An Introduction to Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind

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Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind is arguably the most influential work concerning modern conservatism published in the 20th century. Kirk originally published this work in 1953 as a 458 page book, as his doctoral dissertation for The University of St. Andrew's in Scotland, from which he received a Doctor of Letters; the only American to do so from that University. In it, he outlined six canons of conservative thought which he deemed central to conservative belief. He edited it and produced a summary version in 1985, and continued expansion in 1993, adding four more conservative canons. Kirk begins his book by presenting six main canons, or rules by which conservatism is governed. These, he believes, are the building blocks on which all conservative thought and policy should be founded. They are as follows: 1. A Belief in a transcendent order or body (ie God): In conservatism there is no place for moral relativism. The purpose of politics is to apply true justice to a “community of souls.” there must be truth and false, right and wrong. An unchanging standard is necessary. 2. Affection for the variety and mystery of human existence; we must not force sameness upon humanity, and avoid “narrowing uniformity and equalitarianism.” (8) 3. Society needs rule of law and the middle class: there can be no classless society. There are natural distinctions among men, i.e. inequalities of condition. There can only be equality before God and the courts, anything else is “Servitude and Boredom.” 4. Freedom and Private Property are intrinsically linked; without private property, the “state is unstoppable.” Redistribution of wealth is not economic progress; “Separate property from private possession, and liberty is erased.” (8) 5. The Prin... ... middle of paper ... ...e to continue to satisfy the role government must play in the United States of America. Works Cited Review: The Conservative Mind The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Santayana by Russell Kirk; Contemporary British Conservatism: Its Nature and Content by Luigi Savastano Review by: M. A. Fitzsimons; The Review of Politics Vol. 16, No. 2 (Apr., 1954) , pp. 241-244. Published by: Cambridge University Press for the University of Notre Dame du lac on behalf of Review of Politics. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1404915 Frum, David. "The Legacy of Russell Kirk." New Criterion 13.4 (Dec. 1994): 10-16. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 119. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center. Web. 7 May 2014. McDonald, W. Wesley. Introduction. Russell Kirk and the Age of Ideology. Columbia, MO: U of Missouri, 2004. 1-13. Print.

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