Irving Kristol

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Irving Kristol
Western Philosophy
Modern philosophy
Full name Irving Kristol
School/tradition American neoconservatism

Irving Kristol (born January 22, 1920) has been dubbed the "godfather of neoconservatism."[1] As the founder, editor, and contributor to various magazines, he has played an influential role in the intellectual and political culture of the last half-century.[2]


[edit] Background

Kristol was born in Brooklyn, New York of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. He received his B.A. from the City College of New York in 1940, where he majored in history and was part of a small but vocal Trotskyist sect. During World War II, he served in Europe in the 12th Armored Division as a combat infantryman.[3]

He was an editor and then the managing editor of Commentary magazine from 1947 to 1952; co-founder (with Stephen Spender) of the British-based Encounter from 1953 to 1958; editor of The Reporter from 1959 to 1960; executive vice-president of the publishing house, Basic Books, from 1961 to 1969; Henry Luce Professor of Urban Values at New York University from 1969 to 1987; co-founder and co-editor (first with Daniel Bell and then Nathan Glazer) of The Public Interest from 1965 to 2002; and founder and publisher of The National Interest from 1985 to 2002.

He is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute since 1988, a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations since 1972, a member of the Wall Street Journal Board of Contributors since 1972, and president of National Affairs, Inc.

Kristol is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a fellow emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute (having been an associate fellow from 1972, a senior fellow from 1977 and the John M. Olin Distinguished Fellow from 1988 to 1999). As a member of the board of contributors of the Wall Street Journal, he contributed a monthly column from 1972 to 1997. He served on the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1972 to 1977.

In July 2002, he received from President George W. Bush the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

Kristol was married in 1942 to the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb. They have two children, Elizabeth Nelson and William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard.

[edit] Ideas

In 1973 Michael Harrington coined the term "neoconservatism" to describe those liberal intellectuals and political philosophers who were disaffected with the political and cultural attitudes dominating the Democratic Party and were moving toward a new form of conservatism[4]. Intended by Harrington as a pejorative term, it was accepted by Kristol as an apt description of the ideas and policies exemplified by The Public Interest. Unlike liberals, for example, neoconservatives rejected most of the Great Society programs sponsored by Lyndon Johnson; and unlike traditional conservatives, they supported the more limited welfare state instituted by Roosevelt.

In February, 1979, Kristol was featured on the cover of Esquire. The caption identified him as "the godfather of the most powerful new political force in America -- Neoconservatism."[5] That year also saw the publication of a book The Neoconservatives: The Men Who Are Changing America's Politics. Like Harrington, the author, Peter Steinfels, was critical of neoconservatism, but he was impressed by its growing political and intellectual influence. Kristol's response appeared under the title "Confessions of a True, Self-Confessed -- Perhaps the Only -- 'Neoconservative'."[6]

Neoconservatism, Kristol maintains, is not an ideology but a "persuasion," a way of thinking about politics rather than a compendium of principles and axioms.[7]. It is classical rather than romantic in temperament, and practical and antiutopian in policy. One of Kristol's most celebrated quips defines a neoconservative as "a liberal who has been mugged by reality."[8]

That "reality," for Kristol, is a complex one. While propounding the virtues of supply-side economics as the basis for the economic growth that is "a sine qua non for the survival of a modern democracy," he also insists that any economic philosophy has to be enlarged by "political philosophy, moral philosophy, and even religious thought," which were as much the sine qua non for a modern democracy.[9]

One of his early books, Two Cheers for Capitalism, asserts that capitalism, or more precisely bourgeois capitalism, is worthy of two cheers: One cheer, because "it works, in a quite simple, material sense," by improving the conditions of people. And a second cheer, because it is "congenial to a large measure of personal liberty." These are no small achievements, he argues, and only capitalism has proved capable of providing them. But it also imposes a great "psychic burden" upon the individual and the social order as well. Because it does not meet the individual's "'existential' human needs," it creates a "spiritual malaise" that threatens the legitimacy of that social order. As much as anything else, it is the withholding of that third cheer that is the distinctive mark of neoconservatism, as Kristol understands it.[10]

[edit] Quotations

"The trouble with traditional American conservatism is that it lacks a naturally cheeerful, optimistic disposition. Not only does it lack one, it regards signs of one as evidence of unsoundness, irresponsibility."[11]

"There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work."[12][13]

"I have observed over the years that the unanticipated consequences of social action are always more important, and usually less agreeable, than the intended consequences." [14]

"What rules the world is idea, because ideas define the way reality is perceived."[15]

"It requires strength of character to act upon one's ideas; it requires no less strength of character to resist being seduced by them."[16]

"An intellectual may be defined as a man who speaks with general authority about a subject on which he has no particular competence."[17]

"Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions -- it only guarantees equality of opportunity."

"Nostalgia is one of the legitimate and certainly one of the most enduring of human emotions; but the politics of nostalgia is at best distracting, at worst pernicious."[18]

"The liberal paradigm of regulation and license has led to a society where an 18-year-old girl has the right to public fornication in a pornographic movie -- but only if she is paid the minimum wage."[19]

"Senator McGovern is very sincere when he says that he will try to cut the military budget by 30%. And this is to drive a knife in the heart of Israel... Jews don't like big military budgets. But it is now an interest of the Jews to have a large and powerful military establishment in the United States... American Jews who care about the survival of the state of Israel have to say, no, we don't want to cut the military budget, it is important to keep that military budget big, so that we can defend Israel."[20]

"After all, if you believe that no one was ever corrupted by a book, you also have to believe that no one was ever improved by a book (or a play or a movie). You have to believe, in other words, that all art is morally trivial and that, consequently, all education is morally irrelevant. No one, not even a university professor, really believes that."[21]

"The enemy of liberal capitalism today is not so much socialism as nihilism."[22]

"It is ironic to watch the churches, including large sections of my own religion, surrendering to the spirit of modernity at the very moment when modernity itself is undergoing a kind of spiritual collapse....[23]

"Young people, especially, are looking for religion so desperately that they are inventing new ones. They should not have to invent new ones; the old religions are pretty good."[24]

"Power breeds responsibilities, in international affairs as in domestic -- or even private. To dodge or disclaim these responsibilities is one form of the abuse of power."[25]

"The danger facing American Jews today is not that Christians want to persecute them but that Christians want to marry them."[26]

[edit] Articles

  • "Men and Ideas: Niccolo Machiavelli," Encounter, Dec. 1954.
  • "American Intellectuals and Foreign Policy," Foreign Affairs, July 1967 (repr. in On the Democratic Idea in America).
  • "Memoirs of a Cold Warrior," New York Times Magazine, Feb. 11, 1968 (repr. in Reflections of a Neoconservative).
  • "When Virtue Loses All Her Loveliness," The Public Interest, Fall 1970 (repr. in On the Democratic Idea in America and Two Cheers for Capitalism).
  • "Pornography, Obscenity, and Censorship," New York Times Magazine, Mar. 28, 1971 (repr. in On the Democratic Idea in America and Reflections of a Neoconservative).
  • "Utopianism, Ancient and Modern," Imprimus, April 1973 (repr. in Two Cheers for Capitalism).
  • "Adam Smith and the Spirit of Capitalism," The Great Ideas Today, ed. Robert Hutchins and Mortimer Adler, 1976 (repr. in Reflections of a Neoconservative).
  • "Memoirs of a Trotskyist," New York Times Magazine, Jan. 23, 1977 (repr. in Reflections of a Neoconservative).
  • "The Adversary Culture of Intellectuals," Encounter, Oct. 1979 (repr. in Reflections of a Neoconservative).

[edit] Books

[edit] References

  1. ^ See, for example,
  2. ^ See, for example, "American Conservative Opinion Leaders," by Mark J. Rozell and James F. Pontuso, 1990.
  3. ^ Kristol, Irving. Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea. New York: The Free Press, 1995. ISBN 0-02-874021-1 p. 3-4
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Reflections of a Neoconservative, p.79
  8. ^
  9. ^ Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea (New York, 1995), p. 37.
  10. ^ Two Cheers for Capitalism (New York, 1978), pp. x-xii.
  11. ^ Wall Street Journal, Nov. 18, 1985.
  12. ^ Origin of the Specious, Reason Magazine (July 1997)
  13. ^ Atheism Central for Secondary Schools - the noble lie
  14. ^ On the Democratic Idea in America (New York, 1972), p. ix.
  15. ^ Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 1975.
  16. ^ New Leader, Apr. 1, 1963.
  17. ^ Foreign Affairs, July 1967.
  18. ^ New York Times Magazine, Dec. 20, 1964.
  19. ^ Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 1975.
  20. ^ Kristol, Irving. 1973. Congress Bi-Weekly. American Jewish Congress. (Produced online)
  21. ^ New York Times Magazine, Mar. 28, 1971.
  22. ^ The Public Interest, Spring 1973.
  23. ^ Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, pp. 36-7.
  24. ^ Capitalism and Socialism: A Theological Inquiry (American Enterprise Institute Press, 1979).
  25. ^ New York Times Magazine, May 12, 1968.
  26. ^ Quoted in Commentary, Jan. 1994.

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