Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Nonfiction in Brief

February 21, 1988|ALEX RAKSIN

THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT by Paul Gottfried and Thomas Fleming (Twayne: $7.95)

"All Democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth," says G. K. Chesterton in one of many witty quotes unearthed for this book, "tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death." The notion that a conservative is simply one who celebrates "the democracy of the dead," as Chesterton put it, is ultimately inadequate, however, for the authors emphasize that today's mainstream conservatives praise advances in civil rights and sexual equality and in general, keep up with the time. There is a good deal of confusion in these pages over how far back conservatives should travel in search of philosophical principles. The authors offer a new definition of conservatism: "a series of trenches dug in defense of last year's revolution." But we soon see that the movement's roots reach back to Aristotle, who sanctioned social inequality by considering "monarchy, aristocracy, and limited democracies all to be forms of government that (satisfy) man's rational, material, and social needs." Another blurrily defined term is "liberty." Conservatives have "a high regard for . . . liberty," the authors write in the paragraph after their discussion of Aristotle. Whether peasants in Aristotle's monarchy can be considered "free" is not discussed, however.

Then again, the authors acknowledge that they are not out to "justify conservative thinking against its critics. It may . . . be a set of attitudes, not rigorously developed views, that define conservatives." "The Conservative Movement" is valuable not as an academic study, then, but as an intelligent, sympathetic affirmation of the movement's practical purpose at a time of seemingly irreconcilable internal divisions between the old Right, New Right, neo-conservatives, the religious right and libertarians.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|