The Corner

The “Neocon” Label

Calpundit’s Kevin Drum doesn’t like today’s David Brooks column on neocons. I agree Brooks went over-the-top in suggesting all criticism of neocons is veiled anti-semitism, but Drum really steps in it when he says “It’s the neocons themselves who coined the term.” Not only is this not true, the source Drum cites for this proposition — Irving Kristol — does not support it. (I interviewed Kristol on this very question while writing my senior essay at Yale.)

“Neoconservatism” was coined by Michael Harrington to smear writers and social scientists, such as Kristol, Daniel Bell, James Wilson and others, who were critical of leftist orthodoxy. He sought to marginalize them within left-liberal intellectual and political circles. Some (Kristol) eventually embraced the term, while others (Bell) rejected it. Yet no neocon generated the label (as regular readers of NRO would know from reading this or this).

Jonathan H. Adler — Mr. Adler is an NRO contributing editor and the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. His latest book is Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane.

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