A Review of Andrew J. Bacevich's "American Conservatism: Reclaiming an Intellectual Tradition"

Historians in the News
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Reclaiming an Intellectual Tradition
Edited by Andrew J. Bacevich

When assembling an anthology of writings representative of a political persuasion, the challenge is to acknowledge the persuasion’s varieties without producing a concoction akin to sauerkraut ice cream, a jumble of incompatible ingredients. In “American Conservatism: Reclaiming an Intellectual Tradition,” Andrew J. Bacevich, a scholarly soldier and writer, compiles a rich menu. So rich, however, that “conservatism” comes close to being a classification that no longer classifies.

The volume’s focus is confined to the 20th century, with its earliest selection from 1907, “The Education of Henry Adams,” wherein Adams recalled visiting “the great hall of dynamos” at a 1900 exposition of modern technologies. There he felt “his historical neck broken by the sudden irruption of force totally new.” This illustrates Bacevich’s theory that “modern” American conservatism “emerged in reaction to modernity,” by which he means “machines, speed and radical change — taboos lifted, bonds loosened and, according to Max Weber, ‘the disenchantment of the world.’”

But American conservatism has always been bifurcated about modernity. Today it is especially so, because of capitalism and religion.

Read entire article at The New York Times

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