Political writer and public intellectual Irving Kristol — a former Trotskyite who would break with the left and come to be known as the godfather of neoconservatism — died Friday in Washington. He was 89, and the cause of death was complications from lung cancer, The New York Times is reporting.
Here is an excerpt of an appreciation of Kristol by John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary magazine, which Kristol edited between 1947 and 1952:
The clarity of his thinking and the surety of his purpose were one and the same; they were immeasurably enhanced by a powerful curiosity for the way things worked and the ways in which things could be made to work better. His was a resteless intelligence, always on the move; there was not an idea he didn’t want to play with, and there wasn’t a new idea for a think tank or a magazine or a center for the study of something-or-other that didn’t excite him. He was a conservative by temperament and conviction, but he was an innovator to the depths of his being.
The number of institutions with which he was affiliated, or started, or helped grow into major centers of learning and thinking is hard to count. There is this institution, COMMENTARY, where he began working after his release from the Army following the conclusion of the Second World War. There were two other magazines in the 1950s, The Reporter and Encounter, which he helped found and whose influence on civil discourse was profound and enduring, even legendary. There was The Public Interest, the quarterly he co-founded in 1965 with Daniel Bell and then ran with Nathan Glazer for more than 30 years, which was the wellspring of neoconservative thinking on domestic policy issues. He helped bring a sleepy Washington think tank called the American Enterprise Institute into the forefront. And he made Basic Books into a publishing powerhouse that was, for more than 20 years, at the red-hot center of every major debate in American life.
Read the entire appreciation here.
Podhoretz noted that Commentary would be making available online the 45 articles that Irving Kristol penned for the magazine, between 1946 and 1994.
The editors of The Weekly Standard, whose founder and editor is Kristol’s son, William Kristol, released this statement on Irving Kristol’s passing:
Irving Kristol, writer, editor, and social philosopher, has died in Washington at the age of 89. His wisdom, wit, good humor, and generosity of spirit made him a friend and mentor to several generations of thinkers and public servants.
Kristol’s ideological formation and his political shift to the right is detailed in the 1998 documentary, “Arguing the World,” about four Jewish students who attended the City College of New York during the 1930s.
Read The New York Times obituary of Irving Kristol here.