Review: Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea

Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea, by C. Bradley Thompson with Yaron Brook. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2010. 305 pp. $24.95 (hardcover).


In Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea, authors C. Bradley Thompson and Yaron Brook show that the neoconservative intellectual movement is very much alive. Those who carry its banners are “deeply embedded in America’s major think tanks, philanthropic foundations, media outlets, and universities” (p. 1). Then why would the authors select a title that implies that the object of their study is dead? The title is ironic, in part because the authors hope that their book may cause the movement’s death, thus “inspiring the need for some future obituary” (p. 2).

The authors wrote their lean work to Americans “who value our nation’s founding principles” (p. x). The main message is that neoconservatives, who boast of being “in the American grain,” threaten those principles. That inference is based on an investigation that ranged across a diverse and sometimes deceptive intellectual movement. The authors examined the movement’s leaders today; the movement’s publicly stated guiding ideas; the lineage of the ideas passed down from the movement’s ex-Marxist founders; the actual, but usually unstated, principles of the underlying neoconservative worldview; and, finally, the consequences of the guiding ideas and worldview in political policies that affect American lives.

The ambitious scope of the book raised a crop of problems for Thompson and Brook. First, the authors say, the neoconservative movement’s founders have presented a moving target. “[O]ver the course of forty years, [the neoconservatives] evolved rather seamlessly from neo-Marxists” at Brooklyn College in the late 1930s, to “neo-liberals” in the 1950s, and to “neoconservatives” in the late 1960s (p. 16). . . .

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