REVIEWSrnMoments in the Sunrnby Clyde WilsonrnThe Neoconservative Mind: Politics,rnCulture, and the War of Ideologyrnby Gary DorrienrnPhiladelphia: Temple University Press;rn500pp.J34.95rnOne can no better describe the subjectrnof this book than by quotingrnthe publisher’s press release:rnOnce there was a group of liberalsrnand Leftists. They werernDemocrats, they were radicals,rnthey were freedom riders. Butrnthey became disillusioned by thernLeft. They moved toward thernRight, they opposed the anti-warrnmovement, they made socialist argumentsrnfor electing RichardrnNixon. They claimed to be therntrue American liberals, and theyrnattacked their former friends whorncontinued to identify with thernLeft.. .. They went on to campaignrnfor Cold War objectives ofrn”exporting democracy,” and tornsupport Ronald Reagan and hisrncrusade for “family values.” . . .rnWhat can explain such a reversalrnin ideology?rnMost of what has been written aboutrnthe strange band called neoconservativesrnhas been written either by themselvesrnand their admirers or else by persons, tornthe right and to the left, who bear thernbootmarks of their climb to power. Thernauthor of I’he Neoconservative Mind,rnhowever, seems to have no axe to grind,rnbut to be motivated by genuine intellectualrncuriosity about the phenomenon inrnquestion. He is a man of the moderaternChristian left and has written a dispassionate,rnseriously researched, and historicalrnaccount. At the level of intellectualrnhistory and public discourse, he has answeredrnthe question “What can explainrnsuch a reversal in ideology?” very well—rnas far as it goes.rnA more important question, however,rnremains to be answered; How did arngroup of New York Trotskyites come duringrnthe 1980’s to assume the ideologicalrnmanagement of the Middle AmericanrnReagan revolution? The answer to thisrnquestion lies in the realm of intellectualrnlogistics and political factionalism, not inrnthat of the history of ideas. A fascinatingrnaccount remains to be written, and thernanswers may be looked for in the neoconservatives’rnproximity to the mediarnand large capital of the Northeast, wellrndocumented here, and in the intellectualrnand ethical shallowness of therndecision-makers of the Reagan era.rnIn his attempt to capture the “neoconservativernmind,” Dorrien has writtenrnthorough, respectful, but candid intellectualrnbiographies of four of the leadingrnlights of the movement: Irving Kristol,rnNorman Podhoretz, Michael Novak, andrnPeter Berger. He has traced the developmentrnof their public thought and relatedrnit to the right and left and to thernlarger questions of the 20th century.rnThis is a useful exercise, though one ofrnthe things it proves is that, with the exceptionrnof Berger, none of these writersrnhas any real claim to being a seriousrnscholar or important thinker (as opposedrnto political polemicist), though Kristolrnhas undoubted talents as an editor andrnintellectual logistician. That is, most ofrnthe neoconservatives would be of no importancernat all in a public discourse thatrnwas less vulgarized and commercializedrnthan that of the present day.rnDorrien has not neglected the questionsrnof intellectual logistics mentionedrnabove or the neoconservative accomplishmentsrnin this area; his descriptionrndoes not differ greatly from the criticalrnassessment made by paleoconservatives,rnand I will resist the temptation to quoternmore than a couple of his best bits: “Thernsupreme irony of his [Kristol’s] attacksrnon the self-promoting opportunism ofrnthe New Class intellectuals was that theyrnwere most convincing as descriptions ofrnthe career he knew best,” and, “Novakrnmoved further left. For the next twornyears, when such attitudes were mostrnfashionable, he epitomized the socialrntype of the liberal-bashing New Leftist.”rnOne of the most interesting parts ofrnthe book is the author’s careful treatmentrnof the particular variety of Marxismrnthat he sees as the seedbed of ncoconservatism.rnIt will surprise many conservativesrnto learn that Dorrien judgesrnJames Burnham to have played a largernrole in the neoconservatives’ journeyrnfrom Marxism to an equally ideologicalrnCold War liberalism. Here is a fascinatingrnchapter in American intellectual history,rnthough I have to enter something ofrna demurrer. Burnham, after he escapedrnfrom the belly of the beast, was motivatedrnchiefly by the desire to preservernWestern civilization: it is not clear thatrnthe neoconservatives who adopted a similarrnstance did so from a similar motive.rnBasic to Burnham’s view was the idearnthat the gestalt of the left had imperiledrnthe West by disarming it. In my youth arnfavorite barroom game of conservativesrnwas to test oneself and others againstrnBurnham’s 39 theses of liberalism as setrnforward in Suicide of the West: the fewerrnof the insidious, plausible lies of liberalismrnone agreed with, the better. I do notrnthink the neoconservatives would scorernvery high on Burnham’s test.rnDorrien would have done much betterrnto search for the intellectual antecedentsrnto neoconscrvatism in the strange cult ofrnStraussian political science. Though thernpersonal connections are not as direct,rnand though the Straussians represent arnmuch higher level of intellect than dornthe neoconservatives, the affinities betweenrnthe uncritical pursuit of “globalrndemocratic capitalism” and the Straussianrnuniversalization of equality are clear.rnIf the Straussians had not succeeded inrnputting 19th-eentury Cerman left-wingrnRomanticism into American conservativerndiscourse in place of the chaste andrncool republicanism of the Founding Fathers,rnthe neoconservatives would neverrnhave achieved their success as philosophersrnof the pseudo-right. But the namernof Leo Strauss appears in the index ofrnthis book only a few times and that of AllanrnBloom not at all, which is a real limitation.rnThe author does provide an accountrnof his subjects’ controversies withrnthe paleoconservatives, including manyrnthinkers well known to the readers ofrnChronicles. This is a useful survey,rnthough at a superficial journalistic level,rnthat by no means exhausts the subject.rnDorrien finds the neoconservatives’rnpositions shot through with contradictionsrn—a judgment made from the leftrnbut one with which no conservative notrn26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn