‘Evangelists for Freedom: Libertarian Populism and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Conservatism, 1930–1950′ (MA in History, 2018).
This thesis examines the history of rightwing anti-statist thought in twentieth-century America from 1930 to 1950, focusing on the works of an array of intellectuals, politicians and activists who forged a distinct synthesis of classical American individualism with a populist critique of the nascent liberal political order, a revivalist Christian apologetics and virulent anti-communism. Central to their vision was an image of the liberty of the individual and the modern administrative state as antithetical, and a conception of the social world as the sole product of the creative power of the liberated individual. Radicalised by the triumph of New Deal liberalism, these authors and activists collaborated closely with conservative industrialists to establish new individualist organisations and publications, and propagate their philosophy throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Offering a quasi-utopian vision of national spiritual and material renewal, I argue that the work of these authors embodied a distinct strand of ‘libertarian populism’, a novel body of thought that would, in time, form the intellectual bedrock of the ‘new’ post-World War II American conservatism.
Supervisor: Professor Ara Keys.