Everyone can see that a revolutionary spirit is haunting American public life right now. The demands being made of our laws and culture are uncompromising and radical. The public mood is given to extremes, and notions of gradual improvement and subtle distinctions are thought to be incapable of speaking to the severity of our racial, cultural, scientific, and spiritual challenges
So this week, we are rebroadcasting a discussion from the archives that focuses on a figure whose watchwords were the very opposite of America’s present utopian fever—the essayist of American skepticism, empiricism, meliorism, and gradualism—Irving Kristol.
Our guest is Matthew Continetti, and the focus of our discussion is an essay he published back in 2014, “The Theological Politics of Irving Kristol.” In it, Continetti argues that there is a rabbinic cast of mind underneath Kristol’s meliorism, that is, his effort to weigh trade-offs and favor gradual improvement when possible within the confines of man’s broken nature.