Kirkpatrick Stresses Political `Zeitgeist'

Culture Key in Maintaining Foreign Regimes

Jeanne Kirkpatrick, former U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, discussed the importance of political culture in establishing and maintaining regimes in an address at the Kennedy School of Government yesterday.

Before an audience of approximately 150, Kirkpatrick, who teaches government at Georgetown University and is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said an understanding of political culture is essential to an education in foreign affairs.

"All serious students of political theory understand that political culture depends on political regimes. Political culture defines citizenship," said Kirkpatrick, who served as a representative to the U.N. from 1981 to 1985.

Kirkpatrick's lecture, "Political Culture and Foreign Policy," was the keynote address to "What has Neo-Conservatism Wrought?," a conference commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Jewish Neo-Conservative magazine Commentary.

According to Kirkpatrick, Commentary is devoted to the struggle for political culture. She said the magazine's Neo-Conservative position was "born out of the attempt to establish what makes government legitimate."


In order to understand the basis of political culture, Kirkpatrick said, we must ask "who should rule and how they should be chosen, and why should we obey."

Although Neo-Conservatives are not idealists, they believe politics are moreimportant than economics, Kirkpatrick said. "Theyattach importance to how events are understood."

Kirkpatrick said the collapse of powerfulregimes, such as the former Soviet Union and SouthAfrica, resulted from their ruling elite's loss ofconfidence in their system of central values andbeliefs.

"A regime in the full possession of great powerabandoned the monopoly of great power. [Leaders]were no longer convinced of the rectitude of theirmonopoly of power," she said.

"Cultural underpinnings of these regimes havingbeen withdrawn, they, of course, collapsed."

Kirkpatrick concluded that the Neo-Conservativemovement and Commentary magazine haveplayed an active and important role in Americanpolitical culture.

The event was co-sponsored by the HarvardProgram on Constitutional Government, the Centerfor Science and International Affairs at theKennedy School and the Harvard Center for JewishStudies