Conservatism, once at the periphery of American politics, now occupies a central and strategic position in the seat of political power. The 1994 election confirmed a realignment of American politics along conservative lines in the general electorate, but in the halls of academe conservatism remains a neglected subject, on the fringes of the curriculum and outside the door of the faculty lounge. Many academics are politically liberal, and few scholars in the social science disciplines take conservative intellectual positions seriously. 1
Students in the classroom, by contrast, are very interested and supportive of conservative ideas. Unfortunately, their enthusiasm is often keener than their acquaintance with the thought to which they have such a fervent devotion. Many present-day converts to American conservatism are astonished to discover that it has a long history that predates the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
We have written this book primarily for our students and colleagues and also for anyone interested in a survey of the ideas and traditions of American conservative political thought. Not since the 1950s, when Clinton Rossiter's Conservatism in America appeared, has a comparable survey of conservative thought been published. Our survey approach necessarily means that important ideas are given briefer attention than the reader, or the authors for that matter, would like. Each of the sections of this book could be greatly expanded and still not do justice to the ideas associated with the topic. We have included an expanded bibliography in the hope that the serious reader will independently pursue related books on subjects of interest.
We have found conservatism to be a complex subject. Although commonly considered an ideology, many of its best-known adherents do not believe it is; conservatism is not easily defined, and its principles often appear in conflict. Its evolution in American history has been long and