• The Right

  • The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism
  • By: Matthew Continetti
  • Narrated by: Carl Sayles
  • Length: 14 hrs and 5 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (218 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A magisterial intellectual history of the last century of American conservatism

When most people think of the history of modern conservatism, they think of Ronald Reagan. Yet this narrow view leaves many to question: How did Donald Trump win the presidency? And what is the future of the Republican Party?

In The Right, Matthew Continetti gives a sweeping account of movement conservatism’s evolution, from the Progressive Era through the present. He tells the story of how conservatism began as networks of intellectuals, developing and institutionalizing a vision that grew over time, until they began to buckle under new pressures, resembling national populist movements. Drawing out the tensions between the desire for mainstream acceptance and the pull of extremism, Continetti argues that the more one studies conservatism’s past, the more one becomes convinced of its future.

Deeply researched and brilliantly told, The Right is essential for anyone looking to understand American conservatism.

©2022 Matthew Continetti (P)2022 Basic Books
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

“[A] sturdy account of the many divisions within modern conservatism… Rational, well thought out, and impeccably argued—of interest to all students of politics.”—Kirkus

“Matthew Continetti has earned his luminous reputation as the foremost contemporary chronicler of American conservatism’s path to today’s problematic condition. He traces conservatism’s rich intellectual pedigree, from the founders’ classical liberalism through twentieth-century conservatives’ responses to the challenges of progressivism. The result is a thinking person’s map for the road ahead.”—George F. Will, author of The Conservative Sensibility

“Matthew Continetti has written an instant classic, sure to become the essential one-volume history of modern American conservatism. Balanced and subtle, it offers an engaging combination of intellectual and political history that makes sense of the immensely complicated story of the Right.”—Yuval Levin, author of A Time to Build

What listeners say about The Right

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  • Overall
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Authors bias shows

Enjoyed the book until I saw the obvious bias of this author. He is a never Trumper as apparent by his chosen quotes and and associations

6 people found this helpful

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So happy this book was written

I waited a long time for this book and it didn’t disappoint. The author does a great job detailing the history of American Conservatism. Anyone interested in political intellectual history should listen to this book

4 people found this helpful

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Sincere Conservative with a Blind Spot

This author is decent, sincere, and knowledgeable, and an exceptional writer. He sets out to give an overview of Conservative thought since 1920, and succeeds. For those who want to dive deeper, he cites numerous influential books and journals. He describes the tug of war between elitists like Bill Buckley jr (and himself) as opposed to populists like George Wallace and Donald Trump. Some of the core beliefs of the movement are small government and the supraordination of the individual. But the writer has a blind spot. He views racism on the right as an outlier. But if government is small, how can it undo 400 years of racial injustice? And what other mechanism does society have to undo long-standing inequality other than a strong federal government? There is a reason racists are drawn to the right, and that reason is the desire for a weak central government that can’t rebalance the status quo. That is why the author constantly finds himself rubbing shoulders with people whose ideology he sincerely abhors. But fish discover water last. Toward the end of the book, he describes Trump’s bungled efforts to repel the coronavirus without ever noticing that it was Trump’s states rights approach that killed so many (more like every state for itself). And how exactly will a small government battle climate change? If every city and town in America were as safe, unpolluted, and wealthy as Sharon CT, the suburbs of Northern Virginia, and the rest of the world described in this book, the author’s limited government prescription might be valid. But we don’t live in that world, and whether he knows it or not, neither does the author.

3 people found this helpful

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yearning for the good old days of politics as usua

unfortunately, this jackass wants to paint the January 6th dust up as something that it was not. this kind of business as usual republicanism is dead. you can keep clinging to your mitt Romney, but will be voting for Trump in 24.

1 person found this helpful

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An academic history of the American "right"

Continetti aims to give a comprehensive account of the major players and events in conservative American politics from about the beginning of the 20th century to the present day. As a current member of the conservative intellectual establishment and the American Enterprise Institute, he is well-suited to the task. He inevitably focuses on presidential administrations including Eisenhower, Reagan, and Trump, as well as conservative "thought leaders" including William F. Buckley, Jr. and Rush Limbaugh. While the book is entirely about politics and the author clearly has strong political preferences, this is more of a history lesson than anything. Continetti largely avoids the sort of heavy-handed "analysis" you find in politicized spheres like talk radio, cable news, and editorials.

The author seems to have been motivated by the question: "how did Donald Trump happen?" To answer that question, he delves into a century of clashes between progressive, conservative, libertarian, and populist thought, mostly from the perspective of conservative intellectuals. We follow the banishment of conservatism through the New Deal era to the establishment of the National Review all the way to the January 6th riot. Ultimately, Continetti draws a populist, anti-establishment through-line roughly from Andrew Jackson to William Jennings Bryan to George Wallace to Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump. By the end, Trump seems to be less of an aberration and more of a once-in-a-few-generations confluence of popular pushback to "excessively liberal" liberal democracy, mixed with an unusually strong cult of personality and the shamelessness of the social media era.

There is something in this book for everyone to dislike. Trump fans will inevitably see it as a creature of the establishment disparaging their hero. Progressives will be furious at the lack of soul-searching in response to decades of right-wing contact with racism, anti-semitism, and homophobia. Non-academics will find the references to Alexis de Tocqueville, Milton Friedman, and many others off-putting. Academics will find it devolves into relatively disorganized historical recitation without explicit corresponding analysis aimed at proving a central thesis.

Nonetheless, Continetti does an admirable job with a difficult topic. By largely avoiding partisan analysis, he is able to cover many contradictory strains of thought without getting bogged down in any particular one. It is exceedingly difficult to find clear-eyed, even-handed political discussion in today's heavily polarized era, especially from the right, and Continetti largely succeeds in providing such discussion here.

The narration is perfectly fine. A few words are mispronounced here or there (e.g. "co-relation" for "correlation"), but it's not frequent. This is the sort of book where the narrator should be heard and not seen. He too succeeds at this.

1 person found this helpful

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  • GO
  • 05-09-22

A Lefty Reads The Right

It served its purpose, to inform, and it did. My view is that our American history is too young and too fluid to sustain the hard label of "conservatism and
the right" that the writer attempts to define. Better us all to do away with these labels and focus more on the legitimacy of the words of our Founding Fathers and our Constitution and pledge our allegiance to the same. Its easy to get confused when folk start promoting their own morphological interpretations of labels such as these.

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Trump basher

The author provides an overall review of the conservative movement but he bashes Trump for the most part.

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Disingenuous

I went into this really wanting to understand the progression of the right. This is a detached intellectual trying to highlight what he sees as positive and brushing away or completely ignoring key elements of his party’s history. Reading this critically it’s just more propaganda and not actual soul searching.

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Very informative

I really enjoyed the book. And I’m not cruel enough to give 4 stars for the speaker,

But the way he seemed to pronounce names like a computer was grating sometimes adding extra syllables. It was like there was no regard for how the person actually says their name

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A thorough history of American conservatism

Even dyed-in-the-wool progressives should read this comprehensive history of the underpinnings of American conservatism, and how it has mutated over the decades. Written by a traditional conservative — not a fawning Trumpist — it contains analyses with which you may not agree, but you will undoubtedly learn a tremendous amount.