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The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 [Paperback]

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Item description for The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 by George H. Nash...

        First published in 1976, and revised in 1996, George H. Nash's celebrated history of the postwar conservative intellectual movement has become the unquestioned standard in the field. This new edition, published in commemoration of the volume's thirtieth anniversary, includes a new preface by Nash and will continue to instruct anyone interested in how today's conservative movement was born.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   656
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.5" Width: 6" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   2 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 31, 2006
Publisher   Intercollegiate Studies Institute
ISBN  1933859121  
ISBN13  9781933859125  

Availability  0 units.

More About George H. Nash

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! George H. Nash, a frequent contributor of articles on American conservatism, Herbert Hoover, and related topics, lives in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

George H. Nash was born in 1945.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > 20th Century > 1945 - Present
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > General

Reviews - What do customers think about The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945?

Required reading in American Studies  Aug 25, 2008
What Louis Menand does for Pragmatism in THE METAPHYSICAL CLUB, Nash does for Conservatism in this superb intellectual history.

I have to make one thing quite clear, as the author does in the Introduction: This is a book about intellectuals, not about politicians and campaigns. It's a book about the academic roots of modern American Conservatism, not to be confused with so-called neo-Conservatism or Evangelicalism. No, no, this is not a book about religion.

Nash proposes that modern American Conservatism comes from the gradual convergence of three important, critical analyses of American society after World War 2. First, the Libertarians reacted against what they believed was encroaching state control (i.e. FDR's New Deal) on personal freedom. Second, the Southern Agrarians believed that industrial society's ultimate goal was banal, mindless consumerism, and that traditional, hierarchical models of society should be preserved to protect what is sublime, honorable and sacred. Third, the anti-Communists reacted directly to the threat posed by new authoritarian regimes on legal [particularly property] rights. The author believes that Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, and William F. Buckley led those schools of thought, respectively. Nash suggests that the excesses of the McCarthy era (on the Right) and the late 1960s (on the Left) encouraged these great minds to come together, on common ground, to debate the fundamental issue: What's worth saving?

How Nash tracks the debates and intellectual cross-connecting of these ideas is masterful and exhilarating work. Though originally published in 1976, the third edition includes a new final chapter, a new introduction, and extension of the original thesis into the 21st century. This is required reading for anyone wishing to better understand what it means to be American... Left, Right or Center.
Instructive  Jun 9, 2007
This is a very good book, but readers should be aware of what is and isn't prior to picking it up. Apparently an expanded version of the author's PhD dissertation, this book covers the intellectual aspects of the Conservative movement from the immediate post-war period to the early 1970s. It is not a history of conservatism as a political or social movement. The author does not cover the last 30 years, though there is an appendix chapter added in the late 80s or early 90s which is surprisingly dated. Within these limits, this is a fine book. Nash does a very good job of showing the diversity of conservative intellectuals, describing the libertarian, conservative Catholic, traditional elitist, and backward looking romanticism that came to make up important features of the modern conservative movement. He is quite good in describing the broad variety of important conservative writers, the interactions between the different strains of the movement, how they developed institutions like the National Review to support the movement, and provides some information about their broader impact. This book is very well written with particularly good combinations of relevant quotations from primary sources and the author's descriptions. The scholarship is excellent, based both on a careful reading of a large volume of literature and quite a few interviews.
There are some significant limitations. Despite Nash's serious effort to give a broad view of the conservative movement, this is something of a National Review version of the conservative movement. There is no treatment of fundamentalist conservatism or its theological underpinnings. Also symptomatic of the limitations of Nash's approach is the treatment of Ayn Rand. The latter is discussed only in the context of the reception of her writings by figures that Nash considers central to the movement. Rand may not have had very good ideas (one critic, cruelly but accurately referred to her as a pseudo-philosopher) but she did have ideas and has been influential. Its likely that more people have come to the libertarian version of conservatism via the Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged than through the pages of the National Review. Nash's view of the mainstream of the movement tends to ignore popular but important figures like Rand.
Another problem with Nash's narration is that he often fails to provide context for the writings under discussion. Nash is generally sympathetic to the conservative movement and many of the writers he discusses. This is generally good because he takes them seriously and writes insightfully about their work. There are times, however, when some critical distance would be useful. For example, it would be worth mentioning that the Spanish "christian social order" much admired by L. Brent Bozell was Franco's regime, or that J. James Kilpatrick's "able polemic" of 1957 was an effort to defend Jim Crow, or that the influential Richard Weaver's inspirational view of the antebellum American South was a romantic delusion.
Better than Russell Kirk but still dreary  Dec 22, 2006
After reading `The Conservative Mind' I could scarcely imagine why ANYONE but a small group of goose stepping Neanderthals would be drawn to Conservativism. Although nearly equal in length, George H. Nash's history of Conservativism is considerably more palatable than Russell Kirk's dreary ode. It's also more readable and less pretentious. Mr. Nash presents a history of the evolution of American Conservativism particularly in the latter half of the last century as disparate groups of paleo-Conservatives, Neo-Conservatives and Libertarians managed to fuse themselves into a cohesive unit capable of temporarily gaining control of all three branches of American government. The book also does a good job of defining the tenets of Conservativism even as it claims that there are no canonized beliefs.

The author, perhaps unwittingly, stumbles on the main problem of Conservativism, that it is a completely inconsistent and incoherent belief system. Conservatives can be pro-capitalism like Friedman or anti-capitalism like Kirk. They can be against government intrusion like Meyer's or pro-authoritarian like Bozell. They can stand against moral relativity while believing that the United States can operate under a different set of moral rules from the rest of the world as in William Bennett. The author quotes John Fischer who talks about William F. Buckley's National Review claiming that rather than Conservative it was radical, "exhibiting such telltale signs of extremism as humorlessness, utopianism, inconsistency, and a persecution complex". Fischer's definition of The National Review is actually the best definition of modern Conservativism that I could find. It is their mutual hatred of foes that binds them whether they are liberals, communists, secularist, minorities, non-Christians and on and on.

Conservatives are marked by a desire to return to another era. Buckley wrote, "[Conservativism] stands athwart history yelling Stop...." But what era shall we return to? Some Conservative philosophers like Richard Weaver prefer the antebellum south while Russell Kirk seemed to admire the 17th century. The Middle Ages is a favorite for folks like John Hallowell while others would take us back to the ancient Greeks. The point is that we always live in the worst of times and we would all be better off with strong authoritarian rulers like the Catholic Church or medieval Kings.

There is also an exhibited tension between extreme nationalism and hatred of the United States. Donald Atwell Zoll wrote, "I, like most conservatives, would be more than willing to reject a considerable part of the `American tradition' dominated as it is by influences scarcely harmonious with the conservative cast of mind". L. Brent Bozell, jr stated that the American commonwealth - from the very start - was corrupt and "bound to fail" for deliberately leaving God out of the political order. These are not quotes pulled by liberals attacking Conservatives but from a Conservative defending his own ideology.

So what is Conservativism? In the end it seems to rest on nothing more than a negative reaction to change. The author writes that the number one enemy of Conservativism is the liberal philosophy of natural rights and civil liberties. Conservativism is about the entrenchment of power and the stratification of society. At all levels from race, to wealth to gender, each will know his place. One writer for the National Review wrote that white community is so entitled to lead because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. Woman shall be subservient to men and men shall be subservient to the church. If there were one society in the world that best represented the ideal of Conservative society it would be the Taliban.
Understanding today's political environment  Oct 12, 2005
This is an excellent book that traces the historical development of the intellectual conservative movement in the United States. To understand current events, it is essential to understand the historical context from which today's political environment has sprung. It was interesting to me how the author distanced the "intellectual" movement from the right wing social conservatives of today. All political parties are made up of uncomfortable aliases and the present day Republican party is no exception to this rule. The author makes the necessary distinctions between that which is important to libertarians, traditional conservatives, and neoconservatives. I would especially recommend this book to anyone who is baffled by today's brand of conservative political thought.
Required reading  Jul 26, 2004
Indispensable as an introduction to the development of conservative thought in roughly the third quarter of the 20th century, Nash's history has no peers. Illustrating clearly the fractiousness (maybe even inherent incompatibility) of the factions gathered by necessity under the umbrella of conservative thought, he charts well the intellectual underpinnings of conservativism in the United States of America. Most importantly, he highlights that a generally uncelebrated cause for both the fusion and the success of the movement is the lack of correspondence between liberal legislation and quantitative results during this period. That being said, there are a few areas one would like to see fleshed out in more detail. Specifically, neo-conservatives as they emerge in the early seventies, the conservative "scene" during the first and second Nixon administrations, the Vietnam War in contemporary conservative intellectual thought, and the impact of conservative intellectuals on politics-particularly with regard to Goldwater and Reagan-are relatively undeveloped. Indeed, those themes are sufficient for book-length treatment themselves, so Nash cannot be faulted; moreover, his is an intellectual history, and to expect him to detail the political aspects of conservative thought and to chart accurately the time period so close to his writing of this book would be unreasonable. In sum, one cannot claim to have any insight into conservative thought without having perused this volume.

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