Conservative Soul: Fundamentalism, Freedom, and the Future of the Right

Overview

Today's conservatives support the idea of limited government, but they have increased government's size and power to new heights. They believe in balanced budgets, but they have boosted government spending, debt, and pork to record levels. They believe in national security but launched a reckless, ideological occupation in Iraq that has made us tangibly less safe. They have substituted religion for politics and damaged both.

In The Conservative Soul, one of the nation's leading ...

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The Conservative Soul: The Politics of Human Difference

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Overview

Today's conservatives support the idea of limited government, but they have increased government's size and power to new heights. They believe in balanced budgets, but they have boosted government spending, debt, and pork to record levels. They believe in national security but launched a reckless, ideological occupation in Iraq that has made us tangibly less safe. They have substituted religion for politics and damaged both.

In The Conservative Soul, one of the nation's leading political commentators makes an impassioned call to rescue conservatism from the excesses of the Republican far right, which has tried to make the GOP the first fundamentally religious party in American history. In this bold and powerful book, Andrew Sullivan makes a provocative, prescient, and heartfelt case for a revived conservatism at peace with the modern world, and dedicated to restraining government and empowering individuals to live rich and fulfilling lives.

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Editorial Reviews

David Brooks
This is Sullivan at his wonderful best. The politics of principle. Not the politics of doubt.
&151; The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
As editor of the New Republic and on his blog The Daily Dish, Sullivan has been a major conservative voice in U.S. politics for 15 years. Now, he attempts "to account for what one individual person means by conservatism"-not repudiating his former political beliefs but trying to "rescue" modern U.S. political conservatism from "the current [Christian] fundamentalist supremacy" that now dominates it. Sullivan (Love Undetectable) has a breezy, readable style that allows him to address such diverse issues as religious fundamentalism's reliance on "the literal words of the Bible," the "excessive witch-hunt" surrounding Clinton, and the secular Enlightenment foundations of the Constitution. He's most approachable when he writes autobiographically through a critical lens-"Looking back I see this phase of my faith life as a temporary and neurotic reaction to a new and bewildering school environment." But that reflection is not as readily apparent when he makes sweeping pronouncements on politics ("post-modern discourse... opposed basic notions of Western freedom: of speech, of trade, of religion"). Much of the book is a meditation on his own evolving faith as a devout Catholic and will appeal most to readers interested in personal religious evolution. (Oct. 3) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
True conservatism recoils from the fundamentalist obsession with virtue and natural law, but embraces a minimalist view of government that allows a maximum of economic and lifestyle liberty. This is the argument that Sullivan has long been refining on his popular blog, The Daily Dish, and in his numerous print columns and books (Virtually Normal, 1995, etc.). In this book, he deploys an interpretation of the philosophy of Michael Oakeshott to support his continuing effort to reconcile his Catholicism and Thatcherite conservatism with the normalization of homosexuality and, most of all, with the redefinition of marriage to include homosexual couples. Sullivan notes that government must be based neither on reactionary adherence to the past, nor on Thomist theories of natural law, but on doubt: specifically, on the Hobbesian disbelief that our neighbor can be trusted not to do us an injury in the absence of a public authority. (Oddly, liberty requires that we give our neighbor "the benefit of the doubt" and therefore civil equality.) Government has no business inculcating virtue in society, the author says. Rather, good conservative government will accommodate itself to the felt needs of the time, like Disraeli's support of the democratic franchise in 19th-century Britain and, as Sullivan would have it, gay marriage in 21st-century America. In order to reach these conclusions, the author devotes about half of this work to explaining why most people who call themselves conservatives are really fundamentalists, a class that stretches from Osama bin Laden, through the editorial offices of the better neoconservative journals, and up to the fundamentalists-in-chief, George W. Bush and BenedictXVI. What all these people have in common is the belief that they know the truth with a certainty that allows them to impose their views either by force or by a definition that can compel consciences. It's difficult to imagine the audience for this philosophy: Cultural revolutionaries can turn to franker polemics, while self-described conservatives will be unnerved by Sullivan's anti-foundationalism.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060934378
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/9/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Sullivan is one of today's most provocative social and political commentators. An essayist for Time magazine, a columnist for The Sunday Times of London, and a senior editor at The New Republic, he is also the editor of "The Daily Dish," one of the most widely read political blogs on the Web. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents


Prologue     1
A Silver Age, 1989-2001     9
The Fundamentalist Psyche     23
The Theoconservative Project     73
The Bush Crucible     119
The Conservatism of Doubt     173
A Politics of Freedom     229
Select Bibliography     281
Acknowledgments     285
Index     287
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2009

    Not what I expected

    If you are looking for a book that discusses the future of conservatism, then you should look elsewhere. Sullivan spends the bulk of the book talking about fundamentalism's influence in politics (which I agree is a real phenomenon), and seems uninterested in discussing the non-fundamentalist view in anything but broad strokes. In general he rambles a bit and the book is hard to stick with.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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