The Dilemmas of American Conservatism

The Dilemmas of American Conservatism

Kenneth L. Deutsch
Ethan Fishman
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    The Dilemmas of American Conservatism
    Book Description:

    In the second half of the twentieth century, American conservatism emerged from the shadow of New Deal liberalism and developed into a movement exerting considerable influence on the formulation and execution of public policy in the United States. During that period, the political philosophers who provided the intellectual foundations for the American conservative movement were John H. Hallowell, Eric Voegelin, Leo Strauss, Richard Weaver, Russell Kirk, Robert Nisbet, John Courtney Murray, Friedrich Hayek, and Willmoore Kendall.

    By offering a comprehensive analysis of their thoughts and beliefs, The Dilemmas of American Conservatism both illuminates the American conservative imagination and reveals its most serious contradictions. The contributing authors question whether a core set of conservative principles can be determined based on the frequently diverging perspectives of these key philosophers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7390-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    Ethan Fishman and Kenneth L. Deutsch

    This volume explores the thought of those intellectuals commonly credited with having the greatest philosophical influence on the resurgence of American conservatism during the second half of the twentieth century, when the movement emerged from the shadow of the New Deal and began reasserting its power over the formulation and execution of public policy in the United States. The nine thinkers examined are John H. Hallowell, Eric Voegelin, Leo Strauss, Richard Weaver, Robert Nisbet, John Courtney Murray, Russell Kirk, F. A. Hayek, and Willmoore Kendall. Although Voegelin, Strauss, and Hayek were not born in the United States, their ideas had...

  5. The Classical Realism of John H. Hallowell
    (pp. 9-28)
    Ethan Fishman

    When I entered Duke University as a graduate student forty years ago, my political affiliations were confused. I considered myself a conservative with moderate political views but felt uncomfortable identifying with the advocates of a bellicose foreign policy, supporters of a laissez-faire economic program, and defenders of the Jim Crow status quo in the South, who then dominated the American conservative movement. John H. Hallowell (1913–1991) opened my eyes to a more cautious and thoughtful version of conservatism known as classical realism. Today a similar group of right-wing ideologues continues to portray itself as the authentic voice of conservatism...

  6. Eric Voegelin and American Conservatism
    (pp. 29-46)
    James L. Wiser

    In reacting to numerous efforts by others to classify his thinking according to the terms of a particular school of thought or intellectual tradition, Eric Voegelin (1901–1985) wrote: “Because of this attitude I have been called every conceivable name by partisans of this or that ideology. I have in my files documents labeling me a Communist, a Fascist, a National Socialist, an old Liberal, a new Liberal, a Jew, a Catholic, a Protestant, a Platonist, a new-Augustinian, a Thomist, and of course a Hegelian—not to forget that I was supposedly influenced by Huey Long. . . . Understandably...

  7. Leo Strauss’s Friendly Criticism of American Liberal Democracy: Neoconservative or Aristocratic Liberal?
    (pp. 47-62)
    Kenneth L. Deutsch

    Leo Strauss (1899–1973) remains one of the most revered and reviled political thinkers since World War II.¹ Both academically serious and politically bizarre controversies surrounding Strauss’s legacy have intensified since his death. His alleged influence over contemporary neoconservatives and their Iraqi foreign policy objectives is only one of the many problematic aspects of his intellectual patrimony. Characterizations of Strauss’s teachings concerning natural right and moral relativism have ranged from morally absolutist and authoritarian to morally nihilist and atheist. This chapter makes the claim that Strauss was both a sober friend of liberal democracy who refused to be one of...

  8. The Relation of Intellect and Will in the Thought of Richard Weaver
    (pp. 63-76)
    Robert A. Preston

    In May 1960 Richard Weaver (1910–1963) published an article inThe Individualistin which he defined the intellectual conservative. To be clear, Weaver was speaking of the intellectual conservative, not the social, fiscal, or political conservative. Here is Weaver’s definition:

    It is clear from this definition that Weaver stayed faithful to the position he set down inIdeas Have Consequences, published twelve years earlier. It is also clear that Weaver is stating definitively that there is a basis for truth in reality. There is, in Weaver’s words, “the fixed nature of things.” Ultimately, this gets to the heart of...

  9. Robert Nisbet and the Conservative Intellectual Tradition
    (pp. 77-96)
    Brad Lowell Stone

    Robert Nisbet (1913–1996) was a prose stylist of the first rank, arguably the original American communitarian, and a major figure in the renaissance in conservative thought that occurred after 1950. He published his first and most influential book,The Quest for Community, in 1953 at the end of a three-year period that produced what he later called a “small harvest of conservative books”¹: Russell Kirk’sThe Conservative Mind, Eric Voegelin’sThe New Science of Politics, Leo St rauss’sNatural Right and History, William F. Buckley’sGod and Man at Yale, John Hallowell’sThe Moral Foundation of Democracy, and Daniel...

  10. John Courtney Murray as Catholic, American Conservative
    (pp. 97-124)
    Peter Augustine Lawler

    John Courtney Murray (1904–1967) was a member of the Society of Jesus. He taught at the Jesuit theologiate at Woodstock, Maryland, and was editor of the Jesuit journalTheological Studiesfrom 1941 until his death. He became a leading American public figure—the subject of a 1960Timecover story. He was known mainly for his work on the relationship between the Catholic Church and American political life, his interpretation of the American view of religious liberty, and his resolutely Catholic view of the true ground of that liberty.¹ His affirmation of the basic continuity between the Catholic and...

  11. Russell Kirk: Traditionalist Conservatism in a Postmodern Age
    (pp. 125-150)
    Gerald J. Russello

    Russell Kirk (1918–1994) is widely credited as one of the architects of postwar American conservatism. The author of more than thirty works of intellectual history, literary criticism, and biography, Kirk was a longtime newspaper columnist, an early contributor toNational Review, and the founder of two quarterly journals,Modern AgeandThe University Bookman. His 1953 bookThe Conservative Mind: From Burke to Santayana(in later editions expanded to include T. S. Eliot) created for a nascent conservative movement an intellectual genealogy to counter the dominant story of America as a liberal nation.

    Kirk is often pigeonholed as a...

  12. F. A. Hayek: A Man of Measure
    (pp. 151-174)
    Linda C. Raeder

    The Austrian-born Nobel Laureate, economist, and social theorist F. A. Hayek (1899–1992) was neither an American nor a self-avowed conservative, yet any exploration of American conservative philosophy must place Hayek front and center. He is widely regarded as one of the fathers of the postwar conservative revival in the United States and, despite his objections, is conventionally, and with some justification, aligned with American conservative thought.¹ Hayek’s ambition, he said, was to “restate” the traditional philosophy of individual liberty under law for a contemporary audience increasingly unfamiliar with its ideals and institutions, which he believed were powerfully instantiated in...

  13. Willmoore Kendall, Man of the People
    (pp. 175-202)
    Daniel McCarthy

    Few leading intellectuals of the early postwar conservative movement considered themselves majority-rule democrats. But Willmoore Kendall (1909–1967) was one who did. While James Burnham looked to a Machiavellian elite as the “defenders of freedom” and others of the Right defined themselves in opposition to what José Ortega y Gasset had called (in the title of his famous book) “the revolt of the masses,” Kendall grounded his understanding of conservatism in the customs and attitudes of the American people.¹ This did not make him the father of right-wing populism: Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, for one, needed no help from Kendall...

  14. List of Contributors
    (pp. 203-204)
  15. Index
    (pp. 205-212)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-213)