Tyler Cowen poses the question, "Which 20th century classic of American conservative political thought has held up best?" Cowen's inquiry is circumscribed so as to exclude works of economic theory, the treatises of foreign conservatives (albeit not those who emigrated to the United States), and, of course, works which preceded the Twentieth Century. Additionally, Ross Douthat provides his selections and observations. These conditions seem eminently reasonable, though I would, as a reactionary, quibble with the qualifying "has held up best", inasmuch as this condition places the accent on factual, as opposed to normative, criteria. It is at least conceivable that, owing to the vicissitudes of history, those works which will exert an enduring influence on American conservatism ought not exert that influence. Would we want to reflect back upon our epoch fifty years hence, only to realize that some screed penned by Ann Coulter proved more consequential for actually-existing-conservatism than some magisterial disquisition? I think not.
What follows, therefore, is my non-exhaustive list of
ten twelve authors, and those works from their respective oeuvres that ought to shape conservatism going forward, which is not to argue that the contents of these books, in their respective totalities, would receive my approbation. In no particular, programmatic order:
1. Whittaker Chambers - Witness
2. Eric Voegelin - History of Political Ideas/Order and History
3. Leo Strauss - Natural Right and History
4. Thomas Fleming - The Morality of Everyday Life
5. Christopher Lasch - The True and Only Heaven/Revolt of the Elites
6. Twelve Southerners - I'll Take My Stand
7. Alasdair MacIntyre - After Virtue/Whose Justice? Whose Rationality?
8. Richard Weaver - Ideas Have Consequences/Ethics of Rhetoric
9. Paul Gottfried - After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State/Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Toward a Secular Theocracy
10. Tie - Samuel Huntington - Who Are We?, Peter Brimelow - Alien Nation
11. Russell Kirk - The Conservative Mind/The Roots of American Order
12. Tie - Roger Scruton - The Meaning of Conservatism, John Kekes - Against Liberalism
Alternative lists and selections are invited, of course.
*Time-span arbitrarily expanded to encompass the early years of the Twenty-First Century.