But a mere two years later Kristol was dining at the White House with Nixon, the two men brought together by their shared hatred of the New Left. Although the McGovern nomination represented a breaking point for Kristol and many other Cold War liberals, their frustration with the increasing influence of the New Left had been bubbling toward the surface for years.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an urban sociologist who regularly contributed to The Public Interest and who went on to a long career in politics that culminated in a twenty-four-year tenure in the US Senate, wrote a polarizing paper in while serving as assistant secretary of labor in the Johnson administration. In his controversial report , officially titled The Negro Family: The Case for National Action , Moynihan argued that the equal rights won by blacks in the legal realm — fruits born of the civil rights movement — brought newfound expectations of equal results.
But achieving equal results would prove more difficult because blacks lacked the cultural conditioning necessary to compete with whites. For hard-boiled skeptics like Moynihan, the idea that culture impeded liberal reform efforts was an illuminating lens through which to view black poverty. The Moynihan Report quickly became a national sensation. Beyond this mindless echo, though, reactions to the Moynihan Report were diverse. You go to school most of your life and have a lot of book learning but you know as much about the Negro as I know about Eskimos.
There has never been a Negro family to deteriorate, that is, not a family as white people know a family. Moynihan expected such bitterness from Jim Crow apologists. The prescription is therefore to change the deviance, not the system. Owing in part to the ideological success of the sixties liberation movements, especially Black Power, a large number of critics sharply rejected the logic that undergirded much of the Moynihan Report. They also repudiated the corollary assumption that assimilation to prescribed norms — to normative America — was the only path to equality.
Just as Black Power theorists Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton explained racial inequality in institutional terms, Ryan emphasized how the American social structure favored whites over blacks. The behavior of poor blacks, whether actually dysfunctional or not — and Ryan raised concerns about the validity of this claim — was nothing more than a red herring.
In his article describing the fallout, Moynihan concluded that honest debate about race and poverty was no longer possible. An era of bad manners is certainly begun. Like Kristol and the other New York intellectuals, Podhoretz grew up in Brooklyn, raised by working-class Jewish immigrants. In contrast, however, Podhoretz had attended Columbia University. In the s Podhoretz joined Kristol as a leading light of the conservative intellectual movement. But to reach this final destination the two traveled somewhat different roads. Unlike the Alcove No. He positioned himself as a Cold War liberal throughout most of the s, but in contrast with the focus of the former Trotskyists, anticommunism was not yet his chief concern at that time.
And like Kristol, Podhoretz gave off early signals that such a break was coming. He pointed to his childhood memories of the black children in his Brooklyn neighborhood: rather than focus on their studies as he and his Jewish friends did, they roamed the streets terrorizing Podhoretz and the other white children. In writing this piece, Podhoretz claimed his intention was merely to demonstrate the difficulties presented by racial integration. But plenty of readers interpreted it differently. In the aftermath of this and other literary dust-ups, Podhoretz distanced himself from New York intellectual life, where he had become persona non grata.
He even took a hiatus from Commentary. During this interlude, he had what he later described in religious terms as a conversion experience. By the time he returned to his editorial desk in , Podhoretz was an unapologetic neoconservative. He earnestly commenced an ideological offensive against the New Left, the counterculture, and all that he deemed subversive about the sixties. In one of his first post-conversion editorials, Podhoretz argued that the lesson to learn from the sixties was that heady political optimism was more damaging than the pessimism that had pervaded the s. Podhoretz and the neoconservatives assumed that their political cues were abstract, impersonal, and objective.
In contrast, New Leftists — student radicals, feminists, and black militants — responded to a set of particular, personal, and subjective signals. Where else could Jews from working-class backgrounds achieve so much, they wondered. For neoconservatives, these ideas were powerful tools for understanding the anti-American turn taken by those in academia, media, fine arts, foundations, and even some realms of government, such as the social welfare and regulatory agencies. Intellectuals of the older right, in contrast, never worked to get inside the mind of the New Left. More commonly they understood the New Left simply as liberalism followed to its logical conclusion.
Unlike traditionalist conservative thinkers who conflated liberalism with the New Left, neoconservatives believed the New Left had infected the liberal intellectual culture they loved. That they detected such a change was one of the central reasons for their political conversion; it was one of the primary reasons neoconservatives proved so useful to the modern American conservative movement. By siding against contemporary intellectual mores, Bellow and the neoconservatives aligned with the more authentic sensibilities of average Americans.
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In other words, the neoconservative mind was the intellectualization of the white working-class ethos. Social Justice What is paleoconservatism? C Woltermann. The Guardian, Feb Postscript-June Cardozo L.
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