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Neo-conservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea 1st Elephant Paperback ed Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1566632287
ISBN-10: 1566632285
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This fascinating book by one of America's leading public intellectuals spans nearly half a century of writing, with essays on sex, politics, and religion. Irving Kristol has long been considered the godfather of neoconservatism, a political persuasion that breathed intellectual life into the moribund Republican Party during the 1970s and helped make Ronald Reagan's ascendancy possible. But because Kristol spent the bulk of his career in the highbrow journalistic world of essays and commentary, he never authored a full book that defines his mode of thinking or traces its development. This collection of essays is the closest thing there is, and it's a real treat: smart, often counterintuitive, and full of good writing. As Kristol notes on the opening pages, "An intellectual who didn't write struck me as only half an intellectual." And Kristol is clearly a full intellectual. Much of the writing here has appeared elsewhere--in Commentary, where Kristol served as an editor; The Wall Street Journal, where he regularly contributes to the op-ed page; and The Public Interest, which he founded and still edits. The best part of the book, however, is an original essay, "An Autobiographical Memoir." In it, Kristol sketches his intellectual growth, which began while he was a young man attending neo-Trotskyite meetings in Brooklyn (where he met his wife, the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb) and eventually took him to Washington, D.C., where today he is a fixture at right-of-center political gatherings. For readers interested in conservative politics, Neoconservatism is a keeper. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

This hefty collection of some 40 articles and essays written since the 1950s represents a kind of summation for neocon doyen Kristol, editor of the Public Interest. Particularly interesting is his previously unpublished opening memoir concerning influences such as Lionel Trilling, Leo Strauss and army life as well as the founding of his magazine and his work with the American Enterprise Institute to extend conservatism beyond free enterprise to reflect "on the roots of social and cultural stability." The articles are a varied lot. Some denigrate such topics as multiculturalism and the "consumers' protection movement" or declare that the 1960s counterculture was essentially unprovoked. More compelling essays reflect on the "true purposes" of the American Revolution, the 1960s growth of the "new class" and the "perverse consequences" of Great Society programs that ignored universal applicability. Kristol also includes several essays on Jews in America and on the country's latter-day shift to conservatism.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee; 1st Elephant Paperback ed edition (March 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566632285
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566632287
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Koropeckyj on June 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
Whether you agree or disagree with Kristol on any of the issues that he writes about is besides the point. Kristol is an extremely talented and intelligent writer and would be whether we was a neo-con, a old conservative, new liberal or whatever. Thus if you disagree with any of the points outlined in Kristol's book then do not let it turn you off from reading it, as it is still very educational about the neoconservative ideology.
However the books real merits are that it is organized so well into essays rather than just one long rant or a few long and preachy chapters. Because everything in this book is jsut something that Kristol wrote at one time or another, you can read just one essay a day or a few a day as most are rather short. Furthermore the table of contents provides great direction about any issue that Kristol wrote about ranging from Race, Sex, and family to Jews, to Capitalism and the Democratic Idea. Because each essay is so easy to read and the individual issues are easy to find this tome can be easily used as a reference source and if you need to know anything about the neo- conservative ideology be sure to look here first, especially if you think that he is wrong about everything.
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This review covers the three editions of Irving Kristol's essays: (1) Kristol, Irving. Reflections of a neo-conservative (1986); (2 Neo-conservatism: The autobiography of an idea / Irving Kristol (1999); and (3) The Neo-conservative Persuasion: Selected Essays. 1942-2009/Irving Kristol, ed. Gertrude Himmelfarb (2009). The essays were written from the late 1940s through the 1990s.

It's difficult to write a review that can convey the scope, depth, and power of wisdom contained in these collections of articles, but it would be more difficult to write a separate review for each collection. Duplication of the articles in more than one book is a problem. At least twelve of the essays are reprinted verbatim in their entirety in the "Reflections" and the "The autobiography of an idea" edited by Kristol. Half the essay, "The Right Stuff" is duplicated word for word in Himmelfarb's collection as well as the complete "An Autobiographical Memoir" which is reprinted from Kristol's "The autobiography of an idea". The three volumes total 118 essays and 1,100 pages.

These articles were originally written for "think" magazines (Encounter, Commentary, The National Interest et al) which Kristol edited or co-edited with prominent public intellectuals such as Daniel Bell. Kristol also appeared in many symposiums, gave many interviews and lectures, and was Professor of Social Thought at New York University. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and fellow emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute. This is but a small sample of his prestigious affiliations and honors. He died aged 89 on Sept. 18, 2009 from complications of lung cancer.
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Irving Kristol has been declared by some to be the father of neo-conservatism. This is the same philosophical group that has gained such prominence of late in the Pentagon and Bush White House. The same group that Pat Buchanan claims are Liberals rotting away the core of Conservativism.

Neo-conservatives are said to be `Liberals who've been mugged'. Supposedly this awakens them from their idealist fantasies into the cold, hard world called reality. This book is pieced together from articles written by Kristol spanning over half a century on a wide range of topics. It quickly and sadly becomes clear that Kristol's ideas have had a HUGE influence on modern Conservative polemics. Many of his ideas echo in the words of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and many others. However unlike the members of that list of shame Irving Kristol generally manages to retain his dignity and not delve into the infantile behavior of his unfortunate emulators.

The book chronicles Kristol's journey from young Trotskyite to anti-communist liberal to just plain anti-liberal. I suppose once Communism began to fade Kristol needed to focus his dissatisfaction somewhere and he never forgave those liberals who worked as apologists for Stalin. Kristol also built up a high degree of animosity towards liberals during the radical era of the sixties.

I do recommend this book for anyone interested in learning about where today's Conservative pundits got their ideas from. It certainly makes Limbaugh and crew look far less creative.
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By A Customer on January 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
As the author of the review below is clearly a madman, a corrective is in order. Kristol thinks clearly, writes elegantly, and maintains an almost courtly good-humor and reserve.
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