Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The "New" Conservatives

from What Conservatism Means

Particularly intriguing about Huntington’'s argument is that it perfectly predicted what was to happen in the 1960s. In that decade, there was a powerful upsurge of radicalism, associated initially with the Civil Rights movement and protest against the Vietnam War but quickly going beyond that to reject the whole fabric of American society. New Deal liberalism was denounced and rejected as “Cold War liberalism” or worse, and the radicals began their long march through our institutions.

It was in these circumstances that a group of liberal intellectuals, —almost all of them members of the Democratic Party, many of them prominent members of the New York intellectual community, —began to oppose the radical movement, to defend American institutions and values with classic conservative arguments. They were attacked from the left and derisively labeled “neoconservatives.” It was meant as an insult but readily accepted by Irving Kristol, —the godfather of neoconservatism—, and his colleagues.

They became an important force in American politics and have remained so. Many joined the Republican Party. They brought with them intellectual and polemical skills that had been in scarce supply on the Right, and by the 1980s they had seized the intellectual initiative from the Left.

Under the neoconservatives’ guidance, we now have a president committed not only to nation building in Iraq but also to region building throughout the Middle East. The belief that democratic institutions, behavior, and ways of thought can be exported and transplanted to societies that have no traditions of them is a profoundly unconservative, indeed a radical, belief. Conservatives traditionally have believed in the slow, organic growth of political institutions, not their imposition from without. Yet the most enthusiastic advocates of exporting democracy are American neoconservatives, which perhaps suggests that their break with their earlier modes of thought has been less than complete.


Sheryl said...

My brother was reading a book earlier this year that was trying to distinguish between liberals and conservative.

His thesis seemed to be that the conservatives like top down authority structures, whether it be in the family or in the government. You do what the authority figure above you tells you to. That authority figure is responsible for looking out for you, and in return you treat thim with devotion and respect, etc, etc.

Whereas liberals are more into consensus building and nurturing environments that allow everyone to have some power responsibly. Parents are more likely to teach their kids to think for themselves and experiment, etc, etc.

J.R. Boyd said...

We should ask Owen, et al.

Sheryl said...

You mean Oren? I haven't heard back from him. Or Sam either. Sigh. :(

Sorry, I tried, but it's hard to draw people into discussions (as I'm sure you've discovered.) It's hard to get people to debate these days, eh?

I think everyone is just really tired. :(