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Ideas Have Consequences 1st Edition

52 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226876801
ISBN-10: 0226876802
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Editorial Reviews


“A profound diagnosis of the sickness of our culture.”
(Reinhold Niebuhr)

“Brilliantly written, daring, and radical. . . . it will shock, and philosophical shock is the beginning of wisdom.”

(Paul Tillich)

“Richard M. Weaver’s book is important; his explanation of the breakdown of modern man is the best in years.”
(John Crowe Ransom)

“This deeply prophetic book not only launched the renaissance of philosophical conservatism in this country, but in the process gave us an armory of insights into the diseases besetting the national community that is as timely today as when it first appeared. Ideas Have Consequences is one of the few authentic classics in the American political tradition.”
(Robert Nisbet) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Richard M. Weaver (1910–63) was an American scholar, revered twentieth-century conservative, and professor of English and rhetoric at the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books, including The Ethics of Rhetoric and Visions of Order: The Cultural Crisis of Our Time.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (September 15, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226876802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226876801
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #486,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

177 of 183 people found the following review helpful By Big Dave on August 7, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is densely written and merits -- maybe requires -- multiple readings. Fortunately, it's also a compelling book, which will make you want to reread it.
The idea whose consequences Weaver entails and deplores he identifies as nominalism or relativism -- the absence of belief in any source of truth outside man, the absence of universals, the reduction of all things to formless particulars.
You might have thought that such an idea was too abstract to have any impact on your life, but Weaver argues persuasively that nominalism makes impossible the "metaphysical dream" of an organized universe, leading to social chaos, formless art, virtueless individuals suckered by newspapers, movies and radio (today I imagine he would have added television to the list) into believing that life consists only of chasing ever more creature comforts and a universal "spoiled-child psychology".
He also prescribes remedies. The ownership of property, he argues, is the sole surviving "metaphysical right" our culture recognizes, and the starting point for anyone wishing to restore other metaphysical ideas. Because language is so closely tied to thought, Weaver argues for some language-oriented educational remedies (more emphasis on poetry in education, and on foreign languages, especially Latin and Greek). He also argues the case for the dying virtue of piety, which he defines as respect for nature, respect for the substance of others, and respect for the substance of the past.
There's more than a little of the grouchy conservative in Weaver. For instance, he complains bitterly about jazz, "the clearest of all signs of our age's deep-seated predilection for barbarism.
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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 23, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I heard quite a lot about this book so I took my time reading it lest I miss even one pearl of wisdom. The book definitely lives up to its reputation. In a nutshell, Weaver takes on the role of doctor - identifying and prescribing a cure for the ailment that had plagued (and still does) the United States, culminating in the barbaric conclusion of World War II.
Weaver meticulously describes the ailment, including the chief causes of the crisis: (1) Replacement of transcendent sentiments with utilitarianism & pragmatism; (2) Undermining senses of order and hierarchy (from liberalism/collectivism); (3) Loss of focus and an embrace of fragmentary obsessions; (4) Exercise of raw ego and self-indulgence; (5) Dereliction of media responsibility; (6) Emergence of the spoiled-child phenomena.
Despite the rather gloomy prognosis, Weaver does not leave the reader without hope. In the final three chapters, he proposes corrective actions that he believes will get America back on track away from the path of self-destruction: (1) Preserve the sanctity of private property; (2) Use of meaningful language and rhetoric; (3) Embrace notions of piety and true justice.
After the elapse of fifty years, Weaver's estimation of the crisis as well as his proposed corrective actions are as relevant and useful today as when they were first written.
I highly recommend this book to historians of American conservative thought as well as those who wish to be inspired by one of the best authors that conservatism has been blessed to have.
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Lloyd A. Conway on February 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Great Stereopticon is not the latest in digital CD player technology, but the latter is a medium of the former. Prof. Weaver's book, written in the late 1940s, with a Muse of fire, is still current, because the crisis in our civilization continues, and of that he wrote. The 'Great Stereopticon' is the term that Richard Weaver uses to describe the prevading noise generated by our culture, which nearly drowns out the still, small voice of truth, goodness, and virtue. The main point of the book is that ideas, in this case bad ones, can start in motion a train of events, which as they emerge from the world of thought, produce nasty and often unintended consequences. The author traces the decline of the core vision of Western civilization to the progressive divorce of Man and Nature that began with Bacon, and which has continued, as Scientism replaced Science. The momentum of the centuries has given this set of ideas great power and unthought acceptance that is prevasive in our society. The result is the rising tide of barbarism that is engulfing us. Technological progress has done great good, but has not made us better. Without wanting to summarize the author's arguments further, this is one of the seminal works in the Conservative canon, in the Southern Agrarian tradition. The book is not long, and is arranged in stand-alone chapters, which advance Prof. Weaver's argument and form a coherent whole. It is also a quick read, and is done in a superb, flowing style that does the treasurehouse of ideas contained in it justice.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this book as a college freshman, and it was incredibly influential. Numerous times I paused, absorbing his words, shocked at how right he was.
Prof. Weaver's critique of modern culture was as relevant then as it is now. His attack on jazz music might startle the modern reader, but just consider that this music influenced early rock and roll, and while I enjoy a lot of popular music, this has ultimately given us some pretty vile music that can and does influence the way kids think. Think "gangta rap" and the sexually explicit stuff on the radio. Prof. Weaver could hear the appeal to basic urges in the rhythms of jazz music.
This type of conservatism is unfamiliar to modern political junkies. This is not capitalist, semi-libertarian Reagan conservatism. His attacks on finance capitalism, industry, technology, and comfort as the basic goal of life might almost sound like the mantra of IMF protestors and people with socialist leanings. But make no mistake: Weaver extends an olive branch (probably unintentionally) to the other side of conservatism with his focus on private property as the last surviving link to a metaphysical foundation of ethics. He didn't mean this in a materialist sense, but in the sense of being tied to a home, a family, a community.
After reading this, I highly recommend "Steps Toward Restoration: The Consequences of Richard Weaver's Ideas" to get some more perspective on the man, and how some of his ideas changed towards the end of his life. (During the height of the Cold War, his stance on individualism and capitalism softened a bit.)
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