The Corner

WFB: ‘Irving’s Whodunit’

From WFB’s 1995 review of Irving Kristol’s Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea (posted at The Weekly Standard’s website):

In the substantial introduction to his collection, Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea (Free Press, 493 pages, $30), Irving Kristol ticks off ambient felicities. He ends by remarking happily the political faith of those who surround him. “My son and daughter, and son-in-law and daughter-in-law, along with dozens of young “interns” who have worked at The Public Interest over the past thirty years, are now all conservatives without adjectival modification.”

That is a tremendous statement in political taxonomy, on the order of the excommunication of Trotsky from the communist movement, as presided over by Moscow; except of course that Mr. Kristol moves in the opposite, ecumenical direction — toward amalgamation, away from schism. Neos are now just plain cons. There are men and women on the right who will frown on this self-designation by the godfather of neoconservatism, perhaps even accusing him of cooptation of the conservative cause. But one wonders exactly what arguments they will advance. Is there an Albigensian heresy in Irving’s credo?

Irving Kristol is not stylistically inclined to declamation (he would not have done well as amanuensis on Mt. Sinai). He can write, “What, exactly, is neoconservatism anyway?” and answer, “I would say it is more a descriptive term than a prescriptive one. It describes the erosion of liberal faith among a relatively small but talented and articulate group of scholars and intellectuals.” Yes, but an erosion of faith doesn’t midwife any complementary view.

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