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Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right Hardcover – August 21, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


"Paul Gottfried provides something--in fact, a lot--to infuriate everyone. But even when Gottfried is judged wrongheaded, he poses the painful questions that others flee from and offers interpretations that compel close attention from all who wish to understand the prospects for a conservative movement."
--Eugene D. Genovese, author of The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism
"This study of the development and moral collapse of the postwar American Right is treated with vast historical knowledge that goes beyond Paul Gottfried's stated scope. Although its subject has been examined in a spate of books in recent years, including in two of Gottfried's earlier surveys, this new work brings an informed critical perspective to a major American political movement. A must read for students of American conservatism."
--Peter Brimelow, Editor, VDARE.COM

"Paul Gottfried comprehends the full complexities and conflicts within American conservatism better than anyone else.  This innovative and penetrating book provides the reader with a thorough knowledge and wise understanding of the major thinkers, the charged tensions, and the paradoxical transformations that have made conservatism what it is today. It is a masterful work, and it will help the rest of us to master this challenging, perplexing, and consequential topic."

--James Kurth, Claude Smith Professor of Political Science, Swarthmore College


"Conservatism in America manifests the author's immense erudition, in German, French, and Italian sources, as well as in English ones. It is an indispensable work for understanding what passes for American conservatism in our day."
--The Mises Review

About the Author

Paul Edward Gottfried is Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. A Guggenheim recipient, he is the author of numerous articles in intellectual history, ancient and modern historiography, and the European and American Right.  Gottfried has also published ten books, the last three of them a trilogy on the democratic managerial state, which starts with After Liberalism (1999) and ends with The Strange Death of Marxism (2005).  The German edition of the middle volume, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt was mentioned in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (2005), as one of the year's most distinguished publications.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (July 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403974322
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403974327
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,644,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Mark R. Sunwall on September 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Have you ever wondered how the label "conservative" ceased to denote a serious poltical philosophy and became the prefered self designation of media hacks? If you want a specific contrast: think Ayn Rand vs. Ann Coulter! This didn't come about just because of the decline in American educational standards (although that is no doubt a related variable) but rather it is the end result of a premeditated poltical coup on the right. Paul Gottfried, who was an eyewitness to the process, has left us an account of how it was done and why.

This slender but data packed volume documents how representatives of the limited-government and traditionalist movements lost their positions, funding, and ultimately even their identity to a faction of crass Machiavellians who migrated into the conservative movement between the early Reagan years and the end of the Cold War. In a way it is hardly surprising that these genteel literary types were bested by battle hardened ex-Trotskyites fresh from the proxy wars of the left. The value of Gottfried's study is that he both memorialises and criticises the vanquished old right, ensuring that the epoch doesn't vanish down the memory hole, and that the cautionary lessons are laid out to be learned by whoever takes the time and effort.

The philosophical core of the book is Gottfried's implicit criticism of "value conservatism." Although he doesn't venture very far into the technical aspects of value-theory, enough is said to explain the tropism of "values" from presumed absolutes towards handy poltical slogans. The presumption of the old right was that "values" refered to a hierarchy of moral goods latent in the order of things, discovered, but not created by human minds. This is an implicitly theistic, or at least panentheistic, theory.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By B. Cathey on September 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Paul Gottfried has, over the past twenty-five years, been one of the most astute and impressive writers on contemporary politics and society. His earlier volumes MULTICULTURALISM AND THE POLITICS OF GUILT and AFTER LIBERALISM have been significant contributions to the discussion of the nature of American (and European) society and the structures of authority---and how they came to be the way they are today. In this, his newest, volume, Gottfried analyzes both the history and "meaning" of what has been termed "American conservatism." Looking first at the older, pre-NATIONAL REVIEW "Right" of Robert Taft and others, he explores how publicists and others transformed that older "Right" into an anti-Communist "coalition" in the 1950s that, although it at least in part attempted to establish roots in a transatlantic Burkean tradition (with the work of Russell Kirk), soon found itself conflicted by divergent strains and impulses. The implosion of a formal Communist threat in the late 1980s and early '90s, and the influx of former Leftist/Trotskyite neo-conservatives in the 1970s and 1980s and their expropriation of the name "conservative," have transfigured what many people think of as the "Right" in America today, and the results have had extreme consequences both politically and socially.

Gottfried's analysis is fresh and his command of sources and knowledge of historical events and persons is quite impressive. Stylistic, this book reads quite well, unlike some dry-as-dust tomes.

In short, this is a book that demands attention from political scientists, historians, from journalists and observers both of American and European politics and society, and from those interested in not only what has taken place and what is taking place in the United States...but why.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Marcus Epstein on September 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In the last few years, there have been a number of books that note that the conservative movement and the Republican Party is not conserving what it used to. These books include Pat Buchanan's "Where the Right Went Wrong," Bruce Bartlett's "Impostor" and Richard Viguerie's "Conservatives Betrayed." All of these books are worth reading, but they are pretty much limited to listing certain issues that conservatives are supposed to support: opposition to illegal immigration, a national interest foreign policy, limited government, states' rights, judicial restraint, opposition to gay rights and abortion etc. and how the Republican Party, George W. Bush, and/or the conservative movement have failed to live up to these principles.

This is a worthy endeavor, but they have one major shortcoming: they say "Where the Right Went Wrong" but they don't do that much of "How and Why the Right Went Wrong". Most of these books claim there was some golden age of conservatism: usually under Reagan, in some cases up to the 1994 "Republican Revolution," and then things suddenly went sour. Other than criticizing the neoconservatives (to differing degrees,) and the corrupting influence of power, they offer few ideas as to why this once great movement was doing very little of value today. And with the exclusion of Buchanan, most of these men had been relatively silent about the problem until it was far too late.

Paul Gottfried's book begins where these books end. Anyone who is familiar with the Prof. Gottfried's work knows that he has long been critical of the Republican Party and the neoconservatives. While he still has no love lost for either, this book doesn't expend much energy on them, but rather how they became so respected among otherwise right thinking conservatives.
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