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Unmasked

Neoconservatism Unmasked by C. Bradley Thompson.

In a recent editorial, the Wall Street Journal declared “We are all neocons now.” The claim is exaggerated but not by much. Neoconservatism has been, for better or worse, the most influential political philosophy of the last generation. But what exactly is it? My new book Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea attempts to answer that question.

Defining neoconservatism is no easy task given that its exponents deny that it’s a systematic political philosophy. Neocons such as Irving Kristol prefer to characterize neoconservatism as a “persuasion,” a “mode of thinking,” or a “mood.” At best, they say, it’s a syncretic intellectual movement influenced by thinkers as diverse as Plato, Trotsky, and Hayek. Daniel Bell captured syncretic nature of neoconservatism when he described himself as a “socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture.” On one level, neoconservatism certainly is a syncretic “mode of thinking,” but I shall demonstrate here that neoconservatism is in fact a comprehensive political philosophy shaped most fundamentally by the ideas of Leo Strauss via Irving Kristol.

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