Thursday, December 29, 2005

Disraeli: architect of modern Conservatism

A long, but extremely worthwhile and interesting, essay by David Gelernter about Benjamin Disraeli, the inventor of modern Conservatism and the greatest politician of the nineteenth century. Well worth consideration over a cup of tea.

BENJAMIN DISRAELI--TWICE PRIME minister of Great Britain, romantic novelist, inventor of modern conservatism--was a neocon in the plain sense of the word, a "new conservative" who began his career on the left. Conservative thinking dates to the dawn of organized society, but modern conservatism--a mass movement, a philosophy not for aristocrats and the rich but for everybody--was Disraeli's creation. That modern conservatism should have been invented by a 19th-century neocon is thought provoking. More surprising:His redefinition of conservatism is still fresh, and his political philosophy has never been more apt.

Conservatism is the most powerful and electric force in the American intellectual landscape. Young people no longer discover the left and get excited; they are far more likely to get their intellectual kicks discovering and experimenting with conservatism. But what exactly do conservatives believe? How do they resolve the seeming paradox that so many conservatives revere the past yet are also progressives, determined to move this nation forward and let it grow, stretch, and inhabit more and more of its own best self? Disraeli produced a definition of conservatism that resolves the problem. It is so terse and compelling, it ranks as a milestone of political thought.

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