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Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature ... America (or at least the Republican Party) Hardcover – February 21, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Forum; First Edition edition (February 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400050642
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400050642
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What do you call people who vote for Bush but shop at Whole Foods? Crunchy cons. And according to Dreher, an editor at the Dallas Morning News, they're forming a thriving counterculture within the contemporary conservative movement. United by a "cultural sensibility, not an ideology," crunchy conservatives, he says, have some habits and beliefs often identified with cultural liberals, like shopping at agriculture co-ops and rejecting suburban sprawl. Yet crunchy cons stand apart from both the Republican "Party of Greed" and the Democratic "Party of Lust," he says, by focusing on living according to conservative values, what the author calls "sacramental" living. Dreher makes no secret of his own faith in Christianity, and his book will resonate most with fellow Christians. His conversations with other crunchy conservatives—e.g., the policy director of Republicans for Environmental Protection, a Manhattan home-schooler, the author's wife—are illuminating, but the book fails to offer any empirical evidence to connect these individuals to a wider "movement." Instead, it works best as an indictment of consumerism and the spiritual havoc it can wreak. While his complaints about consumer culture are similar to those advanced by liberals, Dreher frames his criticism of corporate America in explicitly conservative terms, painting rampant consumerism as antithetical to true conservatism. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* "Ewww, that's so lefty," Dreher's editor at his old National Review job sneered when Dreher said he was picking up some locally grown organic produce. And what's with the sandals I'm wearing, he then thought; am I going liberal? Not a bit, he concluded, though if associating with liberals could help him have healthy, flavorful food and a beautiful, durable home; be involved in his children's education; protect and nurture the environment and other species; and live with religious integrity, then associate, befriend, and work with liberals he would. That made him a crunchy con(servative), and since leaving NR and NY for Dallas, he has just become crunchier--and met scads of comrades, including literary patron saints G. K. Chesterton, Russell Kirk, E. F. Schumacher, and Wendell Berry and articulate representatives of the types recorded in his book's expansive subtitle. His engrossing report on his encounters and his own motivations and endeavors stresses that crunchy cons follow principles more than formulate policies; their most cherished hope is to overthrow the consumerist mentality that has made the Democrats the party of lust and the Republicans the party of greed. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

This is a thought provoking book written in a personal and engaging style.
Robert L. Murphy
Whether or not we remain within the Republican party will largely be determined by the Party's future faithfulness to these "Permanent Things."
D. C. Owens
I may not agree whole-heartedly with everything Mr. Dreher says, but I have read this book twice now.
C.L.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

139 of 148 people found the following review helpful By Denis E. Ambrose, Jr. on February 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The best way to describe the book is "reorientation." Rod, a conservative Roman Catholic, has done just that: he took a step back, reaffirmed his faith, and reoriented his life around his faith. The results were a bit surprising. But the first step is orientation (or reorientation, as the case might be): Rod argues that a return to metaphysics is in order, especially if that metaphysics is an orthodox religion. An orthodox religion, broadly speaking, is one that promotes virtue and the virtuous life; thus, in a way, we have a return to the more ancient view of living well. It is this proper orientation (virtue through faith) that leads Rod (and others like him) to be both crunchy and conservative.

Rod's faith led him to what has become the standard conservative social/domestic politics of the past few decades: anti-abortion, pro-free market, and pro-family (broadly speaking in all cases). But Rod and the Crunchy Cons claim that most Republicans (the closest thing to conservatives in the government) only pay lip service to these ideals. Thus we have the second (re)-orientation: towards family and especially towards community. Indeed, Rod even agrees with Hillary Clinton that it takes a village to raise a child (yep, Crunchy Cons have some strange bedfellows). Rod argues very strongly for a return to the communities of yesteryear, when people sat on their porches at night and had neighbors over for dinner. Nowadays, people live in their "McMansions," trying to keep up with the Jones' by buying the latest and greatest, all on the justification of the "free market" and "individual liberty." So, a return to community-based society also coincides with an attack against consumerism and license.

Rod is very clear that he is not against a free market, broadly speaking.
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97 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Robert L. Murphy on February 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
With Crunchy Cons, Rod Dreher has contributed something fresh and new to the standard Left-Right debate in this country. The goal of the author is clearly to ignite a conversation about just what it means to be a conservative.

Dreher argues for a conservativism that emphasizes the interests of families over the interests of big business. Business relationships should be based on more than the bottom line. Small businesses with deep ties to the community are worth conserving. The drab sameness of our suburban sprawl is sucking the life out of us. Efficiency is not preferable to beauty. If you turn your children over to "the culture" to be raised by the public schools and institutional day-care you will have little or no control over what they learn or how they turn out. Maybe the amazing beauty of this land is worth preserving. Maybe that is even conservative?

This is a thought provoking book written in a personal and engaging style. The questions it raises are important and the solutions it offers work. If you have grown tired the rhetoric that passes for political debate these days, if you are equally put off by the laissez faire morality of the left and the Republican devotion to the profits of real estate developers against all that is worth conserving, you will love this book.

A final thought... the "Crunchy Con Manifesto" at the beginning of the book, and the last chapter entitled "Waiting For Benedict" are alone worth the price of the book.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Kristen Stewart VINE VOICE on July 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was excited about reading Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher because we're crunchy and ideologically conservative, and the subtitle intrigued me. We got on the list at our local public library and waited it out. From the preface, the book caught and kept my attention. Dreher is a gifted and personal writer who is easy to read. Because crunchy cons are my kind of people, I often wanted to cheer as I read along.

Many of the ideological emphases of the book are ones we value in our family. We care about more than just the bottom line when we shop and are willing to pay more for products we "believe in" such as locally grown and organic foods, things that are well crafted, beauty and not just utilitarian function, etc. The process is important to us and not just the end result. I enjoyed reading the book because the many anecdotes reminded me that there are others out there who care about the things that we do, which can be hard to find the suburban South.

However, when I finished the book I was disappointed with it on several levels. First, it wasn't very persuasive and it relied on ad hominem attacks and emotionalism to make points. If I didn't already agree with Dreher, I probably would not have been swayed by him. Some of the chapters were weaker than others, for example, the chapter on home was mostly about buying a smaller, older house. Even though we are in the process of buying our first house and it is a small, 70 year old bungalow, it may not be the most crunchy thing to do for every family. Older homes aren't as energy efficient, for example. Some aren't laid out well for entertaining and building community with others.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By M. Mastilak on March 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Dreher is basically asking: shouldn't a conservative's life look like one? Shouldn't conservatives try to actually conserve the things they say are so important, like family and community? And shouldn't they think some other things - the natural world, for example - are important enough to conserve? Even if that means doing some things typically associated with aging pony-tailed hippies?

Good questions all. Things like local food co-ops sometimes smack of smug liberalism, but Dreher points out how it may be more in line with conservative values to (for example) buy free-range meat there than factory meat at Kroger.

Dreher's bete noir is consumerism, and it's hard to really argue with him in a Wal-Mart-ified world, where economic efficiency is quite often the be-all and end-all of public moral decision-making. (Always low prices!) Crunchiness is highly associated with traditional religious belief, which motivates its adherents to abandon the materialism of homo economicus and to actually live as though man has a soul. That leads them to live and shop in different places, eat different foods, raise their kids differently. Dreher terms it a sacramental way of life.

I think the book (and the crunchy-con idea as a whole) suffers a bit when it gets hung up in trivial lifestyle issues (like the homemade granola and Birkenstocks that earned Dreher's idea its moniker and the unfortunate subtitle). So when you read the book, look past the details of the specific choices people make. More important (IMHO) is the issue of whether conservatives are really willing to live like conservatives and bear some social and economic costs for individual and collective social and spiritual benefits.
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