Actor Alan Sklar's grave voice is well-suited to this concise political exploration of the trajectory of America's conservative movement over the course of the past half century. In The Death of Conservatism, Sam Tanenhaus provides a strong, well-organized overview of the history of right-wing conservatives in the United States, outlining the path by which he claims today's "movement conservatism" was born and rose to power and popularity.
Sklar is an authoritative and articulate performer but manages also to create a truly engaging listening experience, injecting movement and emotion into this intriguing and informative work.
For 75 years, he argues, the Right has been split between two factions: consensus-driven "realists," who believe in the virtue of government and its power to adjust to changing conditions, and movement "revanchists," who distrust government and society---and often find themselves at war with America itself.
Eventually, Tanenhaus writes, the revanchists prevailed, and the result is the decadent "movement conservatism" of today, a defunct ideology that is "profoundly and defiantly unconservative---in its arguments and ideas, its tactics and strategies, above all in its vision".
But there is hope for conservatism. It resides in the examples of pragmatic leaders like Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan and thinkers like Whittaker Chambers and William F. Buckley, Jr. Each came to understand that the true role of conservatism is not to advance a narrow ideological agenda but to engage in a serious dialogue with liberalism and join with it in upholding "the politics of stability." Conservatives today need to rediscover the roots of this honorable tradition. It is their only route back to the center of American politics.
At once succinct and detailed, penetrating and nuanced, The Death of Conservatism is a must-listen for Americans of any political persuasion.
©2009 Sam Tenemhaus; (P)2009 Tantor
[This] impeccably well-written book insightfully summarizes the highs and lows of American conservatism over the decades. (Publishers Weekly)
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
of the hidebound, ideologically-driven fundamentalism that has made for the wasteful and unproductive political stand-off in the American two party system over the last forty or so years. The book has flaws. For one, its title is far too apocalyptic, and the book itself acknowledges this tacitly, making suggestions for revitalizing the conservative party; and too, it underestimates the stagnation of the liberal party, which has come about for the same reason that the conservatives have become so steadily ossified, that is, the espousal of a hard party line, conformity over consensus. The book's highlights are its reflections on the political theories of Burke and Disraeli, too brilliant men who should be read by all, but are, alas, probably beyond the uninformed and unintelligent masses which have made for the unthinking, unreflective ideological systems we currently have in place. (I will suggest a modern-day Burke/Disraeli, and study him if you have the heart: the vastly undervalued Peter Hitchens, brother of vastly overvalued Chris Hitchens.)
I like many of the points that the author makes.
But I would have liked a more detailed critique of what passes for conservatism today.
For instance, exactly what did the conservatives say regarding the GM bailout.
But I totally agree with what the author says. And I consider myself a die-hard liberal!
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