Creating Conservatism cover
Creating Conservatism
Postwar Words that Made an American Movement
Creating Conservatism charts the vital role of canonical post–World War II (1945–1964) books in generating, guiding, and sustaining conservatism as a political force in the United States. Dedicated conservatives have argued for decades that the conservative movement was a product of print, rather than a march, a protest, or a pivotal moment of persecution. The Road to Serfdom, Ideas Have Consequences, Witness, The Conservative Mind, God and Man at Yale, The Conscience of a Conservative, and other mid-century texts became influential not only among conservative office-holders, office-seekers, and well-heeled donors but also at dinner tables, school board meetings, and neighborhood reading groups. These books are remarkable both because they enumerated conservative political positions and because their memorable language demonstrated how to take those positions—functioning, in essence, as debate handbooks. Taking an expansive approach, the author documents the wide influence of the conservative canon on traditionalist and libertarian conservatives. By exploring the varied uses to which each founding text has been put from the Cold War to the culture wars, Creating Conservatism generates original insights about the struggle over what it means to think and speak conservatively in America.
Publication Date: August 1st, 2014
312 pages| 6 in x 9 in
Early Praise

“Michael Lee has written a lovely book—lovely in conceptualization, lovely in organization, and lovely stylistically. The book is deeply thoughtful as well, eloquently arguing that failure to appreciate the rhetorical vectors of conservatism in the United States results in misunderstanding its boisterous endurance. Creating Conservatism is one of the finest first books I have ever read.”
Roderick P. Hart, Shivers Chair in Communication and Professor of Government, University of Texas at Austin
“Creating Conservatism is an impressive work describing the postwar evolution of the debate about the meaning of conservatism. Lee weaves together the conflicting versions of conservatism in order to illuminate the language system that acted as the underlying ideological framework energizing conservatives and playing crucial role in the Reagan revolution.”
Robert C. Rowland, Professor of Communication Studies, The University of Kansas
“Historians of American conservatism have focused much of their attention on how ideas were central in shaping the conservative movement. By focusing on what conservatives read and how they used this reading to build a movement, Michael Lee turns the tables on both historians and conservatives, analyzing with learned insight and with pleasing prose how conservatives developed an intellectual canon, and how they were able to construct an intellectual and political movement around this canon. Lee has produced an imaginative and first-rate piece of historical scholarship that transcends the usual chronicles of the conservative ascendency.”
Gregory L. Schneider, Professor of History, Emporia State University, and author of The Conservative Century: From Reaction to Revolution
“Amidst the screech and howl that characterizes so much of public discourse these days by conservatives and about them, it is a welcome relief to have a calm, careful, and critical analysis of conservative authors in America’s postwar past. Michael Lee has done a splendid job of bringing back to life the originary moments of an intellectual movement comprised of many different voices and beliefs. Creating Conservatism asks us to think more historically and carefully about what has gone into being “conservative.” Public discourse would be the better for it.”
James Farr, Professor of Political Theory and the History of Political Thought, Northwestern University


Book AwardNational Communication Association Roderick P. Hart Outstanding Book Award

Book AwardKohrs-Campbell Prize in Rhetorical Criticism
Book AwardNational Communication Association Winans-Wichelns Award
Book AwardNational Communication Association Diamond Anniversary Book Award
Book AwardBruce E. Gronbeck Political Communication Research Award
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