Irving Kristol

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Irving Kristol (born 22 January 1920) is a neoconservative ideologue and one of the founders of the movement. He is married to Gertrude Himmelfarb and is the father of William Kristol, the founder of Project for the New American Century.


Kristol was born in Brooklyn, New York to an orthodox Jewish family. He earned his B.A. in History from the City College of New York in 1940, where he was an active Trotskyist. He married Gertrude Himmelfarb, who he met at a Trotskyist meeting, on January 18, 1942. He wrote in 1983 that he was “proud” to have been a member of the Fourth International in 1940.[1]From 1941 to 1944, he served as staff sergeant in the armored infantry in Europe in World War II. After the war, he was stationed in Marseilles for a year.

He was the managing editor of Commentary magazine from 1947 to 1952, co-founder of the CIA-connected British-based Encounter and its editor from 1953 to 1958 when he handed over the reins to his friend and City College classmate Melvin J. Lasky[2], editor of the Reporter from 1959 to 1960, executive vice-president of Basic Books from 1961 to 1969, and professor of social thought at the New York University Graduate School of Business from 1969 to 1988. Since 1988, he has been John M. Olin Distinguished Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He has used these positions and publications to animate the neo-conservative movement, arguing for low taxes, a well-funded and internationally active military, conservative social policy, and a minimalist interpretation of First Amendment rights.

Kristol suggests of himself, "Ever since I can remember, I've been a neo-something: a neo-Marxist, a neo-Trotskyist, a neo-liberal, a neo-conservative; in religion a neo-orthodox even while I was a neo-Trotskyist and a neo-Marxist. I'm going to end up a neo-that's all, neo dash nothing."[3]

In July 2002, President George W. Bush awarded Kristol the Presidential Medal of Freedom.



Kristol has cited Sidney Hook, Lionel Trilling and Leo Strauss as the three main influences on his thinking. The Republican party, he later noted, was 'so alien to us' because it was 'a party of the business community and of smaller-town America'.

It had, traditionally, little use for intellectuals … it was still campaigning against the New Deal; and in foreign policy, its inclination was almost always isolationist.[5]

In 1952 he wrote that Americans had good reason for supporting McCarthy’s anticommunist witchhunt.

There is one thing that the American people know about Senator McCarthy, he, like them, is unequivocally anti-Communist. About the spokesmen for American liberalism, they feel they know no such thing.(ibid)

While Hitler has come to loom large in present day neoconservative rhetoric, at the time when the war against Hitler was going on they saw the United States and Soviet Union as the bigger problem. In 1943, Irving Kristol responded to Sidney Hook's support for war by saying:

The war in Asia clarifies brutally the activating war aims of the United States, Britain, and the Netherlands as far as the vital questions of empire and freedom are concerned. Professor Hook busies himself with an abstract war against Hitler rather than handle the less attractive reality of a completely reactionary crusade against 'those yellow b--s.' It's always the other fellow's nerve. (quoted in Heilbrunn, 2008: 48)

According to journalist Corey Robin, Kristol was explicitly in support of the idea of the United States building an international empire:

Conservatism, Kristol complained, "is so influenced by business culture and by business modes of thinking that it lacks any political imagination, which has always been, I have to say, a property of the Left." Kristol confessed to a deep yearning for an American empire: "What's the point of being the greatest, most powerful nation in the world and not having an imperial role? It's unheard of in human history. The most powerful nation always had an imperial role." But, he continued, previous empires were not "capitalist democracies with a strong emphasis on economic growth and economic prosperity." Because of its commitment to the free market, the United States lacked the fortitude and vision to wield imperial power. "It's too bad," Kristol lamented. "I think it would be natural for the United play a far more dominant role in world affairs. Not what we're doing now but to command and to give orders as to what is to be done. People need that. There are many parts of the world—Africa in particular—where an authority willing to use troops can make a very good difference, a healthy difference." But with public discussion dominated by accountants—"there's the Republican Party tying itself into knots. Over what? Prescriptions for elderly people? Who gives a damn? I think it's disgusting that...presidential politics of the most important country in the world should revolve around prescriptions for elderly people. Future historians will find this very hard to believe. It's not Athens. It's not Rome. It's not anything." Kristol thought it unlikely that the United States would take its rightful place as the successor to empires past.[6]


"There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work."[7][8]

"Senator McGovern is very sincere when he says that he will try to cut the military budget by 30%. And this is to drive a knife in the heart of Israel... Jews don't like big military budgets. But it is now an interest of the Jews to have a large and powerful military establishment in the United States... American Jews who care about the survival of the state of Israel have to say, no, we don't want to cut the military budget, it is important to keep that military budget big, so that we can defend Israel."[9]

Link with Jay Lovestone

Kristol was known at College as a 'Lovestonite' i.e. a follower of the CIA-linked ex-communist labour leader Jay Lovestone.[10] Lovestone strongly praised Kristol's March 1952 Commentary article'Civil Liberties', 1952—A Study in Confusion in a letter to the magazine.[11]





  • Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea 1995 (ISBN 0-02-874021-1)
  • Reflections of a Neoconservative: Looking Back, Looking Ahead 1983 (ISBN 0-465-06872-3)
  • Two Cheers for Capitalism 1978 (ISBN 0-465-08803-1)
  • On the Democratic Idea in America
  • The American Revolution as a successful revolution (Distinguished lecture series on the Bicentennial) 1973 (ISBN 0-8447-1300-7)
  • Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions - it only guarantees equality of opportunity.

Neocon Europe Resources

External Resources


  1. Flirting with Fascism, Laughland, John, The American Conservative, 30 June 2003 (retrieved 17 December 2007)
  2. [Stephen Spender Quits Encounter], New York Times, 8 May 1967
  3. Review of Arguing the World (January 7, 1998) (retrieved 29 December 2007)
  4. The Jewish Policy Center, "Board", JPC, accessed on 13 November 2010
  5. Daniel McCarty, [1], The American Conservative, 1 December 2009
  6. "Endgame: Conservatives after the Cold War" by Corey Robin February/March 2004 Boston Review
  7. Origin of the Specious, Reason Magazine (July 1997)
  8. Atheism Central for Secondary Schools - the noble lie
  9. Kristol, Irving. 1973. Congress Bi-Weekly. American Jewish Congress. (Produced online)
  10. Obituary: Melvin Lasky: Cold warrior who edited the CIA-funded Encounter magazine, by Andrew Roth, Guardian, 22 May 2004.
  11. “Civil Liberties”: 1952, Reader Letters, Commentary, May 1952.