Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Is Neoconservatism Dead?

Not according to Peter Berkowitz. It will live on as the position between traditional conservatism and progressivism that best reflects the tensions that must be managed or minimized to perpetuate our liberal democracy, with its dedication to individual liberty. But don’t the neos err insofar as they tend to reduce the purpose of political life to the protection of individual liberty, and so by regarding tradition, virtue, religion, and perhaps even the family and political participation as merely instrumental for the individual and not as goods in themselves? I don’t see myself as either a traditional conservative or a neoconservative or even a faith-bsed conservative.

Discussions - 7 Comments

Is that because you are a postmodern conservative, rightly understood? :)

Dear syen and James, I’ll see your labels and up the ante: Peter’s a Pascalian-Tocquevillian-Percyan, with occasional bouts of Aristotelian-dissidentan (Havelian)-Straussian-Manentian (but anti-French generally)-pro-Mormonism/Evangelicalism kind of guy. And there’s more (e.g., his Brownsonianism). His greatest line? A likely candidate: "We must recognize the human grandeur and misery of the guy in the jogging suit."

I feel like the late great and miserable Rodney Dangerfield...

Paul, that was great. A perfect post. I laughed out loud at Lawler’s "greatest line".

In my initial run through Berkowitz’ peice, I have to say that his desciption of neo-con largely fits myself, even though I know I am more Pascalian, and more open to being non-optimistic about capitalism, than most neo-cons. And since, the Wolfowitz approach to foreign policy is not part of Berkowitz’ catalogue of neo-con traits, it seems that even conservative opponents of the Iraq war,like Ryan, might have to affirm that, by this definition, they’re neo-cons too. Likewise missing from B’s catalogue is the willingness of certain neo-con big-wigs to characterize cultural arguments as nativist. But perhaps that isn’t the main-stream of neo-con thought.

So who else is willing to identify as a neo-con, Berkowitzically understood?


That has always been my judgment. Neoconservativism speaks the language of modernity and it reflects an important truth, namely that a self-governing people has certain cultural prerequisites. If you want a liberal nation, it is necessary to have certain kinds of subpolitical institutions (e.g., families) to sustain that nation. Yet I consider myself to be more skeptical of the modern world than the neoconservatives--more Pascalian or more Tocquevillian than that. Nevertheless, as I express myself to modern people, neoconservatism is the way of talking that is most suitable.


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