Edmund FawcettNov 2, 2020
Conservatism is Always Evolving
A Discussion with Edmund Fawcett
Princeton University Press 2020
For two hundred years, conservatism has defied its reputation as a backward-looking creed by confronting and adapting to liberal modernity. By doing so, the Right has won long periods of power and effectively become the dominant tradition in politics. Yet, despite their success, conservatives have continued to fight with each other about how far to compromise with liberalism and democracy—or which values to defend and how. In Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition (Princeton University Press, 2020), Edmund Fawcett provides a gripping account of this conflicted history, clarifies key ideas, and illuminates quarrels within the Right today.
Focusing on the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, Fawcett’s vivid narrative covers thinkers and politicians. They include the forerunners James Madison, Edmund Burke, and Joseph de Maistre; early friends and foes of capitalism; defenders of religion; and builders of modern parties, such as William McKinley and Lord Salisbury. The book chronicles the cultural critics and radical disruptors of the 1920s and 1930s, recounts how advocates of laissez-faire economics broke the post 1945 consensus, and describes how Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and their European counterparts are pushing conservatism toward a nation-first, hard Right.
An absorbing, original history of the Right, Conservatism portrays a tradition as much at war with itself as with its opponents.
Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org