- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (20 Jun. 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594518319
- ISBN-13: 978-1594518317
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.6 x 23.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,262,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
NEOCONSERVATISM Hardcover – 20 Jun 2010
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"I just started on the book and am blown away by it. I knew much of it already but the careful, measured and cumulative explanation of its intellectual roots and political consequences makes it a must-read."
―Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic
"This book is a must-read for all Americans interested in defending the founding fathers’ vision of a free and just society."
“A novel and riveting account. . .that traces a tight arc from Leo Strauss through Irving Kristol to the daily travails of Washington politics.”
―RICHARD EPSTEIN, University of Chicago
"A brilliant and important book that substantially enlarges our understanding of the neoconservative phenomenon.”
―A. JAMES REICHLEY, Brookings Institution
"This book treats the neoconservatives, Strauss, and other relevant matters with a degree of respect and intellectual care we do not find in other like-minded texts. I disagree with just about every one of the conclusions here, but the book clearly makes the best case yet made for them, and gives those of us who disagree a worthy target."
―MICHAEL ZUCKERT, University of Notre Dame
"C. Bradley Thompson and Yaron Brook delve deeply into the origin, arc, and current nature of the neoconservative movement in the United States. Brilliant, deep, and told with authority."
―THOM HARTMANN, Air America Radio Network host
About the Author
C. Bradley Thompson is the BB&T Research Professor in the Department of Political Science at Clemson University and the Executive Director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. He is the author of the award-winning John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty. He is also the editor of The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams and Antislavery Political Writings, 1833-1860: A Reader. Yaron Brook is executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. He appears regularly on national TV and radio to discuss business, economic, and foreign policy issues. He has written and spoken extensively on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and on the role of neoconservatives in formulating that policy.
Top Customer Reviews
"Let us be clear: We do not treat neoconservatism as a conspiracy or a cabal (readers of this book will find no flowcharts starting at some office at the University of Chicago, moving through apartments in New York City, and ending in some dark bunker in the White House), but rather as an imporatant intellectual and political movement that deserves to be taken seriously".
This book keeps its promises. Thompson and Brook absolutely deserve to be commended for what they have done here. We have seen far too much in the way of trashy literature claiming to `expose' the neoconservative movement. `Neocon', unfortunately, has become an overused, misunderstood term tossed around as an insult by the clueless left, who have little idea what it actually means. Most often, it is just used as a label for American right-wingers in general. Most disturbing, however, is the level of anti-Semitism that has sneaked into the discussion, with far-left magazines like Adbusters actually putting stars next to the names of Jews on a list of known neoconservatives. Few incidents exposed the moral decline and intellectual bankruptcy of today's left-wing, if it ever held any moral high ground and intellectual quality in the first place. Such nonsense obfuscates the real issues, and scares sensible people away from honestly grappling with neoconservatism.
Thompson is a former neoconservative sympathizer who drifted towards the libertarian side of the philosophical spectrum, while Brook, whom I have seen a couple of times on his UK visits, is executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute and a prominent Objectivist spokesperson.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
Lest one categorize this book as strictly a political account, the author states his primary focus to be "the philosophical essence of neoconservatism" (p. 6). Although there is also ample illustrative treatment of its contemporary political manifestations, emphasis on the underlying philosophical bases for neoconservatism serves to establish and characterize its ideological credentials. In consequence, the pivotal element in the neoconservative creed, as expropriated largely from Leo Strauss, is seen to be a somewhat tortured synthesis of Platonic idealism and Machiavellian realism. This reduces to "Platonic ends achieved by Machiavellian means" (p. 227).
Given the dubious if not unpalatable core tenets of neoconservatism, it is not surprising that its proponents/practitioners are evasive or disingenuous regarding its nature/goals. "They resist any attempt to...identify or define...their views" (p.15), which is mainly why this book is so important. In part, neocons obscure its ideological nature, strategies, and doctrine via a two-level formulation that distinguishes a purportedly wise and beneficent ruling elite (theory level) from an inherently base citizenry (practice level). Here, the ruling elite is composed of philosophers, their specially trained statesman, and to some extent by their surrogates. In turn, the allegedly hapless citizens are subsumed into the pitiable organic whole of society, which must be managed by the ruling elite primarily for the good of the state.
The neocon ideological doctrine/strategies per se are shown to be strictly the esoteric province of the philosophers and their anointed statesman. The intended homogenous society is then privy to just exoteric propaganda, directives, obligations, and constraints that are bestowed on it, primarily for the good of the governing state. Secondarily, society is held to benefit by its relegation to a managed collective life granted unto it by the all-knowing/all-controlling state. Welcome to the "new managerial State" (p. 226).
In all, appreciable detail and disturbing implications of the neocon ideology are convincingly explicated in the book. In consequence, the thrust of this ideological formulation is shown necessarily to entail the demise of the traditional/constitutional form of US governance as well as the repudiation of the principles of American conservatism per se. Ultimately, the underlying premises and the consolidated esoteric doctrine of neoconservatism would seem to be wholly repugnant and fatuous to all traditional Americans and to all persons who value liberty and the rights of individual citizens.
To render the author's characterization and analysis of the neoconservative ideology more tangible, there are ample illustrations of neocon influence at the highest levels of government, mainly through leverage within the Republican Party. Perhaps the most significant is the neocon domination of President George Bush's foreign policy, notably with regard to the Iraqi War. After their decisive role in initiating the war, the neocons enacted an indecisive mode of conducting it: foolishly restrictive rules of engagement; the policy of not pursuing outright military victory; and largely free reign for the Iraqis to disdain our "benevolence" following the war. This prominent exercise in orthodox neocon foreign policy is also examined in Claes Ryn's The New Jacobinism.
Many thanks to Professor Thompson for his thoughtful, thorough, and compelling examination of neocon ideology, and his exemplification of neoconservatism in practice. It probably took as much fortitude as scholarly endeavor to expose the actual nature and ends of this powerful and pervasive ideology. The insights he offers render the interpretation and understanding of Washington politics much clearer. Accordingly, my observations of the failures and dysfunction there are now rather less perplexing. To wit: the counter-productive results issuing from Washington are largely explainable in terms of the common goals of both the progressives AND the neocons. In the words of their prophet and godfather Irving Kristol, neocons seek "liberal ends...achieved through conservative means" (p. 26).
But C. Bradley Thompson is a third type of source -- a long-time Neoconservative himself -- who became disgusted with the deceit involved and decided to blow the whistle on all his Neoconservative friends and associates in this heavily documented book. He tells us the purpose for his book right up front: "I have written this book to alert Americans -- and especially those who value our nation's founding principles -- to the threat posed to this country by neoconservatism,
And on the very last page he charges the Neoconservatives with being "the false prophets of Americanism" and "America's Trojan Horse".
After studying this book by C. Bradley Thompson, I (1) appreciate his honesty, and (2) urge all Americans to learn from this courageous whistleblower that "Neoconservatives" should be more properly be called "pretend conservatives" -- those who seek to lead their own opposition so that can throw the game to those who want to promote socialism and expansionism. (Experience has shown us that we can't afford either -- and that having bases all around the globe creates resentment in other nations. How would we feel if some foreign country established permanent military bases in Florida, for example?)
DonFolkers@gwi.net Dartmouth '59
As the authors acknowledge, the obituary is somewhat premature, but with the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, both heavily backed by the neocons, they are clearly losing ground. "Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea" seeks to expose what the neocons call their philosophy of governance--their plan for governing America. Studying the texts with great tenacity, the authors provide the most subtle analysis I have seen of the complex connections that link the neocons with their guru, the University of Chicago professor Leo Strauss, who died in 1973. Thompson and Brooks believe that the claims of the neocons to support American interests are a sham, and that the movement is actually a species of anti-Americanism. In fact, the supporters of the trend show little enthusiasm for the traditions of the American founding. In this vein they ridicule the aspirations to limited government that libertarians and many paleoconservatives derive from this heritage. Instead, they favor big government, providing that, in their wisdom, they can somehow pull the levers of power. In this aim they do not shrink, according to Thompson and Brook, from advocating the deployment of fraud and force. Despising the masses, these elitists believe that the herd of ordinary folks, who are incapable of any philosophical dimension, must be controlled by propagating "noble lies" among them, especially those rooted in religion. Although many, probably most of the neocons are of Jewish extraction, they are typically nonobservant.
Because of their elitism and deviousness, Thompson and Brook conclude that the neocon program is crypto-fascist. This is a serious charge, but the writers support their contention by showing Leo Strauss's connection with Carl Schmitt and Martin Heidegger, both later implicated with Nazism, and his admiration for Mussolini.
Largely absent from the book is any discussion of the pronounced turn of the neocons towards defending the state of Israel, even when its interests diverge from those of the United States. They do not discuss the key neocon paper of 1998, "A Clean Break," produced for Benjamin Netanyahu and urging an invasion of Iraq. Having infiltrated the Bush administration, they were able to implement this disastrous idea in 2003. The omission of the Israeli connection is curious, because Yaron Brook is in fact an Israeli, though he has lived in the US for a good many years. Evidently, the omission of this major theme reflects a deliberate decision on the part of the authors.
Early on in the book, the authors make a significant blooper when they relocate the famous cafeteria Alcove One (where a number of individuals met who were to become key neocons) from City College in Upper Manhattan to Brooklyn College (p. 16).
More worrisome, though, is the fact that both authors profess to be admirers of Ayn Rand. Yaron Brook is in fact the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. (He must not be confused with the journalist David Brooks, who receives many hard knocks in the course of the volume.) On the whole, however, Thompson and Brooks keep their eye on the ball, and the Randian element is not obtrusive.
These criticisms notwithstanding, this appears to be the weightiest analysis of neonconservatism yet published. Regrettably, this noxious movement is not dead yet, but incisive interventions like the one in this book should hasten its demise.
Conservatives who consider the founding fathers their touchstone must read this book. Liberals curious about the roots of these influential thinkers in the conservative ranks must read this book.
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