The Hundred Year War for American Conservatism(amazon)
Matthew Continetti (View Bio)
Hardcover: Basic Books, 2022.
In The Right, Matthew Continetti gives a sweeping account of conservatism's evolution, from the Progressive Era through the present. He tells the story of how conservatism began as networks of intellectuals, developing and institutionalizing a vision that grew over time, until they began to buckle under new pressures, resembling national populist movements.
Drawing out the tensions between the desire for mainstream acceptance and the pull of extremism, Continetti argues that the more one studies conservatism's past, the more one becomes convinced of its future.
Continetti has written a magisterial intellectual history of the last century of American conservatism. Deeply researched and brilliantly told, The Right is essential reading.
"Matthew Continetti’s The Right paints a messier, and for that reason far more accurate, portrait of 20th- and 21st-century American conservatism. The conservative movement was always a motley assemblage of free-marketeers, neoconservative reformists, apocalyptic paleoconservatives, populist reactionaries, Catholic intellectuals, Evangelical campaigners, and a variety of weirdos and visionaries (Ayn Rand, Robert Welch Jr., L. Brent Bozell Jr.) who eventually found themselves alienated or expelled from the movement. Mr. Continetti puts it this way: ‘There is not one American Right; there are several.’ His chronicle follows both the intellectuals and party elites, on the one hand, and ordinary conservative voters and activists, on the other.... Mr. Continetti captures beautifully the ad hoc, rearguard nature of American conservatism. Not until the end of the book does he make explicit what becomes clearer as the narrative moves forward: ‘Over the course of the past century, conservatism has risen up to defend the essential moderation of the American political system against liberal excess. Conservatism has been there to save liberalism from weakness, woolly-headedness, and radicalism.’" — Barton Swaim, The Wall Street Journal (Read the full review)
"Continetti explains conservatism as a complex, contradictory movement, often at war between its populists and its intellectual elite wings.... Continetti effectively documents this tug between conservative elites and conservative populists but does not really provide a way for them to come together. Without the ‘elites,’ you don’t have articulated positions and ‘sweeping narratives’ that inspire voters. Without the populists, you don’t have the true energy behind winning campaigns." — Ron Capshaw, The Federalist (Read the full review)
"A sturdy account of the many divisions within modern conservatism, divisions that have been growing over a century. There are many forms of conservatism, but there are essentially two large camps: populist and elitist, which often battle and occasionally cooperate.... The author presents a convincing case for a brand of conservatism that checks overly ambitious progressives.... Rational, well thought out, and impeccably argued—of interest to all students of politics." — Kirkus Reviews
"This is a worthy analysis of how free market policies and nativist populism make for a potent political mix." — Publishers Weekly