Creating Conservatism

Creating Conservatism: Postwar Words that Made an American Movement

Michael J. Lee
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Creating Conservatism
    Book Description:

    Creating Conservatismcharts the vital role of canonical post-World War II (1945-1964) books in generating, guiding, and sustaining conservatism as a political force in the United States. Dedicated conservatives have argued for decades that the conservative movement was a product of print, rather than a march, a protest, or a pivotal moment of persecution.The Road to Serfdom, Ideas Have Consequences, Witness, The Conservative Mind, God and Man at Yale, The Conscience of a Conservative,and other mid-century texts became influential not only among conservative office-holders, office-seekers, and well-heeled donors but also at dinner tables, school board meetings, and neighborhood reading groups. These books are remarkable both because they enumerated conservative political positions and because their memorable language demonstratedhowto take those positions-functioning, in essence, as debate handbooks. Taking an expansive approach, the author documents the wide influence of the conservative canon on traditionalist and libertarian conservatives. By exploring the varied uses to which each founding text has been put from the Cold War to the culture wars,Creating Conservatismgenerates original insights about the struggle over what it means to think and speak conservatively in America.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-414-9
    Subjects: Political Science, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PROLOGUE. The Old Argument Comes Full Circle
    (pp. 1-16)

    Much later in life, William F. Buckley recalled an odd meeting he had in the mid-1950s. After delivering a lecture at Smith College, a man approached him abruptly: “I came out of the lecture and this thin, angular man bounded over and said, ‘My name is Peter Viereck. Can we talk?’” In a hurry, Buckley answered that he only had time to talk while walking to his waiting car. Viereck agreed. Off the two went, Buckley on foot, Viereck on a bicycle. “So we chatted for about five minutes and then he fell,” Buckley remembered. “So I dragged him out...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Conservative Canon and Its Uses
    (pp. 17-38)

    To Pat Buchanan, his was “the voice in the desert” whose defeat in 1964 was a “baptism of fire.” This politician-prophet left a sacred text, a “sermon of fire and brimstone.” The blessed document, Buchanan said of Barry Goldwater’sThe Conscience of a Conservative, was conservatives’ “new testament,” and “we read it, memorized it, quoted it.”¹ William F. Buckley, whose writings also enthralled conservatives, agreed with Buchanan;The Conscience of a Conservative, he wrote, held “near scriptural authority” in the community.² Yet Goldwater’s was not the only book that acquired transfixing power among conservatives. Milton Friedman praised Friedrich Hayek’sThe...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Traditionalist Dialect
    (pp. 39-74)

    “Am I Conservative?” was the title of Max Eastman’s lastNational Reviewarticle in 1964. (The magazine’s cover phrased the title a bit differently: “Max Eastman Says We Should Impeach God.”) It was the first time Eastman published such an existential question about his relationship to conservatism; it was not the first time Eastman expressed grave reservations about his politics. He had a touch of political wanderlust. As a young writer, he identified as a “democratic radical,” but by the time World War I broke out, he preferred “scientific socialist.” When that one no longer fit, he opted for “libertarian...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Libertarian Dialect
    (pp. 75-106)

    In the late 1960s, the fragile peace between libertarian and traditionalist conservatives in Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), the conservative movement’s first youth organization, collapsed. At its most ominous, this clash saw libertarians, or “Rads,” as agents provocateurs defending radicalism, celebrating moral relativism, and otherwise irking the sermonizing traditionalists, or “Trads.” Rads openly advocated market solutions toeverysocial question. The market, the Rads agreed, could arbitrate fairly the price of sex just as it could the price of toothpaste. What right, the Rads asked, did some pampered bureaucrat have to force them to fight in Vietnam? From their bell...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Fusionism as Philosophy and Rhetorical Practice
    (pp. 107-134)

    Nearly 100 college students met on the Mexican patio of the Great Elm mansion in Sharon, Connecticut, on September 11, 1960, to define conservatism. For many among the youthful collective gathered there—traditionalists, libertarians, anti-Communists, anti–New Dealers, and Christians—it was the “very first time they felt like they were not alone.”¹ Their fledgling cause had profited from the unexpected success of a series of controversial books published since the end of World War II. Friedrich Hayek’sThe Road to Serfdomremade libertarian-conservatism as a humanitarian impulse to protect the public from state violence. Barry Goldwater’sThe Conscience of...

    (pp. 135-162)

    He was WFB to readers and Chairman Bill to admirers. The public knew him as Buckley for short, William F. Buckley Jr. more formally. He was labeled an enfant terrible, a bon vivant with a joie de vivre, a dandy, a dilettante, a theocrat, and a fascist.¹ Buckley labeled himself a conservative, but not all of the time.² Buckley was a writer, an editor, a publisher, an orator, a debater, a television host, an interviewer, a one-off politician, and a political adviser from 1951 until his death in 2008. Buckley’s career, prolific by any measure, included fifty-five books about politics,...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Whittaker Chambers’s Martyrdom
    (pp. 163-192)

    Whittaker Chambers began writing his memoirs in 1950, two years after he alleged before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) that Soviet spy cells, of which he was an integral part, had infiltrated the U.S. government. Both in his trial and subsequent memoirs, Chambers named the names of secret Soviet agents who masqueraded as idealistic New Deal bureaucrats. Most notable among his fellow apparatchiks was Alger Hiss. Hiss was no functionary; he was president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace at the time of Chambers’s allegation, and, before that, Hiss was prominently positioned in the State Department and Office...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Conservatism and Canonicity
    (pp. 193-206)

    Conservatives’ quarrel over conservatism is evinced by the manifold modifying terms they employ to distinguish between conservative camps. The most popular augmentations—libertarian conservatism, fiscal conservatism, traditionalist conservatism, social conservatism, paleoconservatism, and neoconservatism—have been generated since the 1950s in response to fundamental disagreements over what counted as an authentic conservative belief. Such modifiers proliferated further in the ensuing decades. Between “crunchy conservatism,” “reformist conservatism,” “Bull Moose conservatism,” “progressive conservatism,” “big government conservatism,” “Costco conservatism,” “Sam’s Club conservatism,” “Wal-Mart conservatism,” “patio man conservatism,” “heroic conservatism,” and “comeback conservatism,” the only common denominator is the oft-repeated root word.¹ This denominator, moreover,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 207-280)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 281-294)
  14. Index
    (pp. 295-316)