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Oct 19, 2005 2:13 pm

"The Conservative Sixties"

Below is a review of yet another work on conservatism since World War II. Ever since Alan Brinkley kicked off an American Historical Review on the need to study conservatism (and classical liberalism), there has been a steady stream of works. My post includes a list of suggested readings and a call for readers' suggestions.

David Farber and Jeff Roche, eds. The Conservative Sixties. New York: Peter Lang, 2003. vi + 211 pp. ISBN 0-8204-5548-2. Notes, list of contributors, index. $29.95 (paper)

Reviewed by Jason M. Stahl, Department of History, University of Minnesota.

My response:

I agree with the reviewer that intellectual and social histories of conservatism ignore the business stream of conservatism. I confronted this first hand in my research on small business lobbying, which joined hands with corporate elites from the 1970s onward, because they were "mad as hell" about government regulation and taxes. Although a bit
dated, Vogel's assessment that business has remained economically conserative for 125 years remains true (Vogel, "Why Businessmen Distrust Their State: The Political Consciousness of American Corporate
Executives." _British Journal of Political Science_ (January 1978): 45-78) and backed up by more recent polls (Kirkland, "Today's GOP: The Party's Over for Big Business." _Fortune_, 6 February 1995, 50-62.
Kirkland found that 69% of CEOs were Republicans and 98% favored reductions in government spending, 82% for deregulation).

Of course, liberal human resources professionals continue to promote "social responsibility" and racial preferences (see Lynch, _The Diversity Machine: The Drive to Change the White Male Workplace_), yet we cannot ignore this core identity among businesspeople, large and small. Some of these entrepreneurs and cashed-out CEOs funded think
tanks, which are also treated separately from "studies of conservatism." This is odd, because think tanks were necessary "idea brokers" given the near total exclusion of conservatives from campus
faculty (amply documented by David Horowitz, NAS, and others).

Lastly, I agree with David Horowitz that this is the first social movement that does NOT include movement activists as a wave of scholars poring over its past. Movement conservatives may be biased, but they
are well-versed in what movement cons were actually reading and doing -- and not given over to the presumed triumphalism of liberal historians who see Republican victories as the Rise of the Right, while
movement activists saw defeat in the Reagan Revolution and the "Republican Revolution" of 1994. Read Frum, Niskanen, Stockman, Rector.

Brinkley, Ribuffo, Thomas Frank are certainly not conservatives. I don't believe Andrews was a conservative. Flamm begins his dissertation by describing how he is (or was?) a liberal. I don't know McGirr, Roche or the others but can only identify two historians of conservatism who
are actually conservative. This situation leads to a lot of nonsense about "backlash" and "triumph," ignoring the fatalistic streak in the conservative movement. These themes are the ones trumpeted in college history textbooks, where most "educated" Americans get their recent history. As a movement con myself (yes, I'm outed), I joke that the best I can hope for in my lifetime is repeal of the low flush, low-flow water law. Give me pounding showers, or give me death! That's the level of success libertarian-conservatives have achieved, rendering us "dead"
and the Beltway in the hands of "Big Government conservatives" (Fred Barnes' apt term).

SUGGESTED READINGS (for more see my syllabus of recommended readings at NOTE: Focus on the 1960s and early 1970s.

Anderson, Martin. The Federal Bulldozer (1964)
Cornuelle, Reclaiming the American Dream: The Role of Private Individuals and Voluntary Associations (1965)

Banfield, The Unheavenly City Revisited (1974)

Bean, "'Burn, Baby, Burn': Small Business in the Urban Riots of the 1960s," The Independent Review (Fall 2000)

Critchlow, Phyllis Schlafly and the Rise of Grassroots Conservatism (2005)

Decter, Midge. Liberal Parents, Radical Children (1975)

Edwards, Goldwater: The Man Who Made A Revolution (1995)

Edwards. The Conservative Revolution (1999)

Evans, M. Stanton. Revolt on the Campus (1961)

Farber and Roche, ed. The Conservative Sixties (2003)

Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and Freedom (1962)

Gerson, Mark. The Neoconservative Vision: From the
Cold War to the Culture Wars (1996)

Glazer, “The Campus Crucible: Students Politics and the University,” Essential Neoconservative Reader, 41-63.

Goldwater, Barry M. The Conscience of a Conservative (1960)

Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (1960)

Horowitz, David. Radical Son (1998)

Judis, John. William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of the Conservatives (1988)

Kelley, Bringing the Market Back In (1990?)

Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement Since 1945 rev. ed. (1996)

Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974)

O’Rourke, “Second Thoughts about the Sixties,” Give War a Chance (1992), 90-97

Rand, Ayn. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1967)

Rothbard, Murray. Egalitarianism as a Revolt against Nature and Other Essays (1974)

Rothbard. For a New Liberty: A Libertarian Manifesto (1973)

Schneider, Gregory. Conservatism in America since 1930 : A Reader

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More Comments:

Sergio Alejandro M?ndez - 10/24/2005

You have a very interesting seminary. I will like to recomend two other books:

Steinfels Peter, The Neoconservatives: the men who are changing america's politics (1979)

Dorrien Gary, The neoconservative mind: Politics, Culture, and the War of Ideology. (1993)

Jonathan J. Bean - 10/21/2005

Ah, my fellow libertarians seem to have gone off on the term "conservative," which they are apt to do. Need I say that most historians, political liberals almost all, use the term "conservative" to embrace a wide variety of anti-Statist strands in American politics--some admittedly more statist (the neocons) than others (the libertarians).

But to get back on track: What remains to be studied on the history of liberty and power as it relates to "conservatism," broadly defined?

William Marina - 10/20/2005

Gene Healy has it right in his recent piece in Reason about the popularity of the new TV show, Commander in Chief.

Most Conservatives, certainly the Trotskyite Neocons, love the Imperial Presidency, and the centralization that is at the very core of Empire.

Sure, the bipartisan centralists are going to lower taxes, bring home the Imperial armies, and get rid of all of the regulatory bureaucracies.

Even the scholars appear to love the Stalinesque
architecture of the Library of Congress' Jefferson and Madison buildings, etc. in the anus of the Empire, DC.

So, relax, Jonathan, become a Taoist, and watch the spectacle unfold. It's more interesting than any sitcom, and explodes the myth of American "Exceptionalism."

"Hail George," Hillary, Condi, or whom ever the Corporate State nexts promotes as "leader" for a few years.Most of our circuses, unless you are among the bombed, are less violent than those of Rome.

By all means, let us "conserve" the Empire!

Jonathan J. Bean - 10/19/2005

Perhaps my sense of humor is too dry (no pun intended).

Now tell me how NOT to pay taxes that exceed 50% on my self-employment income. Anarchist solution that won't get me thrown in prison?

Grant Gould - 10/19/2005

It depends on the model, but at the very worst five minutes with a power drill and your low-flow shower problems are fixed. Only a serious disciple of conservative fatalism could hate the low-flow law, but not hate a low-flow showerhead enough to just fix the bloody thing.

Conservatives will do better when they learn to stop leaning on the state and worshipping the law and just get things done on their own. Until then they're just statists and socialists with sex phobias.