7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2009
A quite readable inquiry into a fascinating aspect of American culture. A little too breezy in spots (example: "The Irish are even more puritanical than the Puritans." p. 45, 1991 hardcover edition. My response: Are they really?!) but, on balance, well argued and well documented. The author serves up varied and sturdy original and non-original examinations. Among the best spleen-touchers are his takes on Boston's Yankee-Irish feud (p. 44) and Israeli society (p.144).
National Review magazine senior editor Richard Brookhiser wrote "The Way of The WASP" during the presidency of George H.W. (Poppy) Bush, for whom Brookhiser wrote speeches. The book can be viewed as a long and useful memo to his former boss. The high points of the work are Chapter 3, in which Brookhiser clearly identifies the sociological phenomenon, and the final chapter, where he relates strategies for rebuilding common culture.
The author wisely hits at the fact that such a rebuilding will not succeed if done under an explicit WASP Revival banner. It can only be effective in a roundabout way (what Soren Kierkegaard called "thoughts that wound from behind") with pragmatic appeals to justice, history, and all-important tests of what works (what David Hume boiled down to common sense).
Jews are called to be a light unto the nations. WASPs and holders of WASP values need to be a light unto America through exemplary conduct that prizes practice over theory and is correctly seasoned with humility and prudence (cue Dana Carvey doing Poppy..."Not going to do it. Wouldn't be prudent."). The author insulates his work from racialism by delving into the six character traits and those that replaced them.
Brookhiser's call for mainline Protestant churches to get back to truth is welcome. Although he doesn't say so this would involve Calvinist churches revisiting the teachings of Jean Calvin and the concept of predestination. If there's an antidote for corrosive egalitarianism and a recipe for self-correcting social glue it's to be found in predestination, properly viewed. As for proper reckoning, Max Weber provides it in "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism." Predestination creates "the motive to constant self-control and thus a deliberate regulation of one's life" (p.126, 1958 Scribner paperback edition). It has "a unique consistency" and "an extraordinarily powerful psychological effect."(p.128). By the way, there's no reason this blessed doctrine can't be fitted into Judaism and Islam (it's latent in both) as well as other religions.
Brookhiser is a refreshing Catholic writer in that he doesn't recommend WASPs just flip the Romans the ball and let them and their church quarterback American culture. Although Catholics have integrated themselves well into American ways and continue to make an extraordinarily valuable contribution to civil society through the pro-life movement, the Roman paradigm is a promoter of bigness in all forms. Although it may pain Brookhiser and other Catholic intellectuals they should consider the context of congregationalism vs. cathedralism to determine which is more conducive to republican virtue and usable liberty.
Such a study would lead them, one hopes, to the realization that "Way of The WASP" conservatism will not be reborn through a mass political movement. It can only be actualized through recognition that small (small church, small government) is beautiful. Among flinty and skeptical New England Congregationalists steeped in Calvinist predestination, conservatism just is. It's not even called WASPism or conservatism by its doers. As my swamp Yankee forebears would put it, it's just the way you live if you respect people and have half a brain in your head.
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2004
Reply to previous review. William F. Buckley, Pat Buchanan, Bill O'Reilly, and Jeb Bush are all Catholics, several of them of Celtic, not Anglo-Saxon, descent. They are, however, white.
on May 14, 2014
Richard Brookheiser was once a speechwriter for then vice president George H W Bush. His skill as a write is awesone, as evidenced by this writing. He argues that the mores of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants were the ones which formed our country and made it great. Immigrants who were not Anglophones, and those with non-Protestant religions also accepted WASP mores as they became successfully integrated as Americans. Those mores, once called virtues, include the work ethic, the tendency to save, to defer gratification, and to eschew physical gratification.
But in recent decades, "progressive", modernist ideas have taken a deep root in our national character.
In order to become great again, we must get them back. But can we? Brookheiser seems optimistic, but in the end, only time will tell.
2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2013
I was given a copy of this book just after it was published. It meandered around the theme of What Exactly Is A WASP. It tried, not too valiantly, with no satisfying results. It derived from an isolated viewpoint, Northeastern, Ivy League and almost more National Review Catholic influenced rather than White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.
The book even veered into irrelevance when it referred to John Updike as a WASP archetype.
It was a disappointing shortfall.
13 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2003
This is a not bad book. The author (or National Review fame, mind you) praises the values of the most politically incorrect of creatures, the cause of all (or almost) the world's problems: The Great American W.A.S.P.!
White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. You know, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, William F. Buckley, Pat Buchanan, George Will, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Ronald Reagan, Jeb Bush, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Peggy Noonan, Pat Robertson, Barbara Simpson, Rich Lowry. And on and on and on!
These are the type of folks praised in this book. Or rather, the Founding Fathers who would agree with their politics. If nothing else, it's certainly a refreshing viewpoint. Granted, some of these folks political opinions are rather shrill and have the stench of a mildly fascistic Christian theocracy, which is deep down what many of these folks on the far right want for America.
Even so, if I have to take their America over the "one Nation under jihad, with liberty and justice for Allah" that the Islamofascists and a few of the U.N. types want...well, I'll take the folks the author praises in this humble tome. It's decent read. Not the end all of politcal literary achievements though. I give it a A for effort.