Who Stole Conservatism?
Capitalism and the Disappearance of Traditional Conservatism
by Mario R. DiNunzio
July 2016, 179pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5282-4
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5283-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

What is conservatism today? Has capitalism deprived conservatism of its original meaning and purpose?

A compelling explanation of how conservatism is no longer what its founders intended and how it has been transformed into a tool of materialist economics and emptied of much of its original meaning.

During America’s 19th-century Gilded Age, free-enterprise capitalist ideas distorted and deeply obscured traditional political conservatism. Conservatism today, argues distinguished historian Mario R. DiNunzio, is a grotesque version of the ideology crafted by its founders, including John Adams in America and Edmund Burke in England.

This compelling book provides a survey of conservative thought and its transformation that originated in the late 19th century, exposing the influence of that transformed conservatism on 20th-century American politics—from Hoover to Goldwater to Reagan and on to the Tea Party. It explains the historical foundations of conservative thought and the radical transformation of conservatism into a vastly different ideology primarily concerned with the defense of unfettered capitalism and extreme rights of individuals, as opposed to the values of traditional conservatism: community, good order, tempered change, and enduring values. DiNunzio challenges conservatives and scholars of conservatism to confront the differences between what passes for conservatism in modern-day American politics and the tenets of the original conservative tradition.


  • Explains how conservatives and progressives differ in their ideologies but are not absolute opposites
  • Documents the range of influences across history that created and molded the cultural and political ideology of modern conservatism, such as the French Revolution, large-scale capitalism in the Gilded Age, Social Darwinism, and Andrew Carnegie's "gospel of wealth"
  • Suggests that modern liberals have reasons to respect and learn from some of the tenets of classic conservative political thought
Mario R. DiNunzio, PhD, is emeritus professor of history at Providence College in Rhode Island, where he has taught for many years. His books include Praeger's Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Third American Revolution as well as American Democracy and the Authoritarian Tradition of the West.


"[T]he work is useful as an overview of this view of American conservatism. . . . Summing Up: Recommended."—Choice, January 4, 2017
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