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Distinguished professor to offer historical view of conservatism in America

Thursday, April 07, 2016

LAWRENCE — News media are buzzing with coverage, commentary and historical reflection of the U.S. presidential election cycle, candidates and America’s polarized political landscape. In his upcoming inaugural distinguished professor lecture, a University of Kansas faculty member will place a magnifying glass on one aspect and share a chronicle of conservatism in America.

David Farber, who joined KU in August 2015 as the Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of History, will present “The Uneasy State of American Conservatism: A Brief History” at 5:30 p.m., Monday, April 11, in the Summerfield Room of the Adams Alumni Center. Farber is an expert in modern American history, especially with regard to American understanding of equality, democratic practices, opportunities and challenges of a free-market system, and America’s global power and authority.  

In the lecture, Farber will draw on his recent book, “The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism.” In it, Farber contends that conservatism in the United States is best understood not as a well-considered political philosophy or rigorous ideology but instead as an odd job word used by a hodgepodge of political actors to organize a movement capable of gaining political power in the United States. American conservatism, then, is a historically contingent, fragile project that has produced an uneasy alliance of disparate elements. Managing that alliance has never been a project for the faint of heart, as recent events have driven home.

Farber is a prolific author who has written hundreds of scholarly journal articles, essays, book chapters, reviews and presentations. His best-known books include “The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s,” now in its 32nd printing; “Taken Hostage: The Iran Hostage Crisis and America’s First Encounter with Radical Islam;” and “Sloan Rules: Alfred P. Sloan and the Triumph of General Motors,” which the Wall Street Journal called one of the five best books ever published on the automobile industry. Farber’s first book, “Chicago ’68,” was praised by former Yippie Abbie Hoffman as his favorite book on the 1960s. A recent book, “Everybody Ought to be Rich: John J. Raskob, Capitalist,” was enthusiastically endorsed by Rick Wagoner, the former chairman and CEO of General Motors. Farber is co-author of “The First Strange Place: Race and Sex in World War II Hawaii,” with Foundation Distinguished Professor Beth Bailey. 

He was a Fulbright professor at the University of Indonesia and has been a visiting scholar or an invited lecturer in Japan, China, Lebanon, France, Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia and Canada. 

He has received numerous fellowships, awards and honors and was named an American Historical Association Congressional Fellow. The American Library Association has selected his works for five different honors. The American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and others have supported his work.  

Prior to his arrival at KU, Farber spent 11 years as a professor of history at Temple University. He has also taught at Barnard College of Columbia University and the University of Hawaii. Faber was visiting professor at KU for over a year in the late ‘80s.  Farber earned his doctorate and master’s degree in American history from the University of Chicago. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and English from the University of Michigan.