Authors: Jeane Kirkpatrick

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American politician, historian, and critic

Author Works


Leader and Vanguard in Mass Society: The Peronist Movement in Argentina, 1971

Political Woman, 1974

The New Presidential Elite: Men and Women in National Politics, 1976

Dismantling the Parties: Reflections on Party Reform and Party Decomposition, 1978

Dictatorships and Double Standards: Rationalism and Realism in Politics, 1982

The Reagan Phenomenon, and Other Speeches on Foreign Policy, 1983

The Reagan Doctrine and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1985

The United States and the World: Setting Limits, 1986

Legitimacy and Force, 1987 (2 volumes)

The Withering Away of the Totalitarian State . . . and Other Surprises, 1990

Security and Insecurity: A Critique of Clinton Policy at Midterm, 1994 (with Jacqueline Tillman)

Good Intentions: Lost on the Road to the New World Order, 1996

Edited Texts:

The Strategy of Deception: A Study in World-Wide Communist Tactics, 1963

Idealism, Realism, and the Myth of Appeasement, 1990


Jeane J. Kirkpatrick’s tenacious advocacy of American interests in international politics and her conscious role as an advocate for women combining career and family made her an influential figure in contemporary thought.{$I[AN]9810001791}{$I[A]Kirkpatrick, Jeane}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Kirkpatrick, Jeane}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Kirkpatrick, Jeane}{$I[tim]1926;Kirkpatrick, Jeane}

Born Jeane Duane Jordan, she graduated in 1948 from Barnard College in New York City and earned her master’s degree from Columbia University in 1950. In 1955 she married Evron Kirkpatrick, who was later named executive director of the American Political Science Association. She chose to take a temporary leave from academics and raise their three sons, Douglas Jordan, John Evron, and Stuart Alan.

In the mid-1960’s Kirkpatrick returned to academics. She served as assistant professor of political science at Trinity College from 1962 to 1967. From 1967 to 1981, she taught political science at Georgetown University. In 1968 she earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University. Kirkpatrick was also active in the Democratic Party; in 1972 she was involved in forming the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, an organization designed to mitigate what she and her colleagues perceived to be Senator George McGovern’s excessive influence on the Democratic Party.

Kirkpatrick opposed the foreign policy of President Jimmy Carter’s administration, asserting that it overlooked the injustices of communist “totalitarian” dictatorships while undermining right-wing “authoritarian” regimes that supported U.S. interests. Her distinction between the hostile “totalitarian” left and the friendly “authoritarian” right proved controversial. Kirkpatrick was adamant and vocal about her views, and they caught the attention of Ronald Reagan. Once elected president, he appointed her to the post of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She served in this position from 1981 until her resignation in 1985. Kirkpatrick contributed to a resurgent increase in U.S. activity and influence in the United Nations.

After serving her tenure at the United Nations, she became a vocal member of the Republican Party, publishing commentaries on national and international affairs in a variety of conservative and mainstream magazines and scholarly journals. She gained a large audience through her writing and editing of books on contemporary politics and political theory. Kirkpatrick was also a member of the executive council of the American Political Science Association.

Kirkpatrick was a strong advocate of women embracing both career and family life. As a woman who spent years as her children’s primary caregiver and then built a distinguished career in politics, she pointed to herself as a role model for other women, stating, “My experience demonstrates to my satisfaction that it is both possible and feasible for women in our times to successfully combine traditional and professional roles, that it is not necessary to ape men’s career patterns–starting early and keeping one’s nose to a particular grindstone, but that, instead, one can do quite different things at different stages of one’s life. All that is required is a little luck and a lot of work.”

Kirkpatrick’s discussions of contemporary political theory were forceful and decisive. Her ability to dissect specific issues and present the abstract principles at work made her a powerful commentator and an insightful theorist. Works such as Dictatorships and Double Standards, The Reagan Doctrine and U.S. Foreign Policy, The Withering Away of the Totalitarian State . . . and Other Surprises, and Idealism, Realism and the Myth of Appeasement combine solid arguments and succinct, well-paced writing. Sidelining her political books is her writing about women and her insights into the challenges faced by society as traditional and contemporary roles are merged. Among these works, Political Woman is notable.

Kirkpatrick was widely honored for her role as a political analyst, a diplomat, and a scholar. She received the Distinguished Alumna Award from Stephens College in 1978, the B’nai B’rith Humanitarian Award in 1982, the Award for the Commonwealth Fund in 1983, a Gold Medal from the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1984, the French Prix Politique award in 1984, the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal in 1985, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985, the Distinguished Service Medal from the mayor of New York City in 1985, the Hubert Humphrey Award from the American Political Sciences Association in 1988, the Jamestown Freedom Award in 1990, the Centennial Medal of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1991, and the Bronze Palm award in 1992. Kirkpatrick died at her home in Bethesda, Maryland on December 7, 2006.

BibliographyCorn, David. “Beltway Bandits.” The Nation (June 15, 1992). A particularly critical view of Kirkpatrick.Gerson, Allan. The Kirkpatrick Mission: Diplomacy Without Apology, America at the United Nations, 1981-1995. New York: Free Press, 1991. Jeane Kirkpatrick’s role as the U.S. representative to the United Nations is chronicled; examines her political agendas and considers the influence of her tenure at the United Nations.Harrison, Pat. Jeane Kirkpatrick, Diplomat. New York: Chelsea House, 1991. A brief biography.Morley, Jefferson. “Randolph, Jeane, and the Contras.” The Nation, February 27, 1988. Kirkpatrick’s role in international affairs is noted.“Outstanding Women on the Bush List.” Conservative Digest, July, 1988. Kirkpatrick’s influence in asserting that women have a place in politics is presented.“A Passionate Nationalist.” U.S. News & World Report, February 8, 1988. Kirkpatrick’s role in international affairs is noted in this unsigned article.
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