The Neoconservative Persuasion: Selected Essays, 1942–2009

Irving Kristol, Author
Irving Kristol, Basic, $29.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-465-02223-6
Reviewed on: 11/29/2010
Release date: 01/01/2011
An allergy to dogma, an openness to debate, a readiness to change one's mind are the hallmarks of these sparkling essays by Kristol (1920–2009), late founding father of neoconservatism. Gathered here are early pieces on literature and philosophy, valedictory memoirs, and commentaries on politics and culture, which collectively trace the author's rightward drift from Trotskyism through an increasingly conflicted liberalism to a resting place in the Republican Party. Some constants endure through this ideological journey: an abhorrence of making politics a religion; a focus on morality and character as the foundation of social policy; a perpetual unease with partisan groupings. (even in declaring himself a neo-con, he embraced "some form of national health insurance"). Kristol shines as a critic—of liberal flirtations with Stalinism, of the pieties of Great Society programs, of the excesses of student rebels—but his apologias for Reaganism (sketchy defenses of supply-side economics, a brief against making human rights a foreign policy concern) are less persuasive. Still, Kristol's vigorous prose and trenchant arguments can be read with pleasure and profit by readers of all political stripes. (Feb.)