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The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back Hardcover – October 10, 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As editor of the New Republic and on his blog The Daily Dish, Sullivan has been a major conservative voice in U.S. politics for 15 years. Now, he attempts "to account for what one individual person means by conservatism"—not repudiating his former political beliefs but trying to "rescue" modern U.S. political conservatism from "the current [Christian] fundamentalist supremacy" that now dominates it. Sullivan (Love Undetectable) has a breezy, readable style that allows him to address such diverse issues as religious fundamentalism's reliance on "the literal words of the Bible," the "excessive witch-hunt" surrounding Clinton, and the secular Enlightenment foundations of the Constitution. He's most approachable when he writes autobiographically through a critical lens—"Looking back I see this phase of my faith life as a temporary and neurotic reaction to a new and bewildering school environment." But that reflection is not as readily apparent when he makes sweeping pronouncements on politics ("post-modern discourse... opposed basic notions of Western freedom: of speech, of trade, of religion"). Much of the book is a meditation on his own evolving faith as a devout Catholic and will appeal most to readers interested in personal religious evolution. (Oct. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Andrew Sullivan is one of today's most provocative social and political commentators. An essayist for Time magazine, a columnist for The Sunday Times of London, and a senior editor at The New Republic, he is also the editor of "The Daily Dish," one of the most widely read political blogs on the Web. He lives in Washington, D.C.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (October 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060188774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060188771
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #572,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Swan VINE VOICE on March 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the first chapter Andrew Sullivan works to earn his Conservative credentials by launching a measured attack on liberalism but most of the rest of the book is one long critique of the current evolution of American Conservativism. The bread and butter of the modern Conservative movement are gays, guns and abortions. Ironically this `Conservative' author produces perhaps the best defense of pro-choice I have ever read as well as a wonderful defense of secularism. Combine that with the fact that the author is gay (and British) and you have a rather unique voice among Conservatives.

The point where Mr. Sullivan lost me was in his distinction between true Conservatives and radicalized Conservatives. He writes, `It [conservativism] never seeks to return to a golden age or a distant past' Really? Returning to the past is generally one of, if not THE defining feature of Conservativism. The author might want to read `The Conservative Mind' by Russell Kirk or `The Conservative Intellectual Movement' by George H. Nash to see an endless parade of Conservative intellectuals pining for some bygone era. Later, the author states that, "...Conservativism's great philosophical advantage over liberalism [is that] it can be more flexible." William F. Buckley famously stated that Conservatives `stands athwart history, yelling Stop'. Conservatives have stood in the way of civil rights, woman's suffrage and now gay rights. To a Conservative the American family is mom, dad and 2.2 children. Understanding of right and wrong can only be derived from Judeo-Christians teachings and moral relativity is the bane of an ethical society. Sounds about as flexible as a brick. One final jaw dropper is Mr. Sullivan's claim that `Conservatives, after all, hate war.
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Format: Hardcover
Sullivan's writing is ultra-accessible, and transforms previously dry and boring academic philosophies into something anyone can understand. His critique on the state of conservatism in America is refreshing and much needed. He presents a viable argument for doubt and faith to exist side by side, soemthing I didn't think possible.

His commentary on the current Republican party is insightful and brutally honest. A must read.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one book that has had a huge influence on my political philosophy. Both the author and I grew up in conservative homes, grew up in Christian homes, and voted for G.W. Bush in 2000. Before I picked up the book, that's where the similarities ended.

Sullivan is truly a fascinating man. A homosexual, British, Catholic who voted for John Kerry in 2004. Sullivan lives with HIV and I say that only to say that it doesn't stop him from living life to the fullest, from speaking passionately about the America he still believes in, his adoptive country. That is where the differences begin. But as I read his book I felt his ideas resonate with me strongly.

The term conservatism has been taken over in the last 15 years or so and abused and Andrew Sullivan's mission is to take it back. If you lament what conservatism used to be, and dream of what it truly can be, this is the book for you. His main theme is that our politics should be a politics of doubt, that is, a realization that individual humans don't have all the answers for everyone else at any point in time. Thus the beauty of the freedom that has been written into our constitution here in America.

If you know of a conservative or a fundamentalist, who is thick-headed, blindly passionate about their views, not willing to consider error in their own perspective or listen to sound reason, this is the book that just might break them down. So do be careful.

Other Information: It is a quick read with large margins and double-spacing and it is a page-turner. It is the kind of book you will want to pass on to your friends and family.
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Format: Hardcover
Sullivan does excellent work in showing how far from traditional conservatism George W. Bush is with his emphasis on heavy government spending without commensurate taxation, his unconscionable expansion of executive power at the expense of other branches of government and against the U.S. Constitution, as well as his putting religious ideas, themselves without rational basis, in the place of reasonable, skeptical inquiry. The only fault of the book is that it makes Reagan a more competent president than in fact he was: Reagan's fiscal profligacy in expanding defense spending while cutting taxes doubled the national debt in the eight years of his administration.

Sullivan's book joins Bruce Bartlett's Impostor as a debunker of Bush's supposed conservatism.
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Andrew Sullivan is a conservative after my own heart. Having written his doctoral dissertation on the famed British conservative Michael Oakeshott, this book is an attempt to articulate a vision of Oakeshottian conservatism. That said, this book fails at the task.

What Sullivan wanted to say, as I understand him, was this: his vision of conservatism - the 'conservatism of doubt' - has it that government should intrude and plan as little as necessary to preserve order. This is because conservatives, as distinct from liberals, see human knowledge as constrained and, thus, human attempts at large-scale planning to be frought with pomposity and difficulty. Conservatism should be about letting individuals control their own lives as much as possible becuase they will know better how to do so than politicians. Unfortunately, as Sullivan sees it, conservatism has gotten away from such principles and become a 'conservatism of faith,' that holds values to be absolute and knowable and, thus, the politician's job as legislating the good.

The problem, as I've already said, is that Sullivan doesn't really make that case very cogently or well. He is abstruse, repetitive, and not very organized in his case. As such, this book comes off as unclear and unimpressive.

Take the chapter on the Bush administration's alleged adherence to the "conservatism of faith" (The Bush Crucible). Here, Sullivan attempts to tie the Bush administration to a plethora of "theoconservative" beliefs. While his take is hard to disagree with, Sullivan's argument is weak precisely because he hardly quotes or cites many of the Bush administration's players. He quotes congressman Rick Santorum at length, and several editors/talking heads for cosnervative politics quite a bit.
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