How has the modern conservative movement thrived in spite of the lack of harmony among its constituent members? What, and who, holds together its large corporate interests, small-government libertarians, social and racial traditionalists, and evangelical Christians?
Raised Right pursues these questions through a cultural study of three iconic conservative figures: National Review editor William F. Buckley, Jr., President Ronald Reagan, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Examining their papers, writings, and rhetoric, Jeffrey R. Dudas identifies what he terms a "paternal rights discourse"—the arguments about fatherhood and rights that permeate their personal lives and political visions. For each, paternal discipline was crucial to producing autonomous citizens worthy and capable of self-governance. This paternalist logic is the cohesive agent for an entire conservative movement, uniting its celebration of "founding fathers," past and present, constitutional and biological. Yet this discourse produces a paradox: When do authoritative fathers transfer their rights to these well-raised citizens? This duality propels conservative politics forward with unruly results. The mythology of these American fathers gives conservatives something, and someone, to believe in—and therein lies its timeless appeal.
About the authors
Jeffrey R. Dudas is Associate Professor of Political Science and Affiliate Faculty of American Studies at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of The Cultivation of Resentment: Treaty Rights and the New Right (Stanford, 2008).
"I began this book a skeptic and finished it a convert. Dudas argues that the origin of modern American conservatism can be found in the biographies of three American Conservative icons, each of whom had a dysfunctional father but found substitutes in our Founding Fathers, and a myth of rights of paternal authority. A true tour de force."
—Malcolm M. Feeley, University of California at Berkeley
"Raised Right offers an imaginative, incisive, and incendiary interpretation of modern political conservativism in the United States, focusing in particular on its paradoxical discourses about paternal authority and the rights of self-governing citizens. Dudas has produced a stunning analysis of enduring themes in contemporary American political culture."
—Michael McCann, University of Washington
"Dudas's rumination on the fathers of contemporary conservatism, real and fantastic, and how they haunt the movement's ideology is both novel and provocative. Raised Right ambitiously articulates a linkage between law and fatherly authority that underlies much of the driving force in the right's social and economic agenda. A must-read for anyone curious about the roots of conservatism or concerned about its future trajectory."
—Claire Rasmussen, University of Delaware