November 15, 2011
WHAT IS AMERICAN NEOCONSERVATISM REALLY?
Jean-Francois Drolet, American Neoconservatism: The Politics and Culture of A Reactionary Idealism (New York: Columbia U. Press, 2011) ("This book seeks to come to terms with the politics and theory of American neoconservatism. It exposes and interrogates the ideational substance of this 'new' conservatism and offers a critical assessment of the implications for American democracy and American foreign policy. Thee aim is to generate a better understanding of neoconservative ides and political sociology, in light of the historical events and changing social compacts that have created a demand for them over the past decades. The motivation for this enterprise is simply. As Michael C. Williams noted in the aftermath of the Iraq War, despite the important role that neoconservatism has played in American political life since the 1960s, theoretically-oriented literature with the field of politics and International Relations (IR) has remained remarkably scarce, This study seeks to fill this important gap in the literature. It moves beyond recent debates over the implications and political intrigues of the Bush presidency to offer a deeper look at the intellectual preemies of neoconservative political sociology, While animated by progressive politics, it seeks to understand the gaps that neoconservative politics appear to fill in American society so as [to] encourage engagement and a more effective response." Id. at 3. "Neoconservatives . . . see themselves as the guardians of a 'liberalism betrayed' by the events of the 1960s." Id. at 5. "In the pages that follow, I examine this 'new kind of politics; and set out to demonstrate that American neoconservatism is not the mainstream 'liberal conservatism' that it pretends to be (and that many analysts have diagnosed). I argue that neoconservatism in fact owes a lot more to the counter-Enlightenment than to the liberal tradition that its protagonists allegedly want to reform and protect against its enemies." Id. at 6. "My contention is that to the extent that neoconservatism is committed to this discourse, these commitments are subordinated to an authoritarian form of cultural conservatism that is in fact ferociously predatory on liberal values--both in domestic and global politics. Over the years, analysts of all persuasions (including many neoconservatives) have used a variety of evocative Wilsonian slogans to describe the neoconservative approach to foreign affairs: 'Wilsonianism in boots'. 'hard Wilsonianism'. 'closet Wilsonianism', 'Realistic Wilsonianism'. 'Wolfish Wilsonians', 'Hobbes meets Kant', etc. I argue here that these Wilsonian tropes are misleading. For they suggest that neoconservatism resorts to realist power politics to pursue a liberal vision and deepen the normative fabric of the global liberal order. This is simply not the case. Whether in domestic or in international politics, neoconservative attachments to liberalism are predicated on an atavistic conservative philosophy which is at the service of values--authority, hierarchy, elitism, nationalism, community, sacrifice--that are inimical to the transformative mechanisms of liberal governance and the progressive discourse of democracy and human rights." Id. at 7.).