December 11, 2006

Commentary and Neo-Conservatism


Here is a fascinating article about the origins of neo-conservatism which locates its origins within the magazine Commentary. Obviously one magazine could not have started the whole movement- this is not an intellectual history of neo-conservatism. But what it does demonstrate is the importance of an institution to an intellectual movement- Commentary under its editors (like Norman Podhoretz pictured above) was relatively free to publish what its editors choose to publish. Consequently it was a free space in which intellectuals could experiment. Whether magazines like Commentary will be required as much in the future to begin movements of ideas is doubtful- the phenomenen of internet self publishing has changed the ways that political ideas are produced and diffused. But the experience of Commentary in the fifties and its non-exclusive connection to the rise of the right in a separate internationalist analysis of US foreign policy, demonstrates what kind of institutional arrangements were neccessary for intellectual movements to thrive in the twentieth century.

2 comments:

andrewl said...

The neo-conservative movement didn't start with international affairs, primarily. It's interesting that primarily in the sixties and seventies, the neocon movement was focused on domestic policy [Daniel Bell, Norman Podhoretz, William Kristol etc], in particular the problems of the New Deal welfare state.

The shift of "neoconservatism" to international affairs seems to come in the 80s and 90s (?). This seems interesting for a couple of reasons: the neocon movement is not homogenous, nor should much of the influence in foreign policy be ascribed (only) to this movement. The neocon movement actually cared initially (and still?) about domestic US society - is that still more important to them...?

Interesting article on Commentary, however - very signficant.

Gracchi said...

Yes I agree with you about neo-conservatism I haven't quite got its boundaries worked out yet or what the term means. Nor actually have I seen a good description. My feeling is that even if their subject has shifted their focus hasn't- often they are talking about the west even when talking about foreing policy.