What is conservatism? Is there a coherent conservative intellectual tradition, and what are its central tenets? What explains the tensions between conservatism’s defense of both individual liberty and traditional forms of authority? What political alternatives to both liberalism and socialism does it offer? How does American conservatism relate to the broader conservative tradition?

This course will survey conservative political thought in Europe and the United States since the French Revolution, with the goal of answering these questions. We will explore three distinct but overlapping modes of thought animating conservatism - skepticism, traditionalism, and agonism – studying their theoretical origins and contemporary manifestations. We will then close with a brief study of American conservatism from Goldwater to Trump to make sense of how it synthesizes, deviates, and fulfills the broader conservative tradition.

Our goal is to neither proselytize on behalf of or dismiss conservatism, but to treat it analytically as an object of political theoretical inquiry