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Buckley: William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism Hardcover – October 25, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“How liberals should write about conservatives.” ―New York Times Magazine

“Remarkably perceptive… Mr. Bogus rises to the occasion, crafting a formative biography and history that is not only interesting and relevant, but an essential study of Buckley and the post-World War II conservative movement. This is an important book. Anyone, of any political stripe, interested in learning more about the rise of conservatism as a movement in the mid-20th century needs to read Carl T. Bogus‘ Buckley.” ―Washington Times

“[Bogus'] discussion of the various intellectual players is well informed, and he makes a useful contribution to understanding the contending variations of modern American conservatism.” ―New York Times Book Review

“Worth reading” ―James B. Burnham, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Bogus makes skillful use of unpublished letters and other contemporaneous literature to evoke the postwar furors that informed Buckley's early career and that prompted his famous battle cry, in National Review's inaugural issue, to stand athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!'” ―Washington Post

“Bogus capably mixes admiration with critique” ―New Republic

“A thoughtful blend of biography and intellectual history … Bogus vividly encapsulates how radically Buckley ‘changed America's political realities ... a feat so great that it is almost impossible to overstate.'” ―Publishers Weekly

“This is an insightful book that will please anyone interested in midcentury American history and politics. Anyone serious about political philosophy will learn from it. Highly recommended.” ―Library Journal (starred)

“Carl T. Bogus has given us a very fine biography of William F. Buckley Jr., the founder and central figure of the American conservative movement. Without Buckley we might not have had the Reagan presidency. As editor of National Review, columnist, author of many books, and host of the TV show Firing Line, Buckley seemed to be everywhere. Nothing like this had happened in American history.” ―Jeffrey Hart, Professor of English Emeritus, Dartmouth College; former senior editor, National Review; author, The Making of the Conservative Mind; National Review and its Times

“I found this book to be well-written,well-informed, and fair minded. Carl Bogus is very solid on the various forms of conservatism in the 50s and 60s and Buckley's role in defining his version. He also includes terrific, lengthy passages on Vietnam, civil rights, Reagan, Mayor Lindsay, Ayn Rand, and Russell Kirk.” ―James Patterson, Brown University, Bancroft Prize-winning author of Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945–1974

“Carl Bogus has given us a terrific new book on William F. Buckley that is neither hagiography nor ideological axe-grinding. Buckley is a serious and thoughtful discussion of the nature of modern American conservatism and Buckley's role in shaping it. Liberals and conservatives will both gain immensely from this readable and entertaining work of scholarship.” ―Vincent J. Cannato, author of The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and his Struggle to Save New York

“not a traditional cradle-to-grave biography but an ongoing conversation about and argument with Buckley” ―Kirkus

About the Author

Carl T. Bogus is professor of law at Roger Williams University and a nationally recognized expert on politics, law, and the Constitution. His previous books include Why Lawsuits are Good for America and The Second Amendment in Law and History (co-editor).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; 1st edition (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596915803
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596915800
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jason Jones on December 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I want to start off this review by saying that I am not someone reviewing this poorly over some ideological ax to grind. I have no problem with the fact that Bogus is a liberal or that Buckley was a hybrid of several strains of modern conservatism.

1) The title itself is misleading. After the founding of the National Review Buckley all but disappears. If the book was called, "Buckley: WFB, The National Review, and the Rise of American Conservatism", I wouldn't be so unforgiving. In the chapter on Vietnam the author declares that Buckley wrote on Vietnam as well. Is this about Buckley or the National Review? Only two chapters, one devoted to his mayor's race run and the other to "The Loonies", really had any meat. Again, this wouldn't be so bad, but the episode with the Birchers and Rand have been done to death.

2) Inexplicably the author asserts that WFB imbibed his father's politics, including race problems with African-Americans, yet somehow WFB didn't pick up his father's crude anti-semitism.

3) Apparently the author has written an article for the Missouri Law Review on Burke. At every opportunity the author likes to bring up Burke's conservatism (neglecting the difference between British and American conservatism entirely)and the term Burkean is used as the highest praise for figures like Russel Kirk and Gary Wills.

4) Usually if you write a biography of someone you use a lot of primary material (the author has so conflated The National Review and Buckley in his mind that even under someone else's byline it is "Buckley"), like letters and interviews. Nope. Just more National Review for you here. Buckley's famous breaks with figures in his life is hinted at and you will find little to no background.
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The title of this work, "Buckley, William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism", is not appropriate. The book is an acceptable treatment of the causation, development and major players, of the mid century conservative movement.

"The Rise of American Conservatism" is the more appropriate title.

Where is the meat...where is Buckley? Insight into Buckley is limited, dated and superficial.

The author provides more background and fill than is required for a reader with more than a casual understanding of the times, issues and key individuals related to the conservative movement.
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I think Bogus is an outstanding explainer of 20th century history. The book was highly instructive on such things as the Mexican revolution, American racial politics, and Vietnam. I was less satisfied with the treatment of Buckley and National Review. The author, though, I think primarily wanted to make an argument about Burkean conservatism versus the brand Buckley pushed (libertarian conservatism). He achieves that in a thoughtful way.
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...until another comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:7)

The reason I cite this particular biblical proverb is that the information in this book is nearly all new to me.

Going by my limited knowledge of the subject, it seems to me that Mr. Bogus has been very fair, very even-handed, and very thorough in his coverage. But I reserve the right to change my opinion if and when further information on Mr. Buckley and "National Review" should come to light.

Having said all that, I also find this book very readable. Although Mr. Bogus is a self-described political liberal, here he has assembled not only a light biography of Mr. Buckley, but a useful overview of movement conservatism in the mid 20th century.
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The book is an excellent concise history of movement conservatism. As a bonus you get a short history of the Mexican Civil War. It is not a a detailed biography of William Buckley or the national review. Rather the author wants to explain Buckley's place within in the conservative movement and explain how Buckley's brand of conservatism was different from other conservatives.

The details the author does give of Buckley were to me very surprising. I always thought of him as the quintessential Yankee but it turns out his father was a Texan. Also, he wasn't born to some dynasty but was the son of a self-made man. I guess Buckley was one of those people who was good at making his own image.
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With all the constant left / right verbal battles that pass for political discourse today, I was intrigued about one of its original “movers and shakers” - William F. Buckley. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I was very aware of William F. Buckley from watching his interviews on television, as well as his program “The Firing Line.” Although I could not disagree more with Buckley on almost every issue, I always respected his intellect, his wit and his debating skills. Not only could he present a cogent argument, Buckley had the intestinal fortitude to call out and banish the “whack-o” extremist element from the conservative movement while promoting an intelligent point of view of what a conservative is.
In my opinion, intelligent dialogue, as well as a coherent message or ideology pertaining to conservatism is sorely lacking today. In an effort to better understand why our political dialogue is dysfunctional, what better source of information than William F. Buckley – the father of the conservative movement? That question brought me to this book - “Buckley” by Carl T. Bogus.
After reading a number of Amazon reviews, mostly from conservatives who seemed to dislike or distrust the book, due to Bogus being a liberal and therefore must have a preconceived bias. On that point, I strongly disagree. Just because one might disagree with the message, one can still have a deep respect for an intelligent and colorful messenger. Despite my personal opposition to their political views, both William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater still have my deepest respect as intelligent leaders and gentlemen. Both were willing to re-analyze and amend some of their positions in the course of their lifetime and still hold to their principles.
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