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The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  740 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
Late in life, William F. Buckley made a confession to Corey Robin. Capitalism is "boring," said the founding father of the American right. "Devoting your life to it," as conservatives do, "is horrifying if only because it's so repetitious. It's like sex." With this unlikely conversation began Robin's decade-long foray into the conservative mind. What is conservatism, and w ...more
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Published August 12th 2011 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published August 9th 2011)
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(showing 1-30)
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Bill  Kerwin
Sep 22, 2012 Bill Kerwin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics

Corey Robin's take on conservatism has helped me understand not only the Tea Party and pro-Trump movements, but also the triumphalist EWTN element of the American Roman Catholic Church.

People who call themselves "conservatives," Robin argues, are not conservatives at all, but rather reactionaries. (In my opinion, real conservatives--who usually do not call themselves "conservatives"--conserve; they are part of a living tradition, doing their best to preserve and adapt it, helping their traditio
...more
Avi
Dec 28, 2012 Avi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm tempted to one star it, but I've read worse. The theory felt like Foucalt-lite. And the second half of the book didn't even feel like it was an attempt to write about the mind, just "reactionaries." I really wanted a psychological study of conservatism (or types of conservatism). This wasn't it. It was so crude that it even attempted to lump all "Conservatism" under a single word for hundreds of years. It's sort of laughable in a philosophically naive way. But also somewhat intellectually re ...more
Sebastien
Apr 02, 2017 Sebastien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed Corey Robin's collection of essays on conservatism and I do like his approach and analysis. But one must be aware and understand he approaches things from the left. That is where he stands and it's a good idea to be aware of that, I think. Also this is far from comprehensive, it is a slight collection of essays that represents more of an outline or sketch than anything.

I don't know enough about the history of conservatism, so I'm a bit leery to accept all the arguments in here where so
...more
Peter Mcloughlin
This book takes a serious look at the conservative or right wing mind and finds a thread from Hobbes and Burke to the present. The main thread of the conservative mindset is the protection of privilege and the perogatives or power against the lower orders. It defends the rights to exercise power on what it deems lesser people. Whether it be racial, Gender, class conservatism makes its appeal to the protection or restoration of an order that benefits those who believe themselves superior. It can ...more
Charles David Edinger
Robin's extremely simplistic pamphlet adds nothing to anyone's understanding of the great Classical Anglo American Liberal Edmund Burke's thinking or philosophy. Like most empty-headed Progressive sheep, the author demonstrates his pathetic ignorance of Burke's historical context by referring to Mr. Burke as a "Reactionary" which is a wildly inappropriate label for one of the the leading thinkers behind the American Revolution's dramatic break with the authoritarian Collectivism that had held sw ...more
Micah
Apr 23, 2012 Micah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm doing an interview with the author for Guernica magazine, probably within the month. Given the book's subtitle--"Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin"--I was expecting this to be a massive, meticulous, and painstaking excavation and rethinking of conservative thought, in chronological order from the French Revolution to the 21st century. It's actually a collection of essays, mostly book reviews. But I'll be damned if this isn't one of the best, most fascinating collections of book r ...more
C. Derick
Jun 16, 2012 C. Derick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So much for the Utopianism of the left, we have to understand the inverse utopianism of the right? Indeed, The Reactionary Mind is a braid of linked essays divided into two related sections. The first section is the popular manifestation of conservative intellectual tradition, and the second is on the profound relationship between conservatism and violence.

First, a few caveats: there are a few points in which I have somewhat profound disagreements with Robins, and second I found some of the essa
...more
Sagar Jethani
Feb 12, 2013 Sagar Jethani rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political-theory
Rather than serving up a historical overview of conservatism "From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin", as the subtitle promises, author Corey Robin has produced a familiar, if unoriginal, polemic against the destructive impact of today's Republican party. The briefest of historical narratives is offered early on, providing the reader with a basic understanding of Burke and the French Revolution as a defining moment for conservatism as a political idea. But these topics are quickly dispensed with so th ...more
Karol
Dec 12, 2011 Karol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Republican primaries were the perfect time to read about this. I love political theory, but it's rare to see a scholar really dig deeply into conservative intellectual thought, especially as far back as the French Revolution. This might be the first time I felt the subject was adequately explored. It reads as a series of essays that fall into one of two parts - the first emphasizing the role of the conservative as a counterrevolutionary, the second about the importance of violence in the ide ...more
Laura Brahm
Oct 13, 2012 Laura Brahm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The beauty of Robin's book is that he doesn't get sidetracked by typical liberal-conservative debates over things like gun control, taxes, or whether "conservatives are just stupid." Instead he takes conservatism seriously at its theory and practice, traces its roots and, in so doing, ultimately reveals the bankruptcy and nihilism at its core. What conservatism is really about, he argues, is the belief in fundamental, "natural" inequality: between the rich and poor, CEO and worker, husband and w ...more
Colleen Clark
Feb 21, 2012 Colleen Clark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Colleen by: Chris Hayes/Up with Chris
Shelves: politics-terror
I bought this book on the recommendation of Chris Hayes from his MSNBC show Up With Chris when he invited Corey Robin and introduced him as someone who had written one of Chris' favorite books of the year.

Before I started to read it there was an article in the NYTimes (1/19/12) "Online Fracas For a Critic of the Right" with links to two book reviews - NY Times Book Review and NYRB. So I had conflicting opinions about the book before I opened it.

Well, I agree with Hayes and think the 2 reviewers
...more
Hadrian
A loose collection of essays describing the origins and future trajectories of current conservatism. Describes thinkers with worthy praise and demagogues with fiery condemnation. The part on Ayn Rand is especially critical.
Kate Woods Walker
At the close of The Deepening Darkness: Patriarchy, Resistance, and Democracy's Future by Carol Gilligan and David A.J. Richards, another five-star book, the authors ask why patriarchal men are so fearful of meeting females on equal footing. Corey Robin, in The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin, has the answer.

Without hierarchy, they would not exist. Without some external measure of their supposed superiority, they are nothing. Without someone to stand upon, they ha
...more
Andy
Mar 11, 2012 Andy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ambitious premise is to try to define/understand conservatism through time and space. The author logically explores various popular assumptions about conservatism (it's about following rules, traditions, etc.) and explains why they are false. He makes a good case for his use of the word "reactionary" as a frame.

This is a collection of essays but they are connected enough that the whole thing works as a book. Robin is not a conservative but his points are based on quoting famous conservative
...more
Tom Marcinko
Jan 01, 2013 Tom Marcinko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An important idea in politics. I think the author is on to something about conservatism. The idea deserves to be explored and demonstrated in greater depth, at book-length, in my opinion. But as a collection of essays it hangs together very well.
.....

Here's another I've been meaning to read for some time.

The thesis is that no matter what flavor conservatism seems to be -- libertarian, pro-capitalist, religious, pro-small government, pro-mega-military-industrial-security complex, faux-populist, o
...more
Darnell
Many of the things I could say about this book have already been said, so let me start with one I haven't seen: this is mostly a collection of book reviews.

I was given the impression that this book was a synthesis of ideas, a grand thesis about psychology and politics. But while there are common themes between chapters, they're not really integrated outside of the introduction and conclusion. And many of the ideas that the book does have appear to be taken from the books that are being reviewed,
...more
Adam  McPhee
Connor Kilpatrick's review for the eXiled says it better than I can:

Robin’s thesis is simple: ignore the Right-wing taxonomy. Conservatism–despite the seemingly incompatible respective ideologies of free-marketeers, slavers, neocons, neofascists, Buckleys, Federalists, Bloombergians, traditionalists, Tea Baggers, Randians, McCarthyists, libertarians, Birchers, Goldbugs, Jesus Freaks, J .Edgars, pro-lifers—has been, in reality, firmly united behind a single mission since the French Revolution: t
...more
John  Edgar Mihelic
I read “The Reactionary Mind” by Corey Robin.

I have developed a sort of intellectual crush on Robin in the last several months as I became more aware of his work. I know I have read it before in different platforms, but I started following him on the blogs and the tweeter and the facebooks. I liked his work so much that I wanted to grab something long-form to see the depth of his though. Though this is ultimately an interesting book, it is not as deep as I was hoping. It’s like that because of
...more
Jonathan Musselwhite
Here's the difficulty I had with this book, the story or rather line of reasoning was at times too biased and bloated. In terms of topics, I was often in agreement and, although I thoroughly enjoyed the take-down chapter on Ayn Rand, it felt unnecessary.

While I have grown in my knowledge of conservatism after reading this book, I fear that it is not a fair and balanced growth. Much like modern news agencies, each fact hid a strong bias. For this reason, I couldn't give it higher than 3 stars. I
...more
Nicolas Brannon
Sep 15, 2012 Nicolas Brannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant, indispensable book about the core motivations of conservatism that defines and explains the essential philosophical differences between Left and Right. This is a must-read for anyone on the Left who wishes to understand the Right in depth. This is not a book about scoring political points. It is about understanding in great detail the political cycle of the challenge to hierarchies and inequalities and the reaction, focusing on the reaction, the counter-revolution. Robin's depth of ...more
The American Conservative
'Corey Robin wants to cast down the mighty from their seats of power and exalt the meek and humble. He seems to think that the meek and humble, thus exalted, will conduct themselves with heroic restraint. History offers whole Himalayas of corpses as evidence to the contrary. It is astounding that Robin does not know this. Observing his not knowing it drains the reader of all respect for his intellect and erudition.'

Read the full review, "Wrong About the Right," on our website:
http://www.theameri
...more
Christopher McQuain
Lucid, sobering, impressively learned and, rarest of all, EARNS and rigorously supports every last shred of its counter-intuitiveness (it's not merely contrarian in the manner of op-ed poseurs; there are real stakes Robin takes seriously enough to patiently and forbearingly develop and account for his ideas and arguments, rather than merely declaim or opine). Offers all the pleasurable discomfort of fresh, new, expansive thoughts.
Arpit
Apr 16, 2014 Arpit rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
This is the epitome of how unfairly liberals mis-characterize and misrepresent conservatives' motives and arguments. The Tea Party is the single-most important movement that has arisen in America, but the author is quick to dismiss them as "counter-revolutionaries" bent to deny "freedom to all" and defend their "privilege."

I could go further but the scathing reviews published in The New York Times and The New York Book Reviews do a pretty good job.
Phil
Nov 07, 2011 Phil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating journey into the mind of darkness. The author ties together conservative strains of thought that, on the surface, may appear dissonent, but when you unpack the history and logic, make perfect "sense." If you want to get a better understanding of how the modern American conservative "thinks," this is a must-read book.
James
Dec 31, 2013 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
They about cover everything worth saying here:

http://exiledonline.com/conscience-of...
Gregg
Mar 07, 2017 Gregg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robin's thesis is deceptively simple: conservatism is counterrevolutionary. Conservatives champion the status quo in a pursuit of the ideal of prosperity and stability, but when this peace and prosperity comes about, they wither and die, lacking a bad guy to crystallize their ideology and help them avoid political impotency. I simplify a bit here, but not that much. Robin traces this thinking all the way back to Burke and the French Revolution; Eliot and Modernism; Toqueville and the newly born ...more
Nelson Ramos
O livro The Reactionary Mind (2012) de Corey Robin, foi chamado à minha atenção pelo artigo que apareceu na revista New Yorker e que informava que esta foi a obra que previu o Donald Trump.
Independentemente disso, através da leitura percebi que há uma espécie de figura ideal que os intelectuais conservadores evocam quando querem discutir sobre a essência da sua ideologia.

Esta figura é um quietista sonhador de disposição pacífica, que ama a amizade apolítica, nutre de uma visão cética, e olha pa
...more
Miikka
Mar 08, 2017 Miikka rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
The book takes a look at the conservative ideology, mostly in the context of the US. It defines conservatism as the politics of those who are about to lose power (this is where the term reactionary comes from). It's a provocative, even blunt view, but I found it helpful for understanding how some of the right wing is thinking.
Dante
Feb 28, 2017 Dante rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Corey Robin's book starts off strong with an analysis of early conservative writers like Edmund Burke. He shows how conservatism is a reaction to those below demanding rights and equality, how it is always defending something nearly or already gone and thus always actually attempting the establishment of something new, and how it has embraced violence in one way or another throughout its history.
Throughout the book he shows the more surprising parts of conservative philosophy and ideology, whic
...more
Sean Chick
Oct 27, 2011 Sean Chick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would first like to mention some flaws in the book. Robin says that Hobbes was the first true conservative at one point, but mostly he leans on the old Burke vs. the French Revolution origin thesis. He does not present enough non-English speaking ideas. Considering he discusses violence in the second half, Sorrel and Junger are mostly and strangely absent. The book is mostly a collection of essays, tied together at times loosely. Those in part two are demonstrably weaker. He conflates romantic ...more
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“Saint Petersburg in revolt gave us Vladimir Nabokov, Isaiah Berlin, and Ayn Rand. The first was a novelist, the second a philosopher. The third was neither but thought she was both.” 25 likes
“Every once in a while, however, the subordinates of this world contest their fates. They protest their conditions, write letters and petitions, join movements, and make demands. Their goals may be minimal and discrete — better safety guards on factory machines, an end to marital rape—but in voicing them, they raise the specter of a more fundamental change in power. They cease to be servants or supplicants and become agents, speaking and acting on their own behalf. More than the reforms themselves, it is this assertion of agency by the subject class—the appearance of an insistent and independent voice of demand — that vexes their superiors. Guatemala’s Agrarian Reform of 1952 redistributed a million and a half acres of land to 100,000 peasant families. That was nothing, in the minds of the country’s ruling classes, compared to the riot of political talk the bill seemed to unleash. Progressive reformers, Guatemala’s arch-bishop complained, sent local peasants “gifted with facility with words” to the capital, where they were given opportunities “to speak in public.” That was the great evil of the Agrarian Reform.” 3 likes
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