Friday, September 18, 2009

The passing of a great man

The death of Irving Kristol, just announced, is a time for all of us to sigh at the thought of a great man, a wonderful writer, a razor sharp commentator and a stupendous intellectual entrepreneur leaving us. (Though his wife, the astonishing historian Gertrude Himmelfarb and son, William Kristol, are still around.)

Irving Kristol was the godfather, if not the inventor of neo-conservatism in its real sense. The word has been debased rather by people who think it means more conservative, or conservative I do not like.

Just look at the man's achievement and the list of magazines and organizations he started:
He was an editor and then the managing editor of Commentary magazine from 1947 to 1952; co-founder (with Stephen Spender) of the British-based Encounter from 1953 to 1958; editor of The Reporter from 1959 to 1960; executive vice-president of the publishing house Basic Books from 1961 to 1969; Henry Luce Professor of Urban Values at New York University from 1969 to 1987; co-founder and co-editor (first with Daniel Bell and then Nathan Glazer) of The Public Interest from 1965 to 2002;. These were originally liberal publications. He was the founder and publisher of The National Interest from 1985 to 2002.

Kristol was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a fellow emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute (having been an associate fellow from 1972, a senior fellow from 1977 and the John M. Olin Distinguished Fellow from 1988 to 1999). As a member of the board of contributors of the Wall Street Journal, he contributed a monthly column from 1972 to 1997. He served on the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1972 to 1977.
I am getting the sort of dizzy feeling I usually get reading biographies of Victorian women writers, especially Mrs Gaskell. How inadequate one feels.

A couple of pieces that might be of interest, one by John Podhoretz of Commentary and one by Roger Kimball of the New Criterion.

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