This book grew out of a conference on the future of the American conservative movement held at the University of Oxford in May of 2008. A group of British and American scholars gathered to examine the current status of conservatism in the United States, especially its relationship to the Republican Party. As scholars who study the American right, we thought the time had come for a new assessment of its problems as well as its prospects. A revised and updated set of papers from that conference forms the core of our volume.
Our authors come at these subjects from a variety of perspectives. They analyze the many strands within the conservative movement, identifying its strengths and the range of tensions and fissures within the movement and what these signify for the Republican Party in particular. Many of the authors are deeply committed to particular perspectives, others much less so; but all make strong arguments about a subject of vital importance for the future of American politics and public policy. One of our main goals is to present readers with essays that are both informative and provocative and that take a variety of approaches to the subject matter. We have also tried to focus on issues and themes of continuing relevance to understanding contemporary conservatism in the United States, rather than allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by the ebb and flow of immediate political events, however dramatic. (The time between our conference and the final submission of our manuscript, for example, witnessed both the global financial collapse of late 2008 and the election and first year of Barack Obama’s presidency. Our authors certainly take account of these important events, but do not focus their essays exclusively on them.) Our introductory and concluding chapters delineate the themes of the book and attempt to identify a set of general questions and recurrent debates and tensions that mark the worlds of conservative and Republican politics.
The task of producing this book has been greatly helped by a number of friends and colleagues, and we have also benefited greatly from generous institutional support. It is a pleasure to thank the British Academy; the Rothermere American Institute and the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford