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The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  858 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
"It is inconceivable even to imagine, let alone hope for, a dominant conservative movement in America without Kirk's labor." — William F. Buckley, Jr.

Russell 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 histo
Paperback, 534 pages
Published September 1st 2001 by Regnery Publishing (first published 1953)
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Jeremy Purves
Feb 01, 2015 Jeremy Purves rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, own
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 of.

The 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 traditiona
Aug 18, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it
We are yanking free the anchors, worrying loose the cables, and where once this was effected with radical fervor, it's now a consequence 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 ei ...more
Ben Batchelder
Oct 08, 2013 Ben Batchelder rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jul 11, 2010 Kent rated it it was amazing
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. Hmm.

Although 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 principl
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 more a snowball, moving with rapidity, becoming ever more 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 rev ...more
Aug 30, 2012 Steve rated it it was amazing
According to Kirk, conservatives are skeptical of all big plans to remodel society or reform government based out of some ideology, doctrine, or a priori plan. Conservatives respect a nation's leaders because they are leaders, even if they disagree with them: the honor and authority of the institution is more important than the individual, even as the nation is more important than the party. Conservatives are skeptical of the market, and its socially corrosive tendency to reduce all values to th ...more
James (JD) Dittes
What is a Conservative? Do they exist anymore? Amid the radical right-wing politics of today--torture, contempt for constitutional rights, a hijacking by the gun and energy lobbies--do real conservatives exist anymore?

That's why I checked out _The Conservative Mind_ on audiobook. I knew vaguely about Burke's "Notes on the Revolution in France." A book that promised to trace his influence down to the 1950s seemed irresistible.

For the first 100 years of his study, Kirk relies on familiar writers t
Sean Chick
Kirk has both a thorough knowledge of the subject and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, his language is too often given to hyperbole and he constantly overstates the influence of certain men. Edmund Burke is not the only reason Britain hewed to the conservative path. Indeed, Burke in general is treated with a holy reverence that gets under the skin rather quickly. The anti-democratic impulse that courses through this book is amusing and makes me wonder why so many American conservatives praise this wor ...more
Eric Orchard
May 16, 2015 Eric Orchard rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
An important exploration of conservative thought. Russel touches on the words and ideas of conservatives beginning with Edmund Burke going on to Coleridge and the Romantics and through to some mid century politicians and thinkers. I think it's an important book for people of all political leanings as it clearly lays out the roots of conservatism and explains its distaste of ideology. It also describes a conservatism that may be lost, an intellectual, nuanced and thoughtful brand of conservatism.
Mário Lopes
Aug 08, 2014 Mário Lopes rated it really liked it
A thorough and detailed exposition of the evolution of the conservative thought since the writings of Edmund Burke. It is an interesting reading for all those trying to understand the conservative underpinnings, which Disraeli summarised as the reliance upon Providence, aristocracy and tradition, although Kirk makes a strong argument for the respect of individual liberty and private property as well.

Despite Kirk's tremendous endeavour of delving into such a relevant topic of political philosophy
Jeremiah Lorrig
Apr 10, 2015 Jeremiah Lorrig rated it liked it
"Conservatism is too often conservation of the wrong things: liberalism a relaxation of discipline; revolution a denial of the permanent things.” - T.S. Eliot

This book lives this principle. Kirk is at his best when he is battling "revolution" and appealing to the permanent things. He does very well at advocating a careful discipline that unfolds liberalism at its roots. He does poorly when he allows his conservatism to pin him into conserving the wrong things.

The sections on Burke and Eliot ar
May 07, 2014 Kenneth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
An elegant book of political thought. A true classic of Anglo-American writing. Kirk's best or greatest achievement.

Kirk with others in the early post-war period re-established the thinking man's republicanism solidly on the shoulders of Edmund Burke in Britain as well as Hamilton or Adams in the States.

The entire sweep of Western intellectual history is contextualized in a manner that impressed the readership of the New York Times while earning the highest accolades of the conservative moveme
May 11, 2013 Matt rated it it was amazing
This was a survey of British and American conservative thought and thinkers from Edmund Burke to T.S. Eliot. An enlightening and at times dense book, it was well worth the effort. Helped me identify things I may have felt or presumed in my own thoughts that I might not have articulated very well before. It was also useful for contextualizing where we find ourselves politically in 21st century America. Conservatism, as explained through Kirk, is not an ideology per se, but the presumptions about ...more
Feb 22, 2012 Gregg rated it really liked it
I didn't pick this book out of a hat. Kirk's tome has been praised by figures such as Richard Nixon (according to Ambrose's biography, he read it avidly and used it to shape his own thinking) and William F. Buckley. Just last month, John Kass wrote a column in which he mentioned glancing at his own "dog-eared copy" of it and bemoaning the fact that today's Republicans can't articulate their own conservative principles, thereby guaranteeing Obama another term.

It doesn't take more than ten or twe
Ezra Hood
Jun 21, 2008 Ezra Hood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the classic doorways into American conservatism. With this tome-- which Kirk intended to title "The Conservative Rout"-- the author provided the philosophical starting-gun that signalled the beginning of the modern American conservative movement. With Buckley, Goldwater, and a few others, Kirk revived Burkean conservatism first in America, and then throughout the West.

It's brilliant writing, and better thinking. Kirk analyzes the writing and thought of prominent (and sometimes not
Madhuri Kumar
Jan 19, 2016 Madhuri Kumar rated it it was amazing
Voluminous, but an excellent detail of the history of conservative thought . It's difficult to follow a history of people who are resistant to change, but Kirk's investigations of Burke, Elliot and Newman has great substance. An outstanding thesis and exposition of the basis for western conservative ideals.
It certainly is not persuasive enough to win me over,but provides interesting arguments.
Jacob Stubbs
Jan 19, 2015 Jacob Stubbs rated it really liked it
So, this book was a great articulation of British and American Southern thought. Kirk does an excellent job showing how conservatism is not necessarily what the "conservative" party thinks today (I'm looking at you, libertarians). He articulates a more "republic" centered governmental view with a great respect for the thoughts of Burke, Cicero, Aristotle, etc.

In addition to that, Kirk does an excellent job chronicling the Ante-Bellum Southern contributions to Conservative thought, as well as th
Dec 25, 2010 Devan rated it really liked it
I am by no means a conservative in the Fox News sense. Nor am I a libertarian in the Ron Paul sense. Neither is Russel Kirk. This was one of those books that put into words many of my political beliefs that I was not otherwise able to express. Kirk sets out a conservatism that I would call "realism". He recognizes that revolutionary "isms" - Marxism, anarchism, fundamentalism, feminism, conservatism, neo-conservatism, liberalism, etc. - do not do justice to the reality of the world and try to im ...more
Steven Pietrykowski
Sep 10, 2012 Steven Pietrykowski rated it it was amazing

I just really like the premise of this book and that it's a classic in poli sci world intrigued me even more. It's tricky to follow a history of people who are resistant to change, rarely those who seek to oppose change are as remembered those who seek the change. But the vastness of this book especially the breadth of the profiles makes it an astounding read. I have a few quibbles with the discussion of what a conservative is. And there is a desperate need to devote a few chapters to economist
Chris J
Nov 28, 2011 Chris J rated it really liked it
This is a tome - 500+ pages of conservative history. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who had a sincere interest in conservative thought. Certainly, it's not for the uncommitted reader. It's a labor, but I found it to be a labor of love. Aww, isn't that nice? I espeically enjoyed the sections on Tocqueville and John Henry Newman, as I did gaining a greater understanding of the conservative reaction towards Positivism, Materialism, etc. I was force fed this theory in gr ...more
Devin Partlow
Upon first read I think this is a great theory but application would very difficult. I agree that all men aren't created equal and there are some ppl who would be better leaders than others, but who has the authority to make those choices and who has the authority to give the authority to the ppl who make those choices and so on...
Gerhard Konig
Nov 17, 2013 Gerhard Konig rated it it was amazing
520 pages. When I finished I immediately began to re-read it. Am presently 200 pages in. Interested me in Burke, Adams, Jefferson, Randolph, Babbitt, Lecky, Paul Elmer More, Hawthorne, Mill, Bentham, Macaulay...What exactly is democracy and what is meant by equality. Kirk cites 340 books in the bibliography, 58 of which have multiple volumes. I constantly marvel at the intellect required to organize vast amounts of information. Pub. in 1953, when Kirk was 35. I am impressed and motivated to furt ...more
Adam Carman
Feb 20, 2014 Adam Carman rated it it was amazing
An excellent overview of conservative thought. In an age when most associate conservatism with the selfish libertarianism of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, Kirk reminds us that true conservatives seek to protect the "permanent things", the traditions of society, and to recognize that the wisdom of humanity is in the aggregate, not the individual. Kirk's unwillingness to confront the issue of slavery weakens him a bit when he includes John Randolph and John Calhoun because of their support for local aut ...more
Nick Gibson
Aug 06, 2016 Nick Gibson rated it really liked it
Kirk's writing style in intentionally archaic and dense, but there is plenty here that is worth the effort of digging in. Should be paired with The Portable Conservative Reader, edited by Kirk.
Jan 07, 2016 Eric rated it really liked it
Essays on the development of conservative thought over last 3-400 years. My recollection is that I was impressed enough to keep the book, and I probably ought to read it again.
Interesting in its day, but that has long passed. Conservative thought is fascinating, but there are many good, contemporary works on this now available.

Worth a look but not deep thought.
Andrew Votipka
Jan 12, 2016 Andrew Votipka rated it really liked it
I find everything Russell Kirk writes to be boring. He is an important thinker (or so other conservatives tell me), but I just can't even...
Sep 24, 2012 Cris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
Truly enjoying this book. The short chapters on individual political thinkers are manageable, and then eventually able to be leveraged into a cohesive picture of what conservatives think. Reading the chapter on John Adams and am quite struck by the obvious statement he made that conservatives do not seek to improve man like progressives do, but to meet him where he is. This thought for Adams, a very pious man, is centered in the fall of man. The belief that man has certain ignoble tendencies tha ...more
Antonio Velazquez
Jan 19, 2015 Antonio Velazquez rated it liked it
Great book, but for heavy readers. Intellectually high.
Luke Adams
Aug 12, 2016 Luke Adams rated it really liked it
Excellent intellectual history.
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For more than forty years, Russell Kirk was in the thick of the intellectual controversies of his time. He is the author of some thirty-two books, hundreds of periodical essays, and many short stories. Both Time and Newsweek have described him as one of America’s leading thinkers, and The New York Times acknowledged the scale of his influence when in 1998 it wrote that Kirk’s 1953 book The Conserv ...more
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“Rousseau and his disciples were resolved to force men to be free; in most of the world, they triumphed; men are set free from family, church, town, class, guild; yet they wear, instead, the chains of the state, and they expire of ennui or stifling lone lines.” 12 likes
“The twentieth-century conservative is concerned, first of all, for the regeneration of the spirit and character – with the perennial problem of the inner order of the soul, the restoration of the ethical understanding, and the religious sanction upon which any life worth living is founded. This is conservatism at its highest.” 11 likes
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