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James Burnham and the Struggle for the World: A Life Hardcover – July 31, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Best remembered for his first book The Managerial Revolution (1941) and as senior editor of the National Review, James Burnham spent his life struggling to rid the world of totalitarianism and liberalism in all their forms. In his comprehensive biography, James Burnham and the Struggle for the World, Daniel Kelly, who taught modern European history at NYU until 1996, narrates in minute detail Burnham's development as a political thinker from his college days at Princeton and Balliol College, Oxford, to his work as a Trotskyist in the 1930s, to his eventual disenchantment with socialism and swing to the right. He supported imperialism and defended U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Kelly's turgid prose and exhausting detail make for tiresome reading, but a small circle of readers will find this chapter of political history engrossing. Foreword by Richard Brookhiser.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 443 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; F First Edition edition (July 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1882926765
  • ISBN-13: 978-1882926763
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.9 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,204,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Steve Jackson on April 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
James Burnham (1905-1987) may be the "forgotten man" of the Conservative movement. Although he has been the subject of a few monographs and chapters in various books on the conservative movement, his name is not well known in the conservative world. Many who have heard of Russell Kirk, Whittaker Chambers and William Buckley probably know him only as a writer of apocalyptic anti-Communist books in the 50s and 60s.

Burnham's life was fascinating, and this book is a well-written, enjoyable biography. Born to a wealthy railroad executive, Burnham attended Princeton where he studied philosophy and literature. There he first became associated with Philip Wheelwright (he was also at Princeton at the same time as Cornelius van Til - another Wheelwright student -- but Kelly makes no mention of whether they were acquainted). He attended Oxford where he met Tolkien and Brand Blanshard. In the 1930s, Burnham became a Communist (of sorts) and an advisor to Leon Trotsky. In the late 1930s, Burnham rejected Communism and ultimately became a conservative. He even worked for the CIA for a few years.

Burnham began writing for National Review from its inception in 1954 where most of his writing concerned foreign policy and winning the Cold War. Burnham continued with National Review until he suffered a stroke in 1977, which impaired his short-term memory.

Burnham is not easy to pigeonhole. He was neither a member of the Old Right nor the Neocon Right, but shared characteristics of both. While sympathetic to free enterprise, he wasn't a doctrinaire believer in laissez faire. He rejected isolationism, but his internationalism was largely limited to anti-Communism. For example, he opposed US involvement in the Middle East.
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James Burnham and the Struggle for the World: A Life
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