Bricks, Mortar & TouchstonesnAmitai Etzioni: An ImmodestnAgenda: Rebuilding America Beforenthe Twenty-First Century;nMcGraw-Hill; New York.nby David R. Sandsnl-/espite all the talk about neoliberalism,nit appears that the centralnintellectual debate in American politicsntoday is taking place within the RepublicannParty, between two very distinctnnotions of conservatism. The Reaganntriumph of 1980 clarified the debatenwithout settling the fundamental issues.nThe impulse to “get the government oflfnof our backs,” while commendablengiven the social policies in this countrynover the past two decades, is just that—nan impulse, not a coherent politicalnphilosophy. It presupposes that there isna vast network of private charity andnlocal initiative waiting “out there” somewherento take over what we have grownnaccustomed to letting the Federal governmentndo for us. The grounds for thisnpresupposition are by no means obvious.nIn fact, conservatives themselvesnhave been most critical of many of thenprominent social trends of postwarnAmerica—^the decline of the family, thencelebration of various forms ofnhedonism, the impatience for gratification,nthe disregard for traditional arbitersnof taste and authority, in short, modemnamoral individualism. One has to wondernwhether Social Security should be givenninto the hands of a populace that madenPulling Your Own Strings a best-seller.nOne prominent school of conservatives,nwhich follows the tenets of classicaln19th-century economic liberalism, seesnthese qualms as irrelevant. The government,nfor them, is a mischievous nannynskewing the marketplace with regulationsnor formulating inane policies that interferenwith the traditional family. But fornMr. Sands is a recent graduate of TuftsnUniversity.nReaganomics, the New Federalism, or anrestoration of familial and civic virtuesnever to take hold, a diflferent definition ofnconservatism must prevail. It must benthat of an ISth-cenmry cultural conservatismnwhich places the moral soundnessnof the community above the leadingneconomic indicators and certainlynabove most of the traditional liberalncriteria for political health, i.e., individualnmoral autonomy or radicalnegalitarianlsm. George Will, one defendernof the latter brand of conservatism,nwrites that “statecraft must be soulcraft;ngovernment cannot avoid concerningnitself vdth morals.” He decries “thenmodern ‘nightsvatchman’ theory of government,”nwhich “exists only to protectnpersons and property.” These conservativesnare willing to give the market thenbenefit of a large doubt, and they do notnunderrate the virtues—n work ethic,ndeferred gratification, individual initiative—^thatncapitalism promotes. However,nnor do they see the unfettering ofneconomic activity as the right’s primarynmission.nIndeed, an argument can be made fornthe idea that capitalism and capitalistsnare not necessarily conservative forcesnat all, that it is only an accident ofncoalition-building and political style thatnhas placed the National Association ofnManufacturers under the Republicannbanner. The tease and gore broadcastnnightly on American TV which so offendnboth the Moral Majority and good taste,nafter all, are paid for by corporations—nwhich presumably are the supporters ofncapitalism. If conservatism means preservingnthe best of the old, or thennnextreme reluctance to embrace thenuntried, then how can a system ofneconomic organization that brought usnthe time clock, the factory, thenautomobile, and the video arcade benconservative?nAu of which leads to Amitai Etzioni’snimportant and provocative AnnImmodest Agenda Rebuilding AmericanBefore the Twenty first Century. It isndue more to the confusion of our politicsnthan to any gross inconsistency innEtzioni’s thinking that makes this bookndifficult to label. A social scientist at thenGeorge Washington University, Etzionincomes from a most unpromising background,nhaving served stints as a guestnscholar at the Brookings Institute and asna senior advisor to Jimmy Carter for onenyear. He is a Democrat, and he sees hisnbook as a blueprint for a revival of hisnparty’s fortunes.nBut he pays conservatives the complimentnof accepting their definition of thenissues, of allowing the right to choosenboth the battleground and the weapons.nThere are certain values, he argues,nwhich a healthy America must cultivatenand which liberalism has been toonembarrassed or distracted to address innrecent years. “The Moral Majority has anpoint; we must concern ourselves morenwith family, school, neighborhood,nnation, and character,” Etzioni states.n^ifiSOnMay 1983n