The University of Wisconsin Press

Political Science / American Studies / History – American

Watch on the Right
Conservative Intellectuals in the Reagan Era
J. David Hoeveler Jr.

Winner of the 1992 Council for Wisconsin Writers Award for Best Scholarly Book

The ascendancy of conservatism in the last twenty years is an unprecedented episode in American intellectual and political history. In Watch on the Right, J. David Hoeveler Jr. gives us enlightening, often immensely entertaining, portraits of the key thinkers behind this "revolution." As Hoeveler writes, "conservative thinkers hang their hats on many different racks," and this book dramatizes for us the breadth of the conservative coalition as exemplified by the eight writers surveyed: William F. Buckley Jr. George Will, Robert Nisbet, Irving Kristol, Hilton Kramer, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., and Michael Novak.

These eight "gurus" of the right represent a very wide spectrum of conservative thought, but Hoeveler also considers the present-day conservative renaissance against the literary background that has given the movement its identity since Edmund Burke. Amid the multiple voices unifying themes do emerge. American conservatives share a hostility toward the liberal "new class"—the professional media and academic elites and the entrenched government bureaucracies that still believe in the perfectibility of society by enforced social engineering. Moreover, conservatives of all persuasions are united in struggling to sustain traditional values against the onslaught of revolutionary capitalism and technology, and all are profoundly hostile to imperialistic communism on the Soviet model.

Despite the existence of a generic conservatism, however, Hoeveler's portraits provide us with a fascinating tour of the shifts and turns in modern social thought from the decline of liberalism in the late 1960s to the current era—a path that leads through such diverse areas as the Cold War, bourgeois culture, art and aesthetics, civil rights and the welfare state, New Age culture, and the gender revolution.

To a whole generation that has never known anything but conservative leadership, Watch on the Right will explain, in clear accessible prose, how the movement flourished in the 1970s and 1980s. For readers who saw it happen (but never thought it would) and for liberals (who are feverishly trying to recover "their " mandate), this book as no other pulls the ideological threads of the story together.

Watch on the Right is illustrated with delightful pen-and-ink caricatures.

J. David Hoeveler Jr. is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. He is the author of The New Humanism: A Critique of Modern America, 1900­1940 and of James McCosh and the Scottish Intellectual Tradition: From Glasgow to Princeton.

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January 1991
LC: 90-013021 JA
348 pp.   6 x 9   8 line drawings

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Cloth $14.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-12810-4
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