Right Moves

The Conservative Think Tank in American Political Culture since 1945

By Jason Stahl

264 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4635-0
    Published: August 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2786-1
    Published: April 2016
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-2787-8
    Published: March 2016

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From the middle of the twentieth century, think tanks have played an indelible role in the rise of American conservatism. Positioning themselves against the alleged liberal bias of the media, academia, and the federal bureaucracy, conservative think tanks gained the attention of politicians and the public alike and were instrumental in promulgating conservative ideas. Yet, in spite of the formative influence these institutions have had on the media and public opinion, little has been written about their history. Here, Jason Stahl offers the first sustained investigation of the rise and historical development of the conservative think tank as a source of political and cultural power in the United States.

What we now know as conservative think tanks--research and public-relations institutions populated by conservative intellectuals--emerged in the postwar period as places for theorizing and "selling" public policies and ideologies to both lawmakers and the public at large. Stahl traces the progression of think tanks from their outsider status against a backdrop of New Deal and Great Society liberalism to their current prominence as a counterweight to progressive political institutions and thought. By examining the rise of the conservative think tank, Stahl makes invaluable contributions to our historical understanding of conservatism, public-policy formation, and capitalism.

About the Author

Jason Stahl is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
For more information about Jason Stahl, visit the Author Page.


“[A] diligently researched book [that] offers readers an informative account of the origins and rise of conservative think tanks in American politics.”--Washington Times

“[A] provocative theory of recent policy debates.”--Washington Monthly

“Offers a chilling analysis that rings true in diagnosing the current cast of routine political talk, the sphere in which devastating decisions are made.”--Journal of American History

“Illuminates a larger social trend, which was the decline of faith in the ideals of ‘objectivity’ and ‘disinterestedness’ from the early 1960s through the early 1970s.”--H-Net Reviews

"Right Moves is the right book for anyone hoping to understand how America's political discourse has been influenced by private think tanks funded by corporate money. It's fair minded, well documented, and fills an important gap in scholarly research."--Jane Mayer, staff writer, New Yorker magazine

"Compelling and convincing, Jason Stahl's Right Moves is the first history of the rise of the conservative think tank in American political culture. Not only is this book original in terms of subject and argument, it's also fresh in terms of research. An important book!"--Andrew Hartman, Illinois State University

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