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The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,039 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews

The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk is arguably 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 by Russell Kirk launched the modern American Conservative Movement.

A must-read.

Hardcover, 40th Anniversary Edition, 535 pages
Published September 1st 1995 by Regnery Pub (first published 1953)
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J.A.A. Purves
Sep 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Simon Stegall
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 more. Kirk's encyclopedic knowledge of his topic is incredible.

The Conservative Mind is a chronicle of the great conservative thinkers of history, starting with Edmund Burke and Joh
Stephen Hicks
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 colloquial conservatism touted by many politicians today. In fact, few people out there in the public square wave the banner of Burke & Kirk.

The profundity of this book, and its subjec
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
Ben Batchelder
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jeff Miller
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 eventually.

This 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 g
Adam Carman
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Joseph Stieb
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 ...more
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Conservative Mind is something between and synopsis and a Bible of (what the author deems) "conservative" thought and thinkers for the past 2.5 centuries. Beginning with the French Revolution and Edmund Burke's corresponding political and philosophical reaction, the author traces how in both America and the U.K. there have consistently been statesmen, philosophers, writers and academics who have opposed the desire for radical change, blind leveling, secularism and irreverence towards the pas ...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
Chris J
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ryan Watkins
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, read-again
This book is an extended essay on what conservatism, in the line of Edmund Burke, is. Kirk also traces the various proponents of Burkean conservatism from Edmund Burke to T.S. Eliot as well as mentioning others with thinking similar to, but slightly outside of, the Burkean tradition. For those new to reading Kirk it is probably better to start with his smaller works. When I read this I had very little knowledge of Kirk, Burke, or any of the people he speaks of and found it difficult to follow. M ...more
Eric Orchard
Jan 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Douglas Wilson
May 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind is a book that displays impressive learning, deep feeling, and splendid literary style. It was first published in 1953, and played a crucial role in establishing the post WWII conservative intellectual movement in America. Of course, the thought currents that comprised the nascent conservative movement were varied; Kirk’s outlook was never more than a shining example of one particular intellectual strand-traditionalism-that went into the mix, and which someti ...more
Suprisingly uninformative, erratic, primarily rethorical instead of philosophical.
Some may like it more and I think the most interesting thing about it (aside pieces on Newman and Tocqueville) is to look at this as a history of falilures of conservatism in both theory and practice, as it was, just like this book, mainly rethorical, rejecting any who examine it (and not necessarily the conclusions, but the path by which they are reached).
While they often championed Plato and Aristotle, all prote
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is perhaps the only essential book for conservative thinkers to read. The scope of what Kirk has done here is astounding, frankly, and he did more to turn Conservationism from a hodgepodge of unrelated theories to a intellectually coherent way of looking at the world, solidly based on some of the great thinkers of the past. Kirk is astoundingly well-read. Just off-the-cuff, he gives those of us that are mere mortals a reading list to last over a lifetime.

I'd recommend this to anyone that's
And outstanding survey of Conservative thought.
May 20, 2012 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
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
John Minster
Kirk elucidates a very specific type of conservatism, that which flows from the thought of Edmond Burke. He's certainly right in its presence, though he does not convince me that it is the "only" type of conservatism. For example, his dismissal of Locke, the concept of equality, and emphasizing the necessity of aristocracy are a few bones I have to pick, though for the specific "type" he is articulating, he may be right. But on an argumentative level, I don't find them persuasive.

Given the current political climate, I wanted to learn more about how someone could become a conservative and embody the values of the movement. I have many books in the queue to read regarding the conservative mindset and the initial book I have read is The Conservative Mind by Dr. Russell Kirk. His book offers a comprehensive view of how the conservative ideal was born and cultivated. The humble beginnings are from Edmund Burke and his views on the French Revolution. He believed that people ne ...more
Don Bryant
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading Kirk, conservatism will never be an amorphous conglomeration of incoherent impressions but something definite, with lines and boundaries that bring light, definition and give the conservative the outlines of the necessary debate. Kirk writes as a man of letters and not a political scientist, demonstrating that a true conservatism rises out of the soul and nit a construct of mental gymnastics. This book was first published in 1953, which means that I should have been assigned this i ...more
Jeremiah Lorrig
"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
Purple Wimple
Jun 21, 2008 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
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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.” 14 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.” 12 likes
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