chapter  2
23 Pages

Neoconservatism and its authors

Over the past several decades, studies on neoconservatism have proliferated. It has been a topic that has aroused much interest, especially throughout the presidency of George W. Bush. Therefore, before I examine the most important neoconservative ideas and beliefs, it is worth unpacking some of this scholarly literature. This will not only introduce readers to the dominant literature on the neocons, it will also provide a brief history of this intellectual community, indispensable for anyone unfamiliar with the evolution of neoconservatism. And, as is customary in the scholarly world, authors should always define their work against the existing literature, if only to demonstrate the originality and worth of their product. It is, after all, quite reasonable to expect authors to explain why another book on such a widely discussed intellectual community is required. This chapter aspires to answer that question, spotlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the existing literature on neoconservatism. It concludes by explaining why the neocons remain relevant, even in the post-Bush, post-Iraq, Obama era. The chapter itself identifies three distinct approaches that scholars and

commentators have adopted when writing about neoconservatism. First, I critically assess some of the arguments made by those who link neoconservatism to the ideas of Leo Strauss, a political philosopher renowned for enriching the study of classical political philosophy. This approach, I argue, is the weakest and least enlightening of all the approaches adopted by those writing about the neocons. Second, those who have written specifically about neoconservatism tend to

write historical narratives interspersed with biographical portraits of the intellectual community’s figureheads.1 This narrative tells an essential part of the neoconservative story, but it is an approach often adopted by social commentators, political pundits, and social theorists. This study adopts a very different approach, for not only is there little room left to maneuver if one were to traverse a similar path, but such an approach is not conducive to a close textual analysis of neoconservative foreign policy ideas. Most of these authors, I argue, do not have a solid background in IR theory, and even the most cursory of glances at their bibliographies tends to suggest that they are not as conversant with some of the wider debates dominating the discipline as one may expect.