Know Your Enemy

Frank Meyer: Father of Fusionism

Episode Summary

Matt and Sam dive deep into the eccentric life and fascinating work of Frank S. Meyer, a longtime senior editor at National Review who became most famous for his theory of "fusionism."

Episode Notes

Matt and Sam dedicate an entire episode to an under appreciated but indispensable figure in the founding of post-war conservatism: Frank Meyer, the father of "fusionism."

Meyer was  a man of  contradictions: an ex-communist ideologue who longed for consensus; a cantankerous, unyielding debater who kept his friends and rivals close; a bohemian, individualist Jew who argued vociferously for freedom and against repressive orthodoxies, but who converted to Catholicism on his death bed. In this episode, we explore his life, work, and legacy — including a close reading of his most famous book, In Defense of Freedom: A Conservative Credo. Along the way, we ask some big questions: Why was it so important for Meyer to find a philosophical justification for fusing the traditional and libertarian strains of the conservative movement? How did he go about doing it? And did it work? 

Today, many — especially younger — conservatives consider fusionism to be a dead consensus, a marriage of erstwhile convenience in which one partner, economic libertarians, got everything they wanted, while the other, Christian traditionalists, have seen unfettered capitalism and licentious liberalism destroy the precious permanent things they had hoped to conserve: Church, family, and community.  As the seams of the fusionist alliance fray, we look back to the man who conceived it in the first place. 

This one is for the nerds. We hope you enjoy it! 

Further Reading: 

Frank S. Meyer, In Defense of Freedom: A Conservative Credo (Regnery, 1962)

George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 (Basic Books, 1976)

Jeffrey Hart, The Making of the American Conservative Mind: National Review and Its Times (ISI Books, 2006)

Garry Wills, Confessions of a Conservative (Doubleday, 1979)

Kevin J. Smant, Principles and Heresies: Frank S. Meyer and  the Shaping of the American Conservative Movement (ISI Books, 2002)

Various, "Against the Dead Consensus," First Things, March 21, 2019

Frank S Meyer, "The Twisted Tree of Liberty," National Review  Jan 16, 1962

L. Brent Bozell Jr. "Freedom or Virtue," National Review, Sept 11, 1962

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