The Prophets of the New Conservatism

Himmelfarb, Gertrude. "The Study of Man: The Prophets of the New Conservatism." Commentary Magazine, January, 1950.


Conservatism Revisited, by the Pulitzer-prize poet Peter Viereck, is only one of a small tide of recent books in the same vein. Someone has recently remarked that there are probably more Americans writing books in defense of conservatism, than there are conservatives showing up at the polls; this is probably an exaggeration, but there is no doubt that conservative political thinking—if not conservative politics—has survived its seven lean years and is now waxing vigorous. Here, Gertrude Himmelfarb subjects some of the representative books of the conservative revival to a critical appraisal. 

At the close of 1820, a year of rebellion in Spain, Portugal, and Naples, of political assassination in France and conspiratorial activity in England, Prince Metternich composed a “Confession of Faith” to be forwarded as a secret memorandum to Czar Alexander I. The lawlessness of the times, Metternich told the Czar, was the fault of that modern phenomenon, “the presumptuous man,” the man who professed to be “the sole judge of his own actions.”