Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement (Paperback)
  • Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement (Paperback)

Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement (Paperback)

(author), (translator)
Paperback 376 Pages
Published: 18/03/2011
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Neoconservatism has undergone a transformation that has made a clear identity almost impossible to capture. The Republican foreign policy operatives of the George W. Bush era seem far removed from the early liberal intellectuals who focused on domestic issues. Justin Vaïsse offers the first comprehensive history of neoconservatism, exploring the connections between a changing and multifaceted school of thought, a loose network of thinkers and activists, and American political life in turbulent times.

In an insightful portrait of the neoconservatives and their impact on public life, Vaïsse frames the movement in three distinct ages: the New York intellectuals who reacted against the 1960s leftists; the “Scoop Jackson Democrats,” who tried to preserve a mix of hawkish anticommunism abroad and social progress at home but failed to recapture the soul of the Democratic Party; and the “Neocons” of the 1990s and 2000s, who are no longer either liberals or Democrats. He covers neglected figures of this history such as Pat Moynihan, Eugene Rostow, Lane Kirkland, and Bayard Rustin, and offers new historical insight into two largely overlooked organizations, the Coalition for a Democratic Majority and the Committee on the Present Danger. He illuminates core developments, including the split of liberalism in the 1960s, and the shifting relationship between partisan affiliation and foreign policy positions.

Vaïsse gives neoconservatism its due as a complex movement and predicts it will remain an influential force in the American political landscape.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674060708
Number of pages: 376
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm


Sometimes we need a non-American to see American politics in a proper perspective. Vaïsse offers one of the most comprehensive and balanced studies of the history of neoconservatism yet to appear. - Francis Fukuyama, author of America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy

In contrast to most of the writing about neoconservatism that has appeared in recent years, Vaïsse has tackled the difficult topic in a serious and balanced way. One doesn't have to agree with everything in his book to know that it will set a standard by which other studies will be judged. - Gary Schmitt, American Enterprise Institute, and former director, Project for the New American Century

With a sharp scalpel and brilliant insights, Vaïsse offers his readers everything they need to know to make their own judgments about neoconservatism, a movement that threatens America's national interests by advocating policies that exacerbate the very threats it proclaims to be opposing. - Zbigniew Brzezinski

Vaïsse's book should stand as the definitive history of the neoconservative movement. His detailed account traces the movement's origins, its growth and changes, its uneasy relationship with first the Democratic and then the Republican Party. The tone is dispassionate and analytical; at the same time, Vaïsse tells a good, readable story, fleshed out with people and anecdotes. This is an outstanding work. - James Mann, author of Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet

It took Tocqueville to explain Jacksonian America to Americans, so it should not surprise us that another shrewd French student of the United States has written one of the most careful, thoughtful, and engaging books on neoconservatism. Vaïsse tells the movement's story with grace and sheds great light on the importance of its roots in the Democratic Party, its outsized influence on American foreign policy, and the sometimes subtle but important differences among its loyalists and fellow travelers. - E. J. Dionne, Jr., author of Why Americans Hate Politics and Souled Out

The influential neoconservative movement is a complex and often surprising thing...Vaïsse examines the intellectual evolution of leading neocon thinkers like Norman Podhoretz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and William Kristol; explores the impact of neocon journals and think tanks; and recounts the movement's love-hate relationships with Democratic and Republican administrations. His critical but evenhanded treatment brims with insights... Vaïsse's is one of the most lucid and sophisticated accounts yet of this crucial political force. - Publishers Weekly

Justin Vaïsse demonstrates that an ideology can have just as prickly a personality, and can be just as dynamic, as any celebrity...Surveying not only the political and cultural contributions of icons Norman Podhoretz and William Kristol, but also less frequently discussed figures such as Eugene Rostow and Bayard Rustin, Vaïsse presents an influential and deeply polarizing set of intellectuals evenhandedly. - Josh Lambert, Tablet

Very intelligent and well-researched. - Adam Kirsch, Tablet

The proper way to commence appraisal of this admirable book is possibly by proposing a public service award of some sort for Justin Vaïsse. This U.S.-based French foreign-policy scholar makes it feasible at long last to figure out what in blue blazes people are talking about when they praise or, more commonly at present, flog "the neocons."...A major virtue of Mr. Vaïsse's painstakingly clear and beautifully executed narrative is its intellectually scrupulous tone: no malice; no abrasive score-settling. The author seeks neither to exalt nor vilify his subjects. - William Murchison, Washington Times

Essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the contours of our recent political past. - Barry Gewen, New York Times Book Review

[Vaïsse] has written a book on neoconservatism that is thoughtful and well-informed...In a crowded field, Vaïsse has written a fine primer, judicious, thorough and sure-footed. - Rich Lowry, Washington Post

[A] fascinating book...Vaïsse provides a cogent analysis of neoconservative thought and beliefs. - John Hancock, Concord Monitor

Vaïsse's book is the best yet to appear on the neoconservatives. It is comprehensive, searching, highly critical, but also dispassionate in tone. - Anatol Lieven, New Humanist

A great strength of Vaïsse's book is his stress on the second age of neoconservatism, which spans the gap between the Public Interest writers and the national greatness drumbeaters of today...No one who absorbs Vaïsse's discussion of this second age can harbor any illusions about whether the neocons count as genuine conservatives...Vaïsse...[has] that will help us understand a pernicious political movement. - David Gordon, The American Conservative blog

[Vaïsse] provides an unusually nuanced and historically grounded account of the controversial neo-conservative movement--tracing its origins to disputes among New York liberals in revolt against the excesses of the 1960s. - Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

[An] excellent book...Essentially, Vaïsse sees modern neoconservatism as a species of nationalism or patriotism. - Richard King, The Australian

Absolutely excellent...With sobriety, subtlety and matchless breadth, Vaïsse explores the many dimensions of the most consequential intellectual movement in post-Second World War American politics. - Randy Boyagoda, Globe and Mail

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