Beyond Conservatism

The Resistance Takes Shape

"Paleoconservatism" is an awkward word, but then what it purports to describe is an awkward thing. The word in the English language that it most resembles is "paleontology"—the scientific study of fossils—and a fossil is precisely what most of the enemies of paleoconservatism accuse it of being. Coined in 1986 or '87, the word was originally supposed to characterize an intellectual and political movement that continued what George Nash called the "conservative intellectual movement" after World War II, and to distinguish it from the newer neoconservatism. As the fissure between neoconservatism and what Paul Gottfried called the "Second Generation' of the "Old Right" widened, however, it soon became evident that the latter was not quite the same thing as the school of writers gathered around National Review and its sister institutions in the 1950's and 1960's. Nor were its exponents exactly specimens of the "New Right of the 1970's and 80's. "Paleoconservatism" eventually developed into a distinctive movement with an identity of its own, quite different from postwar intellectual conservatism, neoconservatism, libertarianism, New Rightism, and other schools of the American right.

There is not much question that paleoconservatism is distinct from most of these other identities of the right, but there remains a good deal of confusion...

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