He was 89 and lived in Washington. His son, William Kristol, the commentator and editor of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, said the cause of death was complications of lung cancer. Kristol exerted an influence across generations, from William F. Buckley to the columnist David Brooks, through a variety of positions he held over a long career: executive vice president of Basic Books, contributor to The Wall Street Journal, professor of social thought at New York University, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
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He was 89 and lived in Washington. His son, William Kristol, the commentator and editor of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, said the cause of death was complications of lung cancer. Kristol exerted an influence across generations, from William F.
Buckley to the columnist David Brooks, through a variety of positions he held over a long career: executive vice president of Basic Books, contributor to The Wall Street Journal, professor of social thought at New York University, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was commonly known as the godfather of neoconservatism, even by those who were not entirely sure what the term meant.
New Deal Democrats all, they were social scientists who found themselves questioning many of President Lyndon B. Kristol translated his concerns into a magazine. Its founding is generally considered the beginning of neoconservatism. Welfare programs, they argued, were breeding a culture of dependency; affirmative action created social divisions and did damage to its supposed beneficiaries. They placed practicality ahead of ideals.
For more than six decades, beginning in , when he and other recent graduates of City College founded Enquiry: A Journal of Independent Radical Thought, his life revolved around magazines. Besides The Public Interest, Mr. Kristol valued the quality of his readership more than the quantity. He never sought celebrity; in fact, he was puzzled by writers who craved it. Kemp converted President Ronald Reagan to the theory. Kristol was a man of ideas who believed in the power of ideas, an intellectual whose fiercest battles were waged against other intellectuals.
Neoconservatism may have begun as a dispute among liberals about the nature of the welfare state, but under Mr. Kristol, in the name of neoconservatism, mounted an ever more muscular defense of capitalism, bourgeois values and the aspirations of the common man that took him increasingly to the right. Moynihan went on to a celebrated career as a Democratic senator from New York, and Mr.
He was replaced by Nathan Glazer. But neoconservatism turned quite literally into a family affair for Mr. His wife, Gertrude Himmelfarb, a distinguished historian of 19th-century England, wrote books and articles critical of modern permissiveness and urged a return to Victorian values. Kristol once described feeling intimidated at a cocktail party when he was seated with Ms.
He learned the hard way that he was not destined to be an author of books. As an essayist, Mr. Kristol was sharp, witty, aphoristic and assertive. Bork said of him. Before achieving his reputation as a writer on political and social affairs, he was a wide-ranging generalist. But he could be a verbal streetfighter as well. Kristol seemed to need enemies: the counterculture, the academic and media professionals who made up what he called the New Class, and finally liberalism in its entirety.
And he certainly made enemies with his harsh words. Yet underlying the invective was an innate skepticism, even a quality of moderation and self-mockery, which was often belied by his single-mindedness. This stalwart defender of free enterprise could manage only two cheers for capitalism.
Kristol recalled. In the late s he attended City College, the highly politicized, overwhelmingly Jewish New York institution where his indignation at the injustices of the Great Depression pushed him to the left, but not the far left. In the large, dingy school cafeteria were a number of alcoves where students could gather with like-minded colleagues.
But the alcoves that later became famous were Numbers One and Two. The Stalinists outnumbered the anti-Stalinists by as much as , but among the anti-Stalinists were Mr. Bell as well as the future sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset and the future literary critic Irving Howe. Howe recruited Mr. Kristol into the Trotskyists, and though Mr. Himmelfarb at a Trotskyist gathering in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
He fell in love, and the two were married in , when she was 19 and he was just short of his 22nd birthday. Besides William, they also had a daughter, Elizabeth. They, along with their mother and five grandchildren, survive him. After marrying, Mr. It was a perception about human nature that would stay with him for the rest of his life, creating a tension with his alternative view that ordinary people were to be trusted more than intellectuals to do the right thing.
Himmelfarb spent a year in Cambridge, England, while she pursued her studies. When they returned to the United States in , he took an editing job with Commentary, then a liberal anti-Communist magazine.
About the spokesmen for American liberalism, they feel they know no such thing. And with some justification. Kristol spent 10 months as executive director of the anti-Communist organization the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, and in he removed to England to help found Encounter magazine with the poet Stephen Spender.
They made an unlikely pair: Mr. Spender, tall, artsy, sophisticated; Mr. Kristol, short, brash, still rough around the edges. Together, they made Encounter one of the foremost highbrow magazines of its time. But another explosive controversy awaited Mr. It was later revealed that the magazine had been receiving financial support from the C. Kristol always denied any knowledge of the connection. But he hardly appeased his critics when he added that he did not disapprove of the C.
Back in New York at the end of , Mr. Kristol worked for a year at another liberal anti-Communist magazine, The Reporter, then took a job at Basic Books, rising to executive vice president. It was during this time that Mr. He supported Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey in his presidential campaign against Richard M. Nixon depresses me. By now Mr. Kristol was battling on several fronts. He published columns and essays attacking liberalism and the counterculture from his perches at The Wall Street Journal and The Public Interest, and in he and William E.
In he started The National Interest, a journal devoted to foreign affairs. But Mr. He encouraged businessmen to give money to political candidates and help get conservative ideas across to the public.
He instructed them to support economic growth by cutting taxes and not to oppose New Deal institutions. Above all, Mr. Kristol preached a faith in ordinary people. Kristol saw religion and a belief in the afterlife as the foundation for the middle-class values he championed.
He argued that religion provided a necessary constraint to antisocial, anarchical impulses. He did not dispute it.
The Neoconservative Persuasion
Journalists, and now even presidential candidates, speak with an enviable confidence on who or what is "neoconservative," and seem to assume the meaning is fully revealed in the name. Those of us who are designated as "neocons" are amused, flattered, or dismissive, depending on the context. It is reasonable to wonder: Is there any "there" there? Even I, frequently referred to as the "godfather" of all those neocons, have had my moments of wonderment.
Irving Kristol, 1920 - 2009
It was at these meetings that Kristol met historian Gertrude Himmelfarb , whom he later married in They had two children, Elizabeth Nelson and Bill Kristol. He wrote in Commentary magazine from to under the editor Elliot E. Cohen not to be confused with Eliot A.
Was Irving Kristol a Neoconservative?
Irving Kristol, Godfather of Modern Conservatism, Dies at 89