Irving Kristol as Jewish Theologian

March 3, 2015 | Tom Wilson
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Irving Kristol, the so-called godfather of neoconservatism, is best known today for his political thought; but he was also deeply preoccupied with questions of religion. Reviewing Kristol’s writings on Jews and Judaism, Tom Wilson notes the underlying connection between the two realms:

[A] great religious obsession spun into all of Kristol’s political writing: the belief that secular liberalism breeds a valueless individualism that necessarily progresses toward moral disorder and even nihilism. Kristol feared that without religion, society would witness a growing discontent with what democratic capitalism can realistically provide. Stripped of any belief in the kind of higher consolation that makes sense of life’s inevitable injustices and humdrum frustrations, the demands that people place on the political system “become as infinite as the infinity they have lost.” Eventually the democratic regime is no longer able to justify or defend itself against the expectations of a citizenry that experiences no spiritual nourishment. Indeed, those expectations become unappeasable in the limitless material improvement that they insist government must provide and that capitalism promises. Without a religious culture, the slide into statism, if not authoritarianism, seems to become irresistible.

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