Magazine February 8, 2021, Issue

Conservatism’s Contested Tradition

Detail of a portrait of Edmund Burke, c. 1769, by Sir Joshua Reynolds (Public Domain/Wikimedia)
Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition, by Edmund Fawcett (Princeton University Press, 544 pp., $35)

Early in this magisterial history, Edmund Fawcett identifies the twin projects of conservatism. “Conservatives fight to identify and protect traditions that liberal modernity undermines,” he writes, “and they fight among themselves for ownership of their own conservative tradition.” So discussions of conservatism typically do two things: defend particular ideas about what conservatism is, and explain how conservatives defend it from its opponents.

Fawcett, a longtime correspondent for The Economist, has also written a well-received volume on liberalism. At the beginning of this book, he gives the game away by positioning liberalism at the center of the Western political tradition and conservatism

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This article appears as “A Contested Tradition” in the February 8, 2021, print edition of National Review.

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In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners



C’mon, Zingerola!

Before we roll over and submit, we need to figure out whether we’re dealing with purposeful malevolence or good ol’-fashioned human clusterbuggery.


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