray Rothbard), this is now the one book that must be read if one wants to understand American conservatism.

This comes at a good time, because American conservatives are wondering about the future of conservatism in America. The current debate over whether President George Bush and his neoconservative supporters have betrayed the conservative movement manifests this new period of conservative self-examination. This book will help conservatives to reconsider their complex history and their possible future.

My judgment might be biased because I was involved in the original launching of this project by Greg Wolfe in 1990. I have five articles in the book--on "Intelligent Design Theory," "The Scopes Trial," "Social Darwinism," "Sociobiology," and "Herbert Spencer." My articles reflect a desire to persuade conservatives that Darwinian science supports conservative social thought. But that is a minority view in this book. The more common conservative scorn for modern science is stated in M. D. Aeschliman's article on "Science and Scientism."

The one clear weakness in this book is that it does not really cover the full history of the American conservative movement. It stresses the intellectual or academic side of conservatism as dominated by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (the publisher of the book) and NATIONAL REVIEW. It gives almost no attention to the most populist elements of the conservative movement.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very useful book and it covers a number of famed and forgotten men and movements. The book is excellent in covering the various aspects of American conservatism. Neocons, paleocons, Catholic cons, Confederate cons, libertarians, all are pretty well covered. The articles are concise and well written. The chief problem with the book is how broad it is. Everybody in American history is a conservative! Abe Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Daniel Webster and John Randolph. William Jennings Bryan, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Eugene McCarthy and Joe McCarthy. As American conservatism tries to redefine itself after the 2008 debacle, this book shows the various options and the various conflicting currents that will shape today's debates.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This work is a treasure trove of lengthy and informative articles on prominent figures, movements and concepts in American conservatism. It ranges across three centuries, and also includes important foreign figures who have influenced America (such as Margaret Thatcher). Educators, philosophers, religious leaders, economists, novelists, poets, literary critics, journalists, etc., are all represented. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of my favourite `encyclopedic dictionaries', an underappreciated genre if there ever was one. The "American Conservatism" now stands pride of place along side two worthy peers. Namely Robert Nisbet's superb "Prejudices - A Philosophical Dictionary" and Richard Milner's "Encyclopedia of Evolution", a dictionary style encyclopedia of Darwinism that spans not only the science, but the history, pop and folklore of evolution.

I can see the critics pounding away at their word processors now. They'll say the volume doesn't give sufficient cubic mass to George W Bush and his merry band of Vulcans; or that the neocon movement doesn't get the required number of column inches; or that GOP Republicanism herein seems more a trickle than the mainstream. And why does Eugene McCarthy seem to get more coverage than Tailgunner Joe McCarthy?

I can see their point, and there are a few facets of American conservatism that I would have liked to have seen better represented. For instance, that rare, but tough sub-species, the American monarchists. There are at least two that I can think of. Charles A. Coulombe, a traditionalist defender of throne and altar, who hails from Hollywood, and Hans Herman Hoppe, an anarcho-monarchist libertarian professor from that hive of chivalry, Las Vegas.

Still I think this kind of word processor pounding is misplaced. The book is, after all, a single volume encyclopedia / dictionary. It is meant to be comprehensive in width, not depth. That's what is great about it. It is meant to sacrifice detail for coverage. It is more important that conventional narrative histories dive deeper into the murky depths of the mainstream.
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In this highly interesting and informative book, the reader will be introduced to the main currents in conservative thought, and in a manner that is objective and with only a few exceptions free from an excess of bias. There are many names and ideas associated to American conservatism, and readers may find that they hold much more in common with it than they might have first realized. Its history and content have been tarnished greatly in recent years, due mostly to the popularity of `neoconservatism' (which is discussed in the book), and the current regime in Washington. This book will hopefully assist in putting conservative thought into its proper perspective, and illustrate to the uninitiated reader its great diversity in ideas. The average reader will probably not read every article in the book, but will instead concentrate on those of interest. There is a fair representation of the major (and minor) philosophical trends that have dominated American conservatism, along with those that have or are losing credence.

By far the best article in the book is the one entitled `Liberalism' and written by Peter Augustine Lawler. In spite of its length, it gives a fair and interesting overview of what constitutes liberal thought and some of its intersections with conservative thinking. It is a refreshing alternative to the vituperation that so frequently occurs in discussions of liberal philosophy. The author does refer to `liberalism' as being `elitist' but this is put in the context of its belief that individuals must be liberated from religion, morality, and other traditional beliefs in order to become fully human. In this sense it is `elitist' in that it makes special and frequently exclusive claims to knowledge about what it means to be fully human.
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