The Reactionary Mind

The Reactionary Mind

Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin

Book - 2011
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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 beganRobin's decade-long foray into the conservative mind. What is conservatism, and what's truly at stake for its proponents? If capitalism bores them, what excites them?Tracing conservatism back to its roots in the reaction against the French Revolution, Robin argues that the right is fundamentally inspired by a hostility to emancipating the lower orders. Some conservatives endorse the free market, others oppose it. Some criticize the state, others celebrate it.Underlying these differences is the impulse to defend power and privilege against movements demanding freedom and equality. Despite their opposition to these movements, conservatives favor a dynamic conception of politics and society--one that involves self-transformation, violence, and war. They are also highly adaptive to new challenges and circumstances. This partiality to violence and capacity for reinvention hasbeen critical to their success.Written by a keen, highly regarded observer of the contemporary political scene, The Reactionary Mind ranges widely, from Edmund Burke to Antonin Scalia, from John C. Calhoun to Ayn Rand. It advances the notion that all rightwing ideologies, from the eighteenth century through today, are historicalimprovisations on a theme: the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.
Publisher: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, c2011.
ISBN: 9780199793747
Branch Call Number: 320.52 ROBIN
Characteristics: xiii, 290 p.

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DebAK Mar 29, 2016

I can't imagine a brilliant man like Buckley saying something so inane. Robin doesn't have the intellect to emulate someone brilliant.

t
TcclUser
Mar 20, 2016

Wow...this guy is nowhere near liberal as some of the commenters say... he reeks of conservative disdain in almost every aspect.It's amazing how far right-wing you have to be to even be considered right-wing anymore...and if Corey Robin isn't the detached,needlessly verbose, right wing apologetic, liberal bashing type...then i don't know who is. If he's not good enough to please his own right wing abyss worshiping crowd then he's certainly not going to please anyone progressive or liberal.

r
rphurley
Sep 27, 2014

Robin's book is far more subtle than these comments describe. He explores the conservative mind for its important contradictions. Burkes ideas about beauty and sublimity form a perceptive foundation for a fine incisive exposition.

l
lukasevansherman
Sep 22, 2014

I really don't think it's helpful for either side to call each other "extremists." It doesn't look good for anybody. Political science professor Corey Robin may be biased (everyone is), but I think he is genuinely trying to understand conservative thought and to place it in its proper historical context. I'm sure most readers, whatever their political convictions are, will have a strong reaction, but isn't that what good books do? Broken up into 11 loosely linked chapters, Robin uses the French Revolution and the writings of Edmund Burke as his starting point and then touches on both conservative icons (Hobbes, Rand, Thatcher) and polarizing issues like war, taxes, and minority rights. His dismantling of Ayn Rand as both a writer and a thinker is particularly good. An important book for readers of any party. Also check out Thomas Frank's books and Jill Lepore's book on the Tea Party.

p
PeterDNewton
Aug 12, 2014

I see we have a couple of right-wing extremists among the commenters below. EJSawyer, been following what is happening in the U S of A lately? Noticed the Republican efforts to remove the vote from those likely to oppose them? Now tell me how "left-wing statists" are addicted to power. And machiavelli, why should we take your word for anything? Your bias is evident.

k
KeithW01
Aug 11, 2014

A disappointing book. Some good ideas, but not well developed.

e
EJSawyer
Jul 14, 2014

This "analysis" is laughable. His core premise, that conservatives oppose individual liberty and only covet gaining and holding political power, is far better applied to left-wing statists. This is liberal propaganda, pure and simple.

FollowTheMoney1 May 03, 2012

This book is a fascinating exposition of the conservative ideations that have dominated the political discourse of post World War II America from its beginnings in post French Revolution.

m
machiavelli
Mar 23, 2012

Reading what this left-wing extremist writes would be an insult to your intelligence.

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