The Essential Russell Kirk

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    An inspiring man of letters whose description of conservatism (not definition) is refreshing and wise. Non-ideological conservatism is what he values and so do I. Kirk was also a fine writer of occult and fantasy fiction, one of his stories was adapted for the Twilight Zone.

    If you want to have your mind enriched by the Old Sage of Mecosta, read this survey of his writings!

    The Essential Russell Kirk - ISI Books

    Excerpt From: George A. Panichas' Preface to The Essential Russell Kirk.
     
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    'Kirk’s calling [is] as a modern man of letters who discharges his function as “a guardian of old truths and old rights,” and who strains to push things up to their first principles.

    For more than forty years and in more than thirty books, and in countless articles, Kirk fought on the front line in the war of ideas. The nine major categories and the selected essays contained in this book present a map of the terrain on which Kirk fought. They identify the particular locales of the battles in which he was engaged, and they also encompass the strategies and tactics of the general warfare which demanded from him the utmost effort, tenacity, courage, belief.

    "The Idea of Conservatism”; “Our Sacred Patrimony”; “Principles of Order”; “The Moral Imagination”; “Places and People”; “The Drug of Ideology”; “Decadence and Renewal in Education”; “The American Republic”; “Conservators of Civilization”: these are the respective titles of the nine categories around which The Essential Russell Kirk is organized and developed.'


    Excerpt From: George A. Panichas' Preface to The Essential Russell Kirk.
     
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    Strictly speaking, conservatism is not a political system, and certainly not an ideology. In the phrase of H. Stuart Hughes, “Conservatism is the negation of ideology.” Instead, conservatism is a way of looking at the civil social order. Although certain general principles held by most conservatives may be described, there exists wide variety in application of these ideas from age to age and country to country. Thus conservative views and parties have existed under monarchical, aristocratic, despotic, and democratic regimes, and in a considerable range of economic systems.

    Excerpt From: The Essential Russell Kirk pp. 6-7
     
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    Excerpt from Kirk's "Civilization" article, as linked above.

    ********************************
    The final paragraph of Malcolm Muggeridge's essay 'The Great Liberal Death Wish" must suffice, the limits of my time with you considered, as a summing-up of the human predicament at the end of the twentieth century.

    "As the astronauts soar into the vast eternities of space," Muggeridge writes, "on earth the garbage piles higher, as the groves of academe extend their domain, their alumni's arms reach lower, as the phallic cult spreads, so does impotence. In great wealth, great poverty; in health, sickness, in numbers, deception. Gorging, left hungry; sedated, left restless; telling all, hiding all; in flesh united, forever separate. So we press on through the valley of abundance that leads to the wasteland of satiety, passing through the gardens of fantasy; seeking happiness ever more ardently, and finding despair ever more surely."

    Just so. Such recent American ethical writers as Stanley Hauwerwas and Alasdair MacIntyre concur in Muggeridge's verdict on the society of our time, concluding that nothing can be done, except for a remnant to gather in little "communities of character" while society slides toward its ruin. Over the past half-century, many other voices of reflective men and women have been heard to the same effect. Yet let us explore the question of whether a reinvigoration of our culture is conceivable.
    *************

    The upshot says Kirk, is yes, "reinvigoration of our culture is conceivable", just not very likely. I agree, but hope to be wrong.
     
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    - Russell Kirk
     
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    This small Kirk classic from 1957 has been reissued as Concise Guide to Conservatism. It is a real jewel!

    "Conservatives distrust what Burke called “abstractions”— that is, absolute political dogmas divorced from practical experience and particular circumstances. They do believe, nevertheless, in the existence of certain abiding truths which govern the conduct of human society. Perhaps the [ten] chief principles which have characterized American conservative thought are these:

    1. Men and nations are governed by moral laws; and those laws have their origin in a wisdom
    that is more than human—in divine justice. At heart, political problems are moral and
    religious problems. The wise statesman tries to apprehend the moral law and govern his
    conduct accordingly. We have a moral debt to our ancestors, who bestowed upon us our
    civilization, and a moral obligation to the generations who will come after us. This debt is
    ordained of God. We have no right, therefore, to tamper impudently with human nature or
    with the delicate fabric of our civil social order."

    [From page 2.]
     
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    The next three:

    "2. Variety and diversity are the characteristics of a high civilization. Uniformity and absolute
    equality are the death of all real vigor and freedom in existence. Conservatives resist with
    impartial strength the uniformity of a tyrant or an oligarchy, and the uniformity of what
    Tocqueville called 'democratic despotism.'

    3. Justice means that every man and every woman have the right to what is their own—to the
    things best suited to their own nature, to the rewards of their ability and integrity, to their
    property and their personality. Civilized society requires that all men and women have equal
    rights before the law, but that equality should not extend to equality of condition: that is,
    society is a great partnership, in which all have equal rights—but not to equal things. The
    just society requires sound leadership, different rewards for different abilities, and a sense of
    respect and duty.

    4. Property and freedom are inseparably connected; economic leveling is not economic
    progress. Conservatives value property for its own sake, of course; but they value it even
    more because without it all men and women are at the mercy of an omnipotent government."
     

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