Cover: Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement, from Harvard University PressCover: Neoconservatism in PAPERBACK


The Biography of a Movement

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Product Details


$24.00 • £19.95 • €21.50

ISBN 9780674060708

Publication Date: 03/18/2011


376 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Belknap Press


Essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the contours of our recent political past.—Barry Gewen, The New York Times Book Review

[Vaïsse] has written a book on neoconservatism that is thoughtful and well-informed… In a crowded field, Vaïsse has written a fine primer, judicious, thorough and sure-footed.—Rich Lowry, The Washington Post

The proper way to commence appraisal of this admirable book is possibly by proposing a public service award of some sort for Justin Vaïsse. This U.S.-based French foreign-policy scholar makes it feasible at long last to figure out what in blue blazes people are talking about when they praise or, more commonly at present, flog ‘the neocons.’ …A major virtue of Mr. Vaïsse’s painstakingly clear and beautifully executed narrative is its intellectually scrupulous tone: no malice; no abrasive score-settling. The author seeks neither to exalt nor vilify his subjects.—William Murchison, The Washington Times

[Vaïsse] provides an unusually nuanced and historically grounded account of the controversial neo-conservative movement—tracing its origins to disputes among New York liberals in revolt against the excesses of the 1960s.—Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

Absolutely excellent… With sobriety, subtlety and matchless breadth, Vaïsse explores the many dimensions of the most consequential intellectual movement in post–Second World War American politics.—Randy Boyagoda, The Globe and Mail

Vaïsse’s book is the best yet to appear on the neoconservatives. It is comprehensive, searching, highly critical, but also dispassionate in tone.—Anatol Lieven, New Humanist

Very intelligent and well-researched.—Adam Kirsch, Tablet Magazine

Justin Vaïsse demonstrates that an ideology can have just as prickly a personality, and can be just as dynamic, as any celebrity… Surveying not only the political and cultural contributions of icons Norman Podhoretz and William Kristol, but also less frequently discussed figures such as Eugene Rostow and Bayard Rustin, Vaïsse presents an influential and deeply polarizing set of intellectuals evenhandedly.—Josh Lambert, Tablet Magazine

A great strength of Vaïsse’s book is his stress on the second age of neoconservatism, which spans the gap between the Public Interest writers and the national greatness drumbeaters of today… No one who absorbs Vaïsse’s discussion of this second age can harbor any illusions about whether the neocons count as genuine conservatives… Vaïsse…[has] provided…tools that will help us understand a pernicious political movement.—David Gordon, The American Conservative blog

[An] excellent book… Essentially, Vaïsse sees modern neoconservatism as a species of nationalism or patriotism.—Richard King, The Australian

[A] fascinating book… Vaïsse provides a cogent analysis of neoconservative thought and beliefs.—John Hancock, The Concord Monitor [New Hampshire]

The influential neoconservative movement is a complex and often surprising thing… Vaïsse examines the intellectual evolution of leading neocon thinkers like Norman Podhoretz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and William Kristol; explores the impact of neocon journals and think tanks; and recounts the movement’s love-hate relationships with Democratic and Republican administrations. His critical but evenhanded treatment brims with insights… Vaïsse’s is one of the most lucid and sophisticated accounts yet of this crucial political force.Publishers Weekly

With a sharp scalpel and brilliant insights, Vaïsse offers his readers everything they need to know to make their own judgments about neoconservatism, a movement that threatens America’s national interests by advocating policies that exacerbate the very threats it proclaims to be opposing.—Zbigniew Brzezinski

It took Tocqueville to explain Jacksonian America to Americans, so it should not surprise us that another shrewd French student of the United States has written one of the most careful, thoughtful, and engaging books on neoconservatism. Vaïsse tells the movement’s story with grace and sheds great light on the importance of its roots in the Democratic Party, its outsized influence on American foreign policy, and the sometimes subtle but important differences among its loyalists and fellow travelers.—E.J. Dionne, Jr., author of Why Americans Hate Politics and Souled Out

Sometimes we need a non-American to see American politics in a proper perspective. Vaïsse offers one of the most comprehensive and balanced studies of the history of neoconservatism yet to appear.—Francis Fukuyama, author of America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy

Vaïsse’s book should stand as the definitive history of the neoconservative movement. His detailed account traces the movement’s origins, its growth and changes, its uneasy relationship with first the Democratic and then the Republican Party. The tone is dispassionate and analytical; at the same time, Vaïsse tells a good, readable story, fleshed out with people and anecdotes. This is an outstanding work.—James Mann, author of Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet

In contrast to most of the writing about neoconservatism that has appeared in recent years, Vaïsse has tackled the difficult topic in a serious and balanced way. One doesn’t have to agree with everything in his book to know that it will set a standard by which other studies will be judged.—Gary Schmitt, American Enterprise Institute, and former director, Project for the New American Century

Awards & Accolades

  • A Financial Times Best Politics Book of 2010
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