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Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea Hardcover – May 30, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


This book is a must-read for all Americans interested in defending the founding fathers vision of a free and just society. --Glenn Beck

A novel and riveting account. . .that traces a tight arc from Leo Strauss through Irving Kristol to the daily travails of Washington politics. --Richard Epstein, University of Chicago

C. Bradley Thompson and Yaron Brook delve deeply into the origin, arc, and current nature of the neoconservative movement in the United States. Brilliant, deep, and told with authority. --Thom Hartmann, Air America Radio Network host

About the Author

C. Bradley Thompson is the BB&T Research Professor in the Department of Political Science at Clemson University and the Executive Director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. He is the author of the award-winning John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty. He is also the editor of The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams and Antislavery Political Writings, 1833-1860: A Reader. Yaron Brook is executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. He appears regularly on national TV and radio to discuss business, economic, and foreign policy issues. He has written and spoken extensively on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and on the role of neoconservatives in formulating that policy.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; Text is Free of Markings edition (May 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594518319
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594518317
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,095,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The subtitle of this intriguing and complex book is "An Obituary for an Idea." That subtitle is in part meant to be ironic, as the author, intellectual historian C. Bradley Thompson, explains on p. 2. In part, the subtitle of Thompson's book is ironic as a play on another title, _Socialism: An Obituary for an Idea_, which was written 34 years ago by the founder of the neoconservative intellectual movement in the United States, Irving Kristol (1920-2009).

When Kristol wrote his article, in 1976, was socialism actually dead? As a coherent ideology it was at least terminally ill. But, as we know today, the mortal remains of philosophical socialism have continued to wreck havoc even if the ideology as a whole has died.

Is neoconservatism in the same situation today? Herein lies another irony. The leading neoconservatives have denied that the neoconservative movement even has an ideology, which is a universal philosophy applied to a particular milieu. Neoconservatives instead have called their approach a "persuasion" or "mood," thus disarming serious critics.

Thompson -- the BB&T Research Professor in Political Science at Clemson University, the Executive Director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, and the author of _John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty_ -- analyzes neoconservatism and then evaluates it from his own viewpoint, variously called laissez-faire capitalism, classical liberalism, Goldwater conservatism, and Jeffersonian republicanism. Throughout the book, Thompson uses that viewpoint as a foil, a radically different standard of comparison, when looking at the neoconservative philosophy and its political consequences.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Prior to reading this book, I had loosely considered neoconservatism to be rehash of 20th century Democratic Party foreign policy. Similarly, I had considered Big Government Conservatism to be merely a repackaging of Rockefeller Republicanism. Neoconservatism - An Obituary for an Idea has profoundly altered those views, and did so in a very systematic, comprehensive, and plausible manner. My former lazy notion that the term neoconservatism was simply "hype" has now been laid to rest.

Lest one categorize this book as strictly a political account, the author states his primary focus to be "the philosophical essence of neoconservatism" (p. 6). Although there is also ample illustrative treatment of its contemporary political manifestations, emphasis on the underlying philosophical bases for neoconservatism serves to establish and characterize its ideological credentials. In consequence, the pivotal element in the neoconservative creed, as expropriated largely from Leo Strauss, is seen to be a somewhat tortured synthesis of Platonic idealism and Machiavellian realism. This reduces to "Platonic ends achieved by Machiavellian means" (p. 227).

Given the dubious if not unpalatable core tenets of neoconservatism, it is not surprising that its proponents/practitioners are evasive or disingenuous regarding its nature/goals. "They resist any attempt to...identify or define...their views" (p.15), which is mainly why this book is so important. In part, neocons obscure its ideological nature, strategies, and doctrine via a two-level formulation that distinguishes a purportedly wise and beneficent ruling elite (theory level) from an inherently base citizenry (practice level).
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This book was an eye-opener: little did I know of the illiberal philosophical roots of neoconservatism. Thompson and Brook provide first-class scholarship on Leo Strauss, the philosopher of neoconservatives such as Irving Kristol, showing Strauss' sympathy with Italian fascism. Who would have known that a cadre of talented Machiavellian Platonists could have insinuated themselves into the conservative movement and there substantially redefined conservative domestic and foreign policies. It is shocking to find how deep is neocon antipathy to the Jeffersonian, natural rights, Enlightenment roots of the United States.

Conservatives who consider the founding fathers their touchstone must read this book. Liberals curious about the roots of these influential thinkers in the conservative ranks must read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
A fascinating exposition of the essence, history, and philosophy of the movement or idea. (And I'm only a third into it.)

What may be characterized as neoconservatism is the purposefully nebulous intellectual movement which has largely consumed the conservative intelligentsia. So-called compassionate conservatism. Socialism in capitalist clothing. A pragmatic approach to the welfare state. Capitalism with a heart. Lip-service capitalism. Socialism without totalitarianism. Or perhaps, "A new spectre is haunting the world?" Neoconservatism requires no formal conspiracy, only general acceptance of a philosophic approach.

A philosophic approach counter to the Enlightenment which gave birth to the founding fathers and America. Rejection of the idea that all men are capable of reason and self-improvement. Rejection of reason and principle in favor of emotionalism and "prudence." Neocons, while inconsistent, effectively reject the Declaration of Independence. Not in an implied, confused way, but explicitly. Men do not have natural rights; such as, life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness. The purpose of government is not to protect individual rights, but to ensure that men recognize the duties of serving the "public good." Only then will they be happy.

Still, neocons recognize that forced socialism fails, producing poverty, misery, slaughter, and oppression. Thus, some measure of capitalism must be preserved to generate the wealth needed for actual public good, for redistribution by the welfare state.

But capitalism is founded on principles of self-interest and individual rights.
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