What is a Neocon?

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The term neoconservative was popularised by American political activist Michael Harrington in a 1973 Dissent article, The Welfare State and Its Neoconservative Critics, which characterised the neoconservatives as 'dissapointed liberals'.[1]

The 1960s

Justin Vaïsse has argued that the first generation of neoconservatives emerged in the mid-1960s among liberals sceptical about Lyndon Johnson's 'Great Society' social programmes. this tendency were the magazine, The Public Interest, its founders, Irving Kristol and Daniel Bell, and contributors such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Nathan Glazer, as well as Commentary under Norman Podhoretz.[2]

The 1970s

The second-generation of neoconservatives consisted of hawkish Democrats gathered around Senator Henry Jackson, the Coalition for a Democratic Majority and the Committee on the Present Danger, who struggled against detente politics within the Democratic Party. Key alumni of Jackson's staff include Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams and Douglas Feith.[2]

External resources



  • Sidney Blumenthal, The Rise of the Counter-Establishment: From Conservative Ideology to Political Power, Times Books, 1986.
  • John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism, Yale, 1995.
  • Jacob Heilbrunn, They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons, Doubleday, 2008.


  1. Michael Harrington, The Welfare State and Its Neoconservative Critics, Dissent, Fall 1973, first page archived at neoconservatism.vaisse.net.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Barry Gewen, Leave No War Behind, New York Times, 11 June 2010.