‘Is it good for the Jews?’: Jewish intellectuals and the formative years of neoconservatism, 1945-1980

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Janssen, Nadja A (2010)
  • Subject: JK | JA | HT

This thesis re-evaluates the emergence of the neoconservative critique of American\ud post-war liberalism from 1945 to 1980. Its original contribution to the scholarship on\ud neoconservatism lies in the claim that a particular understanding of Jewishness\ud fundamentally shaped the neoconservatives’ right turn, as well as neoconservative\ud ideology. Few scholars have recognised the primacy of Jewish identity politics in the\ud evolutionary history of neoconservatism. Those who have, have done so inadequately\ud and unmethodically. Therefore, my thesis systematically analyses the Jewish dimension\ud of early neoconservatism by placing particular focus on its two principal mouthpieces,\ud Commentary and The Public Interest, while drawing on autobiographical writings,\ud personal papers and oral interviews.\ud \ud Reconsidering neoconservatism from this angle also contributes to a reevaluation\ud of modern Jewish political history by debunking the myth that the American\ud Jewish community is governed by consensus based on political identification with\ud liberalism. My thesis shows that neoconservatism not only contributed to the rise of\ud conservatism and the fall of liberalism on a national level, but also played an important\ud role in post-1945 Jewish intra-communal contentions about which political affiliation\ud best expresses modern Jewish American identity. Accordingly, it demonstrates that\ud Jewish political culture is more diverse than is usually appreciated and that\ud neoconservatives draw on a tradition of Jewish conservatism, which has so far received\ud little attention from scholars of modern Jewish history.
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