June 27th, 2011 at 8:44 pm - by Lindsay Amantea
Neo-conservatism is a buzz word that gets thrown around at parties to make people feel like they know what they are talking about. Many of these people have a faint inkling of what neo-conservatism really is, but when pressed for a definition cannot come up with one. Here is a little bit about the history of the neoconservative movement and what it really means.
Neo-conservatism was a result of the shift in the 1930s and 1940s from the classical to the modern school of liberalism. It was a rejection of the modern liberal, the welfare state and more importantly, of communism. Classical liberals felt that the new liberalism was giving in to communism and ultimately to Stalin. It was also a rejection of soft politics and demanded hard line action against enemies of the state, and is extremely supportive of wars to establish liberal democracy in other nations. Neo-conservative views are often reactionary responses to other extreme ideologies. They also have a disdain for multilateral organizations such as the United Nations. This attitude is exemplified in America’s war in Iraq. Instead of trying to solve the issue through diplomacy the United States jumped straight to hard military contact. As well, when the United Nations ruled against the invasion, America went ahead and did it anyways.
A criticism of neo-conservatism is available in Edward Said’s Orientalism. In this book he structures his argument about the West in general, but it more specifically speaks to neo-conservative views. Said argues that the West sees the Orient or the East in binary terms as a foil for our own society. For example, where we are conservative they are liberal, we are Christian they are Muslim, we are fiscally responsible and they are wasteful, we are right and they are wrong. The West tries to change the East to make it more like itself. This critique applies nearly 100 per cent to the neo-conservative ideology.
While concerned primarily with foreign policy, neo-conservatives do have views on domestic policy which most closely follow those of the classical liberal school from which it sprang. They are different from libertarians in that they believe that sometimes budget deficits and government intervention are necessary to keep people in on the moral and traditional path.
There have been three major waves of neo-conservatives in the United States. The first was in the interwar period, in reaction to both communism and to socialist programs designed to alleviate the Great Depression. The second wave came in the 1970s in reaction to the hippy movement and the excesses perceived in the feminist and black equality movements .The final, and most recent, part of this movement sprang up in the early 2000s, as a reaction to radical Islam. The current Tea Party Movement can be described as neo-conservative.