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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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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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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: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

141 of 150 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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27 of 29 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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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Patrick McCormack VINE VOICE on March 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dreher tells us a dozen times that he is going to provide a stunning criticism of unrestrained market forces and the way they have twisted conservatives who love them. This repetitive tic gives a halting start to the book. On with it, the reader starts to say at about page 28, start doing it!

The book drips with self-satisfaction. The most modern of diseases is the absolute need most Americans have, nowadays, to cite their own choices as representing some sort of moral clarity, to have their sandwich and be called a hero for eating it. This whole crunchy con business reeks of self-satisfaction. If the food tastes better and the shoes feel nice, wear them, without the maundering on and on about how this somehow represents religious and cultural sensibilities that are vaunted, exceptional, and trenchant.

The irritating nature of the writing almost obscures the percipient central point, one that echoes numerous authors, is in no way original, but that needs to be a central thesis of social analysis in the 21st century: the market as a powerful freedom giving force for culturally-corrosive social change. This theme is found in many authors of late, from John Paul II to Rod Dreher in this book, but bears repeating... capitalism fosters freedom as a necessity for its own convenience, because mobile labor markets and contract law require choice from individuals (see Peter Berger or Max Weber). Yet capitalism has destructive sides that are harmful to labor (see Schumpeter) and corrosive to culture, values, and religion (John Paul II, Solzhenitsyn, among others).

If crunchy conservatism becomes a political movement, as Dreher seems to wish, then this book will be important as a populizer of these more intelligent voices.
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