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Confronting the New Conservatism

The Rise of the Right in America

Michael Thompson

Publication Year: 2007

William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, George F. Will, and Dick Cheney. These are today’s neoconservatives“confident, clear-cut, and a political force to be reckoned with. But how should we define this new conservatism? What is new about it? In this volume, some of today's top political scholars take on the charge of explaining, defining, and confronting the new conservatism of the last twenty-five years. The authors examine the ideas, policies and roots of this ideological movement showing that contemporary neoconservatism has been able to blend many of the aspects of social conservatism—such as religious populism and nationalism—with economic liberalism and the rhetoric of equality of opportunity and individualism. With their emphasis on dismantling the welfare state and a rhetorical return to economic laissez faire and individual rights, neoconservatives have been able to harness populist sentiment in terms of both economics and cultural issues. And with their belief in moral and cultural “simplicity,” their turn away from science, their conviction in American superiority on the global stage, and their embrace of “anti-government” rhetoric, they have effectively changed the nature of the American political landscape.

The contributors to Confronting the New Conservatism offer a trenchant analysis and substantive critique of the neoconservative ethos, arguing that it is an ideology that needs to be better understood if change is to be had.

Contributors: Stanley Aronowitz, Chip Berlet, Stephen Eric Bronner, Lawrence Davidson, Greg Grandin, Philip Green, Diana M. Judd, Thomas M. Keck, Charles Noble, R. Claire Snyder, Michael J. Thompson, and Nicholas Xenos.

Published by: NYU Press

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-

I would like to thank Sam Aboelela, Stephen Eric Bronner, John Ehrenberg, Elena Mancini, Frances Fox Piven, Brett Stoudt, Debbie Wolf, and Greg Zucker for discussions and comments that helped me flesh out the general idea of this book, as well as all the contributors for their enthusiasm for the project. I would also like to thank my editor at NYU Press,...

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Introduction: Confronting the New Conservatism

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pp. 1-5

Conservative politics has been on the rise in America throughout the postwar era. Although conservatism has generally been the politics of the minority, the past several decades have seen a new assertion of conservatism in many domains of politics and culture, which has reshaped American political and public life in the process. America’s supposed conservative turn has taken many different forms, from the election of Ronald...

Part I: What Is the New Conservatism?

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pp. 7-

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1 America’s Conservative Landscape: The New Conservatism and the Reorientation of American Democracy

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pp. 9-30

The history of America’s political culture has been one of flux, of convulsion. It has seen seismic changes in its understanding of democracy, its concept of citizenship, and its view of the nature of politics, the state, and the economy; it has recast its ideas about race, gender, and the concepts of political participation and human liberty. It is against these aspects of...

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2 Cultural Rage and the Right-Wing Intellectuals

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pp. 31-55

The proto-totalitarian moment in contemporary American politics has three key components: First, the takeover of democratic political institutions by a single party intent on establishing a permanent one-party state bent on world domination. It is seriously misleading to go on calling the United States a “representative democracy” when what it has become, with...

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3 Considerations on the Origins of Neoconservatism: Looking Backward

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pp. 56-70

Old-fashioned conservatism in America is a fairly large tent containing, uncomfortably, many tendencies. Its general theme is consistent with Adam Smith’s portrait of the state as a “night watchman” whose fundamental task is to protect property and otherwise maintain law and order against a rabble that would tear society apart in the wanton pursuit of its...

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4 The New Political Right in the United States: Reaction, Rollback, and Resentment

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pp. 71-106

Barry Goldwater was the ultraconservative’s dream candidate for president in 1964. Goldwater was for small government and against big labor. He wanted to reduce taxes while expanding the American military. He was willing to fight communism by any means necessary. He stood for God and country, the American way of life, and he actually could ride a horse...

Part II: The New Conservatism at Home

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pp. 107-

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5 From Neoconservative to New Right: American Conservatives and the Welfare State

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pp. 109-124

When the neoconservative movement first emerged on the American political scene at the end of the 1960s, its leading lights did not oppose the welfare state in principle. To fellow conservatives who were succumbing to that heady brew of free-market ideology and antitax zeal that would so excite the New Right, neoconservatives counseled caution. Just as likely to be..

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6 Tearing Down the Wall: Conservative Use and Abuse of Religion in Politics

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pp. 125-143

Politics is about power. Contemporary neoconservatives have, for the moment at least, considerable power over both public policy and political legislation. The 1994 congressional elections increased the Republican presence in the House of Representatives by 13 percent, resulting in a crucial 53 percent majority, while in the Senate, Republicans rose from a 43 percent...

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7 Paradox or Contradiction: The Marriage Mythos in Neoconservative Ideology

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pp. 144-163

The American Right is not a monolith but a coalition of three different strands of conservatism, historically defined as libertarianism, traditionalism, and anticommunist militarism.4 In today’s incarnation, these strands appear as the market fundamentalism of neoliberals and libertarians, the antifeminist and antigay moralism of the Christian Right, and the imperialist militarism of neoconservatives. At first glance...

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8 The Neoconservative Assault on the Courts: How Worried Should We Be?

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pp. 164-193

When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, the principal conservative position on the federal courts was a call for judicial restraint. The term was not always used with precision, but the general point, as Reagan appointed federal judge Richard Posner put it some years later, was that “the power of [the] court system relative to other branches of government...

Part III: The Global Reach of the New Conservative Ideology

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pp. 195-

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9 The Imperial Presidency: The Legacy of Reagan’s Central America Policy

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pp. 197-224

Diplomatic historian Andrew Bacevich has pointed out that in “neoconservative lore, 1980 stands out not only as a year of crisis but as the year when the nation decisively turned things around.”1 When considering this turnaround, most casual observers usually point to the fall of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Eastern Europe, but neocons have a complicated...

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10 The Neocon Con Game: Nihilism Revisited

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pp. 225-246

Whenever a definition of neoconservatism is needed, Irving Kristol can be relied on to deliver one, while at the same time professing insecurity as to whether or not the term has any meaning. In 2003, in an article published in the Weekly Standard, edited by his son William, the elder Kristol decided that neoconservatism constitutes a “persuasion” rather than a movement. This persuasion, he claimed, has as its “historical task and political...

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11 One-Dimensional Men: Neoconservatives, Their Allies and Models

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pp. 247-268

As we progress into the twenty-first century, there is a sense among many Americans that the policies of the George W. Bush administration are a drastic deviation from what the United States has always stood for: justice, fairness, and a certain civilized moderation in policy. These Americans now hear of the practice of torture, indefinite detentions, the disregard of...

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12 Resisting the Right: Challenging the Neoconservative Agenda

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pp. 269-283

Politics is generally understood as the art of the possible. Too often, however, the possible is simply equated with the immediate demands of the moment.1 For professional politicians constituting the mainstream of the Democratic Party, especially those in the Democratic Leadership Council, the moment is all that there is. There is no before and there is no after.....

Contributors

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pp. 285-288

Index

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pp. 289-304


E-ISBN-13: 9780814784259
E-ISBN-10: 0814784259
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814782989
Print-ISBN-10: 0814782981

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2007

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Subject Headings

  • Conservatism -- United States.
  • Political culture -- United States.
  • Political parties -- United States.
  • United States -- Politics and government.
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