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This review is from: The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 (Paperback)
Kudos to George Nash for writing this compendium. If you've ever wondered where the intellectual trail of conservatism has been--where the meat is-- this is the book for you. In a day where kids are taught the entire liberal canon over and over again, in every field, you may be wondering if there have been any conservative intellectuals at all, since Burke. If you've been wanting to round out your own education (or your kids') you need this book.
The book covers the canon of conservative thinkers very well, and includes pictures. Sometimes it went a little too fast for me so that all the names blended into one, but it is not for quick reading anyway. It is kind of like one long encyclopedia article. If you're not part of a conservative association where names like Voeglin and Viereck are tossed around casually, take note that you will have to read this SLOWLY.
But Nash makes it manageable by breaking up conservatives into three categories: libertarian/economic, paleo- or old style conservatives, and neoconservative. He does a great job of distinguishing the three buckets, and noting the different arguments and tone within the streams. But he also does a good job of teaching his reader how the streams coalesced into something greater-- much more significant than any liberal academy will publicly recognize.
It catalogues the Who's Who of conservatism: Hayek, Milton, Nock, Bozell, Hazlitt, William F. Buckley, etc. It has a large amount of obscurantism that any true academic will enjoy =) along with great synopses of each person's literature.
I think the most important aspect of this book, however, was its impression upon me that there has never really been a conservative authoritarian presence in liberal arts colleges or liberal arts academia. My whole life I have been brainwashed into thinking that schools and universities were once run by strict, demanding classicists-- movies like Dead Poets Society come to mind-- that liberals had to come and relax. But with the exception of some private Catholic schools, Nash proves that this is a fallacy. Leftists have spun the history of academia to make it seem like one big war (rebellion) against conservative thought, but in reality, liberalism has been dominant at least since the 1920s. They have been fighting no-one. The war is fake. True conservative power has never been recognized or taught from school pulpits, but classic liberalism has been almost completely co-opted by farther Left streams. This has revised my understanding of education and academia almost 180 degrees from when I started, as I had bought into that popular conception.
So Nash is no neo-con. He has a healthy respect for classic liberalism, libertarianism, and conservatism alike. His main desire is to see healthy, rigorous, academic thought and debate.
Another pro of the book is that the history of communism in America dovetails very nicely with his information. It makes a great companion to "Dupes" by Paul Kengor because if there was one thing that all three camps of conservatives agreed on, it was anticommunism. Great point, still stands today I think.
I think the biggest weakness of the book--if there is one--is that Nash left me with a contradictory feeling about the history of conservatism. On one hand, I felt a boost from learning that there was indeed a body of rich academic philosophy underneath the popular political talking points of today. We would do well to stop reinventing the wheel and go back to the apologetics and tough-lifting that our conservative forefathers did. On the other hand, the body of lit is messy and somewhat un-united except on the Leftist threat. Perhaps this is what makes it hard to even learn that these forefathers exist! Unless you are blessed with running in very conservative academic circles like Acton or ISI, it might take you ten years to discover a book like this and read some of the thinkers in there. We aren't going to win the war against liberalism with that strategy.
Still, thumbs up. Important niche book.