Neo-Conservatism: The Autobiography Of An Idea
Neoconservatism is the movement that has provided the intellectual foundation for the resurgence of American conservatism in our time. And if neoconservatism can be said to have a father or an architect, that person is Irving Kristol.
Neoconservatism is the most comprehensive selection of Kristol's influential writings on politics and economics, as well as the best of his now-famous essays on society, religion, culture, literature, education, and - above all - the "values" issues that have come to define the neo-conservative critique of contemporary life.
These essays provide an unparalleled insight into the 50-year development of Kristol's social and political ideas, from an uneasy socialism tempered with religious orthodoxy, to a vigilant optimism about the future of the American experiment. Those already familiar with Kristol's work will especially enjoy the new autobiographical essay that introduces this volume; it is sprinkled with personal recollections about such luminaries as Lionel Trilling, Leo Strauss, Saul Bellow, Sidney Hook, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and historian Gertrude Himmelfarb (who is also Mrs. Kristol). Those relatively new to Kristol's writings will be treated to some of the most lucid, insightful, entertaining, and intellectually challenging essays of our time. 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