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The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities Throughout American History Hardcover – May 26 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (May 26 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300118945
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300118940
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.4 x 2.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 612 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #16,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Coach C TOP 500 REVIEWER on Aug. 28 2009
Format: Hardcover
In this important historical survey, Professor Patrick Allitt seeks to explore the intellectual tradition of conservatism as experienced in the U.S. and its impact on the political and economic scene. Its opposition to a liberal tradition which according to William F. Buckley is philosophically incoherent, lacking in moral foundation, suppressive of individual freedom, fetishizes doubt rather than standing firm on the certain truths, and believes in the power of the state to engineer equality and social progress.

In my opinion, Allitt does a great job emphasizing and exploring the historical construct and etymology of the term "conservatism" and what it actually means. Not until the 1950s did conservatives themselves refer to their ideology as "conservative" and therefore we must be careful in its use.

In my opinion, Allitt's analysis is especially strong during the revolutionary and antebellum era. The intellectual tradition established by Henry Clay and Daniel Webster of the Whig Party in opposition to the populist swagger of Andrew Jackson is very well explored, if a little short. By the time Allitt reaches William F. Buckley I think the book begins to feel a little rushed. The confluence of traditionalism, libertarianism, and communism could certainly fill several books, but Allitt is unfortunately only able to partially explore them fully. In this way, Allan J. Lichtman's "White Protestant Nation" does a better job exploring conservatism in the context of the later half of 20th century America.

With the ascent of a liberal, progressive, Democrat now in the White House, there has been much recent discussion about where the conservatives go from here, this book is a good primer on how they got to where they are now. Therefore, I recommend this as mandatory reading for all those who considers themselves conservatives.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Winston on Sept. 15 2009
Format: Hardcover
A non-partisan history of the Conservative movement. As a non-American conservative, I've always looked at the US conservative movement of the 2nd half of the twentieth century to draw my own lessons. The author has written a very well balanced history book about the ideas/persons of the Conservative movement since the beginning of the republic. I enjoyed it and above all, its simplicity in story telling was of great value. I liked it. 5/5
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
You can't get much more fair-minded than this Sept. 22 2009
By Christopher Barat - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you're interested in reading a history of American conservatism that comes neither to panegyrize nor pathologize, then this may be the book for you. Allitt's fair, dispassionate account of various strains of conservative thought throughout American intellectual history keeps on the high road throughout, touching upon present-day debates when necessary but focusing on ideas first and foremost. Allitt identifies the following as characteristic of American conservatism:

1. an attitude to social and political change that looks for support to the ideas, beliefs, and habits of the past and puts more faith in the lessons of history than in the abstractions of political philosophy;
2. a suspicion of democracy and equality, more specifically, the confusion between the notion of men as being legally and politically equal and being equal when it comes to virtues, abilities and talents;
3. the view that civilization is fragile and easily disrupted and we need virtuous citizens to keep our civilization whole;
4. the desire for a highly educated elite as guardians of civilization.

That's as elegant a summary of basic conservative ideas as I've ever read. Of course, being in academia, I know that we've got a "highly educated elite" in place; the problem is that too many of them are on the other side.

Liberals are especially encouraged to read this book. The first step to good debate is knowing and respecting where your opponent gets his ideas from.
33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
A Historical Perspective of American Conservatives June 3 2009
By CT - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Patrick Allitt had essentially given a scholastic survey of historical figures he considered to be conservatives throughout the American history. Starting from the Founders of the American republic to the present day modern conservatives, Allitt tells their ideologies, personalities and what make them to be American conservatives in a lively manner. I recommend this book to any general reader who has interest in the history of American conservatism. In this book, I find it fascinating how the clashes of ideas within American conservatism played out in history. Overall, this is a very good book that gives the historical perspective of American conservatives.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
A Timeless History June 26 2009
By Daria Snadowsky - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The worst thing about no longer being a student at Emory University is not being able to take Dr. Allitt's history classes anymore. Luckily, he keeps writing incredible books with universal appeal that even non-historians like me can enjoy. And with his latest opus, THE CONSERVATIVES, Dr. Allitt raises the bar even higher. No wonder Booklist awarded it a starred review.

With his signature wit and insight, Dr. Allitt has created an endlessly fascinating, remarkably thorough, and completely unbiased history of notable conservative figures and movements in the U.S. During a time when merely the word "conservative" can have polarizing effects, Dr. Allitt tackles this normally controversial subject with no agenda other than to provide a gripping, well-researched overview of an ideology that has figured largely in this country's past, from our Founding Fathers right up through 9/11.

Best of all, THE CONSERVATIVES escapes the fate of far-too-many scholarly works which overwhelm with names, dates and boring facts. Dr. Allitt's book is so deftly-paced and structured that it reads more like a non-fiction "great American novel" than an exemplary and definitive historical treatise, which it is.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Easy to like, very educational Dec 29 2009
By Pat Gunn - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Allitt's book made the history entertaining and educational without sacrificing either. It is admirable that he handled a complex topic without oversimplification; this is as a go-to book for understanding some of the traditions of American history. It is (usually) fair to the movements it describes (although it is a bit snarky in places) and should be good reading for intellectual Americans, regardless of whether they are liberal, conservative, or something else.
24 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Factual errors undermined my confidence in this book Jan. 10 2010
By Bob H. - Published on
Format: Paperback
Having read many earlier books on American conservatism, before undertaking to buy this book, I decided to sample a few pages about the people and period I knew best. Unfortunately, Prof. Allitt's breezy handling of facts, dates and labels does not inspire confidence in his work. On p. 161, he gives the wrong birth year for Ludwig von Mises; it should be 1881, and two pages later he generously adds an extra decade to the life of Murray N. Rothbard, who actually died in 1995, not in 2005. More serious, he says that Mises and F.A.Hayek, like Rothbard (who was an anarchist) thought of "government as an enemy." That is nonsense; they were passionate defenders of LIMITED government, which hardly makes anarchists. In his discussion of Ayn Rand, he errs when he says that she "wrote essays with titles like 'The Virtue of Selfishness'; it is actually one of her books, but she wrote no essay with that title. One suspects that his knowledge of Ayn Rand derived entirely from second-hand sources, e.g. his claim that John Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged filled one hundred pages-- it was actually sixty (pp.1009-1069) in the 1957 hardcover edition. Instead of using a reliable source for his discussion of Alan Greenspan (e.g. the biography by Justin Martin), he relies on the superficial and salacious book by Jerome Tuccille, and he misspells the name of the author of the 2005 Berkeley doctoral dissertation on Ayn Rand -- it should be Burns, not Bryne. Based on this admittedly small sample, I shall re-read George H. Nash's magisterial work and buy the newer book by Paul Gottfried. Six errors in three pages is scandalous for a scholarly book from a major university press.

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