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The Death of Conservatism by Sam Tanenhaus
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Feb 03, 2010

really liked it

An excellent short essay tracing the intellectual history of movement conservatism, from its origins as a political philosophy developed by disillusioned ex-Trotskyists (Whitaker Chambers, James Burnham etc.), to the American conservative movement founded by their students (W.F. Buckley, Russell Kirk) to its success in the 70's and 80's as a governing philosophy, and finally to its spectacular implosion during the Bush administration.
This book is important because it shows us how a political movement can become beholden to its political embodiment, and therefore (in the case of conservatism) become a negation of its own principles. The American conservative movement today has a major streak of radical authoritarianism, and espouses policy ideas which, if implemented, would mean a radical restructuring of American society. Conservatism, properly understood, is best practiced as a cautious and skeptical attitude toward change in government policy, not a plan for 'Taking Back America' revanchism

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