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It is inconceivable even to imagine let alone hope for a dominant conservative movement in America without Kirk's labor — William F Buckley JrRussell Kirk's The Conservative Mind is one of the greatest contributions to twentieth century American conservatism Brilliant in every respect from its conception to its choice of significant figures representing the history of intellectual conservatism The Conservative Mind launched the modern American Conservative Movement when it was first published in 1953 and has become an enduring classic of political thoughtThe seventh revised edition features the complete text and an introduction by publisher Henry RegencyA must read

10 thoughts on “The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot

  1. says:

    This book is simply astonishing Voluminous clear and concise Kirk traces the history of thought and distinguishes between conservative thought in both Britain and America and other radical and progressive ideas The result is a rich literary tradition and foundation that I fear most modern conservatives remain ignorant ofThe result has also convinced me in a manner that I have never been able to understand as clearly before that one of the primary intellectual characteristics of traditional conservatism is a complete rejection of ideology in all of its forms Marxist socialist Christian fundamentalist utopian The conservative does not reject reform in and of itself but understands those things in civilization that ought to be protected during the process of any reformConservative political philosophy is rooted in the permanent things of man If you look closely at the creative thinking of men like Edmund Burke John Adams Sir Walter Scott Samuel Taylor Colerdige James Feni Cooper Alexis de Tocueville Nathaniel Hawthorne James Russell Lowell John Henry Newman Lord Robert Salisbury Henry Adams Irving Babbitt Paul Elmer More Hilaire Belloc GK Chesterton George Santayana and TS Eliot among many others you will find a foundation that transcends partisan politics and focuses on how politics is a mere reflection of culture and not the other way roundRussell Kirk here masterfully delivers a blow for the wisdom and lessons of the history of thought and anyone serious about the modern day public suare is lacking in education until he or she has read this book I can't believe that I've been stupid enough to avoid reading it until just now

  2. says:

    This may be the most personally impactful book I've ever read I have never been so challenged by a book and have never grown so much as a result By the last page my understanding of Kirk's topic had increased so much that I wanted to flip the book over and start again because I knew I would comprehend it so much Kirk's encyclopedic knowledge of his topic is incredibleThe Conservative Mind is a chronicle of the great conservative thinkers of history starting with Edmund Burke and John Adams of the 17th century and ending with Santayana and Eliot of the 20th Kirk connects the dots between these thinkers but does not attempt the futile task of aligning their political views Conservatism Kirk emphatically states is not ideology like so much libertarianism or liberalism In fact it cannot be summarized in a pithy phrase for conservatives must have a talent for re expressing their convictions to fit the time But generally conservatism is manifest positively as a desire to preserve the ancient wisdom present in our institutions culture and government; and it is manifest negatively as a distrust of progress that seeks to dismantle these repositories of the permanent things This book is a history of how that intuition has been worked out in the politics of England and America in the last 300 years Conservatism is a philosophy rather than a policy Though not neutral to politics it does not assert a specific political dogma but rather attempts to preserve in a changing political world the aspects of life that make it worth living In the words of George Santayana I should not be afraid of the future domination whatever it may be I have found in different times and places the liberal the Catholic and the German air uite possible to breathe; nor I am sure would communism be without its advantages to a free mind and its splendid emotions This universality is what makes the conservative impulse so compelling as a philosophy and what makes this book so complex The conservatives discussed here do not fit in one political vein; both John Adams the advocate of freedom and John Randolph the great southern orator are represented here Kirk does not attempt to alleviate these tensions knowing that they are indicative not of conservatism's contradictions but of its humanity A political system can be condemned for contradictions but a history of striving men cannotI may reread this book but it has introduced me to so many new thinkers and writings that I'm afraid it will be a while before I make it back around to The Conservative Mind But it is an absolutely essential book for anyone not enad with the progressivism of our time who feels that there must be a deeper understanding of politics This book is an introduction to that understanding

  3. says:

    I decided to read this book because of the recent election to try to get a sharper sense of one strand of Whatever ideology Trump and his ilk are promulgating white nationalism? reaction? populism it is a far cry from Kirk's highly traditional religiously orthodox and stuffy conservatism And before I jump into the book's ideas let me just issue a warning this is the stuffiest book I have ever read If you want to read it you should have a better reason than I did This book is not fun in any regard It drags You will learn a lot about conservatism especially how some conservatives readinvent their own philosophical tradition but you will be subjected to Kirk's relentlessly dense writing obscure references editorializing and sheer priggishness At times it seems like he is trying to make things boring and to be honest there are only a few ideas in this book He just traces them through historical time and numerous figures He doesn't give much biographical info so you will be lost for a good deal of the book You will slough through pages of exposition about conservative British poets and editors and their stupid feuds which for Kirk seems as exciting as an overtime basketball game Or whatever stuffy sport he watched You can kind of get the whole message of the book from the conclusion and unless you are a someone who never doesn't finish a book me or b have a major interest in conservatism in general kind of meKirk's objective in this book is to stitch together a bunch of Anglo American philosophers and statesmen whose thought and action covers a loose tradition that is somewhat outside of the mainstream of American thought whatever that is at the time This isn't really a history book; it is of an historical rallying cry to the conservatives of his day as well as an up yours to liberals who denigrate conservatives as the stupid party or one lacking in a philosophicalintellectual tradition at all One of the main themes in the book is the conservative skepticism of democracy Obviously this really separates intellectual conservatism from political conservatism especially in the US Kirk's heroes especially Burke are profoundly distrustful of the common man They find him vulgar uneducated appetitive and violent It is property breeding and education that makes a man into a citizen a defender of the order of things who can be trusted with a hand in government Kirk pushes this even further though He and his heroes believe that society needs gentlemen exemplary men of high class and experience who set an example for the rest and fight valiantly against challengers to the order There is no greater threat to society for Kirk than the populist who seeks to convince the common man he is better than he is and that his vulgar ways should be the standard of all behavior Hello Trump His section on de Tocueville who warned of a dangerous suffocating cultural mediocrity in democracies is thought provoking in this respect Lastly Kirk seems to nearly regret the extension of the franchise to common men and eventually women despite living and writing in the mid 20th centuryAnother key idea in the book is the Burkean conception of order in a society and the corresponding skepticism about change Burke is the cornerstone of Kirk's conservative tradition Burke saw society as an organic sacred order in which people played out divinely preordained functions People should have awe and reverence for the fact that this order functions at all and for their place in it Reasoning from abstractions and universalistic ideas like human rights or the social contract is not only morally wrong it is dangerous It unmoors people from the webs of social relation and tradition that give them meaning and confine their base instincts As in the French Revolution they are likely to grow violent egoistic but ultimately to despair at losing their place in the world making them easy prey for the tyrant Change in the Burkean universe should be slow and cautious of a fine tuning of the order of things rather than a dramatic new scheme Of course Burke's conception of the social order reuires Christian religious belief or at least belief in belief which makes it somewhat less useful for governing a diverse or secular societyOne theme detestation of materialism and industry Kirk himself is clearly repulsed by the focus on material prosperity in his age which he thinks is a poor substitute for religion and tradition He sees this common repulsion at the factory the city the entrepreneur etc in his heroes throughout history This makes a lot of sense given how the Industrial Revolution destabilized and transformed the communal living praised by Burke It's amazing how Kirk even with the advantage of hindsight doesn't get how the Industrial Revolution formed the basis of a radical transformation in human prosperity and the standard of living and his discounting of the importance of material comfort and financial security for a generation that just endured the Depression and WWII is sheer blindness and a stunning lack of empathyMy frustration with this book and Kirk personally was a nice illustration of why I'm a liberal 2 things that drive me nuts about Kirk's heroes and Kirk himself often it is hard to tell when he's just giving his own opinion are 1 how much injustice they are willing to tolerate in order to maintain the status uo and avoid the potential pitfalls of reform and 2 How blithely and uncritically hethey will assume that some current social structure or ideology is natural and unalterable Kirk either doesn't seem aware of injustices or he simply waves them away as a part of the natural tragic way of the mortal world He seems morally blind to many of these problems For example his laudatory discussion of John Calhoun almost doesn't mention slavery at all His afterworld written in 1970's mentions the civil rights movement only with derision as a radical movement That is simply not good enough for me Kirk doesn't seem to even want to try to redress wrongs other than by returning things to a patriarchal class based order The idea that human beings might be suffering under that order or unsatisfied or that we might be losing human talent and genius by not cultivating women and minorities either doesn't matter or doesn't occur to Burke As you might expect this book is insufferably color and gender blind I know that's slightly anachronistic but I literally think the word woman doesn't appear in the book There may be risks to reform but not trying and allowing those tensions to bubble under a lid of repression and tradition is a recipe for even greater problems Liberals can and should heed the Burkean warning that tinkering with complex social structures and relations based on abstract thinking can be dangerous If Burke and his ilk help liberals understand the limits of reform and get a better grasp on human nature then this book and this intellectual tradition are valuable Still Kirk seems to tolerate injustice far readily than Burke did a man who opposed British treatment of the Irish and supported the colonial bid for independence based on the tradition of English rights This Burkean way of thinking is also a valuable antidote to universalistic thinking about spreading the American way of life around the world It would be nice to say that everyone wants freedom and democracy Ira for instance but Burke and his modern followers George Will for instance would say this is a dangerous fantasy Show me Ira or Afghanistan's traditions of democracy freedom of speech religious pluralism a free press the loyal opposition etc Oh wait they don't exist or exist in exceedingly weak forms So a good Burkean would say let's not trick ourselves into thinking that other countries have the same history as ours and can accept the exporting of our basic institutions and ideas However the true value of BurkeanKirkean thinking should not be to help the privileged and powerful protect the status uo and all of its injustices but to offer wisdom and humility to our attempts to fight injustice and drastic ineuity This is my yin and yang of conservatism and liberalismSo I'm left with one last uestion still somewhat uncertain to me Is there really a conservative intellectual tradition? Or are all of these thinkers just intellectualizing their instinct towards defending the status uo at all costs and protecting their privileged position in the world? I am leaning about 70 30 in favor of the first view although I'd like to hear other informed viewpoints on this uestion

  4. says:

    It is no wonder why this work is considered to be one of the cornerstones of conservative literature Kirk's survey of conservative thought beginning with Edmund Burke and ending with George Santayana is the unfurling of a historical tapestry Do not be fooled for the conservatism put forth by Kirk is not the collouial conservatism touted by many politicians today In fact few people out there in the public suare wave the banner of Burke Kirk The profundity of this book and its subject matter does not stem from groundbreaking ideologies or revolutionary sentiments It rises from the soil of generation upon generation of aggregate wisdom It was curious to listen to the likes of John C Calhoun Alexis de Tocueville John Adams Benjamin Disraeli John Henry Newman etc etc and see just how variegated and amorphous conservatism can be Kirk reveals that to be a conservative is not to be a dogmatist or ideologue It is to be a sensible human being with a grounded understanding of human nature and finite limits; to know that one of the greatest sources of wisdom is among those that came before you and your greatest responsibility is to those that come after you This book is truly the gateway into the world of traditional conservatism and will be a source of reference that I visit again and again for many years to come My wish list ballooned with authors unheard of before now and Kirk's ability to reference person after person hints toward the legions of brilliant and wise men that have helped form our political society The Conservative Mind will forever occupy a hallowed place on my bookshelf

  5. says:

    For most of human history change has been a glacier slow to move retreating as much as it advances Since the scientific and industrial revolutions however change is less a glacier and a snowball moving with rapidity becoming ever drastic and picking up speed Russell Kirk would remind modern readers that snowball modernity is moving like other snowballs downhill In The Conservative Mind he collects and comments on the thoughts of those who since the Pandora's box of revolutions was opened have tried to clap it shut again It is a large thought provoking work often melancholy considering its authors are ever lamenting the loss of order privilege and the 'permanent things' against the advance of euality democracy and ideology It attempts to demonstrate an intellectual conservativism one based on than an instinctual aversion to change It succeeds in part but its ideal audience is the half converted for modern readers who do not share its views are unlikely to be convinced by or even warm appreciably to authors who spend so much time attacking concepts like democracy individual judgment and euality which we hold dearThe Conservative Mind begins with Edmund Burke writing against the French Revolution and continues to leapfrog between Britain and the United States for a century and a half thereafter as the world continue to change beneath the feet of those who yearned for stability Such changes were first material then cultural and finally political as industry and commerce eroded the base of the old agricultural economy farmers displaced by mechanization streamed into the cities becoming 'proletarians' in the process landless resourceless men whose skills along with those of artisans were no longer needed and whose only strength was in their numbers Converting those numbers into political power they pressed on the reigning powers and pressed for changes that might relief their burden for if they had been denied the ability to provide for themselves the state could be turned to do it for them; and if the new economic powers wanted to oppress them they would turn the tables and put into force laws that checked the excesses As the great tug of war pulled the national fabric hither and on the men featured here fretted that said fabric was coming apart at the scenesThough I have scorned conservatism in the past for being bereft of its own ideas incapable of doing anything other than resisting any kind of change at all what I take for weakness Kirk posits is a strength and one of the themes uniting his authors' work Conservatism is not an ideology he writes; it is an exercise in pragmatism of recognizing that rapid changes in anything as complex as society or the economy will have unexpected conseuences and if experience is any guide most of those conseuences will be unfortunate His ideal conservatism is or should be the voice of rational prudence keeping passion from doing anything too silly But while some of his featured authors' complaints can be appreciated as being sensible not necessarily correct but a perfectly rational view given the facts at hand others are firmly in the camp of irrational reaction One English author protests the 1832 Reform Bill for eliminating a handful of 'rotten boroughs' or election districts which no longer held populations worthy of seats in Parliament or populations at all these granted certain MPs a say in the nation's doings without their having any person at all to be responsible to The writers' protest was that one such seat had been the home of many a distinguished MP and to abolish their seat to fulfill some ideal of efficiency was outrageous The starting point of the French Revolution is an ideal example of the value and limits of this conservative approach while the Revolution was in many respects a catastrophe for France and Europe's stability it did unleash positive forces It gave lie to the fact that the people of Europe had to remain subjects to self serving lords and priests; it gave them a reason to believe they could take command of their own fortunes and better them in the process As lamentable as the fire of revolution that destroys everything in its path is so to is a conservatism that suelches all flames before they cause any kind of disruption Superior would a flame of change that puts a fire under the seat of reactionary forces and prompts them to get out of the way of 'progress'At the same time a criticism of conservatism as being nothing but a break or a nay voice is not uite right for Kirk maintains that his impaneled authors do believe in certain things in protecting or restoring them They believe for instance in the principle of prescriptivism that people by and large ought to defer to the received wisdom of their elders and institutions for the great reservoir of experience passed down from generation to generation is a far better guide to truth than any one individual regardless of their belief in the power of objective Reason It's an argument one can find sense in collected knowledge will surely outweigh any individual knowledge and reason without evidence can fall into debates over how many angels can dance on the head of an Ideal Form of a pin but an individual may be in possession of facts that collected knowledge simply does not know If an astronomer identifies a source of light in the sky and posits that it is is approaching the Earth rapidly the fact that the collected wisdom of the ancestors contains no accounts of astronomical bodies flying into the Earth does not negate the possibility Collected beliefs are no removed from the prospect of error than any new thought formed of reason This is why science is such a valuable tool for it combines free reason with the experience of evidence But scientists obtain their knowledge through trial and error by performing experiments that rule out certain ideas and support others The conservatives in this work so keenly engrossed by the idea of man as a fallen creature who had to be kept from chaos and barbarity by stern rules and moral authority would doubtless oppose experimenting with anything as volatile as human society especially given that they consider some of the values of humankind to be valuable in their own rights apart from us Religion is at the heart of Kirk's conservatism and he maintains that those who see it as simply a convenient curative to fix moral failings of people are doing it wrong Religion is a dedication to Higher Things and if people do not acknowledge the supremacy of God over the world if they do not submit entirely to Divine Will they will err time and againThis is not a happy book It is a work of reproach and lamentation of distress argument and grievance I think it valuable in terms of the history of political philosophy for it offers the perspective of those who fought against changes like universal suffrage that we take for granted Barring the collapse of civilization it is unlikely that universal suffrage will reversed; at the same time I find it useful to ponder the conseuences of said acts and to wonder did they live up to the expectations of progress or did they diminish the body politic by putting power into the hands of people who have neither the time nor the inclination to gather facts reflect upon them and decide on the wisest course of action What has expanding the power of central governments done to the effectiveness of those governments and to the engagement of citizens? Do we live up the the ideal of the self empowered Citizen contributing to the well being of our nations while pursuing our own individual interests or are we simply consumer citizens our only act of participation being which product we choose to buy in the election booth Blue or Red? The conservative mind is too damning of the species too uick to defer to the tyranny of tradition and authority but all the timeperhaps it is a mind that ought to be considered if only to ward off the possibility of modern hubris with a little humility

  6. says:

    When published by Russell Kirk in 1953 “Conservative Mind” was an oxymoron to morons such were the stultifying orthodoxies of liberal thought While it still may appear so to some Russell’s grounding of the conservative American tradition “From Burke to Eliot” in fact gave a significant push to a movement on the cusp of intellectual renewal What a pleasure to read a book which so easily swept away the remaining pieties of my liberal upbringing in the ‘60s and ‘70's It helped me to re learn the age old wisdom of tradition and incremental improvement instead of the radical transformation that reigned in the ‘60s and is triumphant once againAs Kirk writes “the essence of social conservatism is preservation of the ancient moral traditions of humanity” How repugnant this phrase would have appeared to the little tyrant and conformist I was throughout university and briefly after He continues For the conservative custom convention constitution and prescription are the sources of tolerable civil social order Men not being angels a terrestrial paradise cannot be contrived by metaphysical enthusiasts; yet an earthly hell can be arranged readily enough by ideologues of one stamp or anotherMany of Kirk’s words 60 years on are prescient “Recognition that change may not be salutary reform hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration rather than a torch of progress” could have been written about Obamacare the first major entitlement to be enacted without opposition support and while fraudulently using budget conciliation measuresHow refreshing to learn the importance of the Irish statesman Edmund Burke 1729 1797 to not only conservative Anglo Saxon thought but to America’s Founding Fathers He detested the nihilism of the French Revolution instead placing religious belief as foundational to any successful order as characterized by Kirk this way “Religious faith makes existence tolerable; ambition without pious restraint must end in failure often involving in its ruin that beautiful reverence which solaces common men” At its core Kirk explains this is because “Man’s rights are linked with man’s duties and when they are distorted into extravagant claims for a species of freedom and euality and worldly aggrandizement which human character cannot sustain they degenerate from rights into vices” The searing brilliance of the American Declaration of course was to assert that natural rights are God given not dependent on the tender mercies of government Kirk elevates John Adams 1735 1826 among the Founding Fathers for his insistence on the separation of powers – which we now take for granted to our peril In arguing for federalism and a democratic republic as opposed to pure democracy Adams wrote “Where people have a voice and there is no balance there will be everlasting fluctuations revolutions and horrors until a standing army with a general at its head commands the peace” Will the ever greater concentration of power in Washington and the dismantling of our former federalist system end as Adams predicted?As Kirk elaborates when he re crosses the Atlantic to discuss Samuel Coleridge 1772 1834 “The pure democrat is the practical atheist; ignoring the divine nature of law and the divine establishment of spiritual hierarchy he is the unconscious instrument of diabolical powers for the undoing of mankind Reduce the solemn mystery and infinite variety of human life to the pseudo mathematical principle of the greatest happiness for the greatest number utilitarianism and you establish a tyranny of prigs in the world a hell of loneliness in the world of spirit” When hearing “tyranny of prigs” am I the only one who thinks of New York’s Bloomberg?”Alexis de Tocueville 1805 1859 remains of course one of the wisest observers of democratic political systems and in particular of the vulnerabilities of the American one Per Kirk “He foresaw the coming of the ‘social welfare state’ which agrees to provide all for its subjects and in turn exacts rigid conformity Political correctness anyone? The name democracy remains; but government is exerted from top downward as in the Old Régime not from the masses This is a planners’ society dominated by bureaucratic elites” Is anyone surprised that the counties around DC have became the country’s per capita richest since 2009? Such is the progressive dystopia upon usBy relieving citizens of responsibilities Tocueville wrote that such a government “renders the exercise of free agency less useful and less freuent think of the glorious American tradition of local association; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all uses of himself The principal of euality has prepared men for these things; it has predisposed them to endure them and often to look on them as benefits” FDR’s new “freedoms” declared in his 1941 State of the Union including “freedom from want” and “freedom from fear” fit the bill preciselyTocueville also insisted on the crucial need for faith to ground any democratic form As Kirk explains “Moral decay first hampers and then strangles honest government regular commerce and even the ability to take genuine pleasure in the goods of this world Compulsion think of Obamacare or Bloomberg is applied from above as self discipline relaxes below and the last liberties expire under the weight of the unitary state Once a society has slipped so far almost no barrier remains to withstand absolutism”Kirk is not sanguine about our future in which “Even the Constitution of the United States is not sufficiently venerable to restrain the appetites of ambitious men and classes; and the potentialities for increase of power which lie hid in some of its clauses are ominous for the future liberties of America In the last resort once men have got into the vice of legislating indiscriminately for immediate purposes and special interests only force can withstand the masked arbitrary force of ‘laws’ that are no better than exactions” While Kirk was elucidating the fears of John Randolfe of Roanoke 1773 1833 what better symptomatic description exists for the contemporary diseases of Obamacare and Dodd Frank and the repeated emasculation of the Constitution by the Obama Administration?Kirk’s outlook even during the recuperative ‘80s when he last revised his work was not optimistic “we ought to understand conservative ideas so that we may rake from the ashes of what scorched fragments of civilization escape the conflagration of unchecked will and appetite” Welcome nowadays to the Triumph of the Will masuerading as concern for the downtrodden on the path to the unitary state Kirk’s seminal work is a devastating treatise on the perils of anti conservative thought and makes one realize Reagan’s uniue ability to combine optimism with clear sightedness of the human condition

  7. says:

    We are yanking free the anchors worrying loose the cables and where once this was effected with radical fervor it's now a conseuence of indolence of decay of corruption Our politics are dominated by preeners who speak as utopians and govern as apparatchiks Our news is brought to us by people who understand little of what they attempt to relate Our children are instructed by dullards Our churches continue to splinter our civil bonds disintegrate and a near majority of adults choose either to murder their children in the womb or abandon them at birthRussell Kirk can help us understand why the institutions we no longer value are important He does little to explain how they might be regained when they are shattered and when a majority of the populace neither understands values nor even longs for them Perhaps this is because when he wrote there still seemed hope of restoring reason and order to the US perhaps even England What he didn't anticipate is that the political and business leaders who rushed to the banner of conservatism in his time would be unworthy and ultimately prove themselves venal ignorant and self seekingIn every period Kirk writes some will endeavor to pull down the permanent things and others will defend them manfully Even without the pulling of our nation's cold souled bureaucrats and administrators the permanent things have begun to collapse under their own weight Who will build them again? That's the uestion now

  8. says:

    Not only is this book an education in itself but it is a pathway to much other learning It will be a constant reference for meI don't think I can add much to the reviews given by my friends Stephen Hicks and Simon Stegall So please see their Goodreads reviews

  9. says:

    This is one of the most important books I have ever read There are probably ten books in that category right now Either I have extraordinary good fortune in the books I select or I am too easily impressed HmmAlthough I had gathered before now that a gigantic chasm exists between the old world of Christendom and the new world of Modernity the realization is refreshed and sharpened with almost every book I read now This particular book helped that realization coalesce into concrete principles and events The Great Books programs I had been through in the past somehow did not make clear the nature of the chasm between the two worlds; through both high school and two years of a college Great Books program I assumed that Locke Rousseau Montesuieu and the rest of the Enlightenment political theorists were in reasonable continuity with pre Enlightenment Christian understandings of government If I was not entirely unacuainted with Burke Hooker de Tocueville and the Southern conservatives at least I did not understand how great an antithesis existed between those men as defenders of a Christian society and the Enlightenment theorists as the harbingers of all that makes Modernity dull And somehow none of those men made it into the Great Books reading listsAnyhow The Conservative Mind boils down to the predicate that by the 18th century radical theories of society were arising in direct competition with the traditions of Christendom The chapters in the book trace the intellectual defense of Christendom mounted since the time of Edmund Burke up to Russell Kirk's contemporaries Though the emphasis is on the defenders of conservatism their foils must inevitably make an appearance and so Kirk's book amounts to a generation by generation history of the attacks of radicalism and the counterattacks and slow inexorable retreat of conservatism Reading the older statesmen who breathed a different air than our own is a startling and illuminating exercise that throws into blinding relief just how great that chasm is and provides a glimmer of lighting toward the pathway out of our modern cave That aside I wish to note my appreciation of Russell Kirk as a writer and historian His writing is clear powerful and elegant and I deeply approve of his sensitivity toward his subjects Like Philip Schaff he had a catholic spirit that allowed him to sympathize with each figure individually and appreciate their peculiar merits in their particular circumstances never lumping men together or making general judgements without first considering the details a highly Burkean attitude I might add I am thinking particularly of his discussion of American conservatism northern and Southern Rather than treating the different sections at an ideological level Kirk allowed a few important figures in all of their idiosyncrasies to stand for their respective sections This freed him from the procrustean mistake of dealing with ideologies instead of personalities fatal in American history than in any other I believe Suffice it to say his estimate of the South's character good and bad and her role in American history was careful and judicious than any other historian I have read and once again reminded me of SchaffOf complaints I have only two First he consistently presents the conservative aristocracy as having come unfairly under attack and that seemingly out of nowhere Of course history doesn't work that way The aristocrats were truly the leaders and bastions of the Christian society of the West and if revolution and infidelity sprang up on their watch by definition they bear the responsibility and almost as certainly some of the guilt in the matterSecond I was disappointed that C S Lewis and G K Chesterton did not figure in his discussion of contemporary conservatism while lesser figures such as Santayana or Babbit did

  10. says:

    I am no much for reading political philosophy but I am very glad to have read this One of those books I knew of and wanted to get around to eventuallyThis history of conservative thought and those who advanced it is such a good read and so informative I am rather embarrassed by how little I knew of this history This book is such a balm considering what passes for conservatism now We have lost or ignored first principles and think policy decisions is a replacement for it I was especially glad to learn of Burke and his life