Irving Kristol’s Brute Reason

Paul Berman, "Irving Kristol's Brute Reason," New York Times Book Review, January 30, 2011.


And, in this new spirit, he plunged into his magnum opus, which, instead of a book, was the constructing of something called “neoconservatism.” This was intended to be a new kind of political inspiration, different from the old-fashioned Main Street, balance-the-budget, isolationist conservatism of the past, and different from the right-wing radicalism of people who used to read books like “The Income Tax: The Root of All Evil.” Readers who want to unravel the mystery of Kristol’s new idea will naturally turn to the title essay of the book, “The Neoconservative Persuasion,” from 2003, in which he summarizes his principles. These turn out to be, in his presentation: a cheerful zest for economic growth; a comfortable acceptance of the large modern state, inherited from Franklin Roosevelt; a worried fear of moral and cultural decline; and no particular doctrine on foreign affairs, apart from a conviction that America’s power and prosperity require an active role in world events. (Conspiracy theorists will be disappointed. They will ask, where are the Judeo-Satanic hidden goals? — and will go thumbing through Kristol’s book in vain.)

New York Times