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Remembering James Burnham

My biographical article on Burham for Chronicles which includes a discussion of the managerial revolution and power elite theory. Burham is a must-read for those who want to know how modern states actually work.

By Keith Preston

Chronicles

The ideological trajectory followed by the first generation of neoconservatives, from their early fascination with Marxism during the Great Depression to their embrace of Cold War anti-communism and subsequent takeover of the Conservative movement, is by now a well-known chapter in American political history. The life and career of James Burnham followed a similar trajectory, provoking British academic Binoy Kampmark to label Burnham as “the first neoconservative.”

Burnham, however, was a thinker who bore only an incidental resemblance to the neoconservatives. Indeed, Burnham was something of an enigmatic figure within the wider spectrum of the American Right. Most importantly, it is from Burnham that we acquired an understanding of what he termed the “managerial revolution,” a concept that continues to shed a penetrating light on our social and political life today.

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