American Conservative Thought Since World War II: The Core Ideas
Melvin J. Thorne
What is American conservative thought and what are the unique qualities that distinguish it from other schools of thought? This volume, by providing a comprehensive definition, overcomes a major stumbling block to the understanding and evaluation of this significant intellectual movement. Although during the post-war period there has been a renaissance of self-styled conservative writing and thought, and a number of scholarly works have focused on conservatism offering valuable information on both the history and development of the movement, author Melvin Thorne maintains that none has successfully defined or distinguished contemporary American conservatism from the ideas of thinkers of other persuasions. Without a definition of the fundamentals of American conservative thought, conservative positions on authority, freedom, government, community, and tradition will continue to resist interpretation and basic theoretical and practical questions must remain unanswered. Thorne's study constructs a conceptual framework for understanding the fundamental nature and scope of conservativism. Chapter 1 criticizes previous definitions that focus on a single idea as a starting point, or that propound lists of common elements, or that reason from sociopsychological or historical perspectives. Rejecting these definitions, Thorne posits the two fundamental ideas which in tandem form the core of contemporary American conservative thought: a certain view of human nature, the subject of Chapter 2, and a certain conception of an objective moral order, discussed in Chapter 3. The influence of the core ideas on the rest of conservative thought is examined in the remaining five chapters, which consider authority, freedom, government and economy, community, and change and tradition. This intellectually rigorous yet highly readable work will be of great importance to scholars, students, and the informed generalist as it provides the most comprehensive view of conservativism to date.
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