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Roots Of American Order [Paperback]

by Russell Kirk, Forrest McDonald
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1, 2003 1882926994 978-1882926992 4th
What holds America together? In this classic work, Russell Kirk describes the beliefs and institutions that have nurtured the American soul and commonwealth. Beginning with the Hebrew prophets, Kirk examines in dramatic fashion the sources of American order. His analytical narrative might be called "a tale of five cities": Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and Philadelphia. For an understanding of the significance of America at the dawn of a new century, Russell Kirk's masterpiece on the history of American civilization is unsurpassable. This edition includes a new foreword by the distinguished historian Forrest McDonald.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Roots Of American Order + The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rambling scholarship that affirms faith in American ideals and institutions.

Copyright 1992 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Kirk's book is exactly what people need to read...[he's] made it easy, even pleasurable, for them to do so." -- Esquire

"The Roots of American Order is destined to be accorded a distinctive status…." -- Wall Street Journal

"[A]nyone who wishes to reflect and talk on the topic 'America'...will do himself a favor [to read] Kirk's book." -- Christianity Today

"[T]his is a most impressive affirmation of faith in American ideals and institutions." -- Publishers Weekly --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 534 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 4th edition (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1882926994
  • ISBN-13: 978-1882926992
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The American Cause February 23, 2005
Russell Kirk was perhaps the most distinguished American conservative writer of the twentieth century. His life's pursuit was the question of order: how can society maintain the balance between freedom and license, community and individual. In later works, Kirk turned to the question of how modern society can retain an allegiance to the permanent things in the face of decay.

THE ROOTS OF AMERICAN ORDER is a massive study that is in many respects the culmination of Kirk's life's work. Tracing the concept of order from ancient times to nineteenth century America, Kirk highlights those thinkers and ages have provided the United States with her institutions. Starting with the ancient Israelites and ending with Orestes Brownson (the American Burke who, like Kirk, was a convert to Catholicism) Kirk distills the influence of each on American life. In a sense there are four cities that influenced America: Jerusalem, Athens, Rome and London.

Kirk even claims some for the American cause that you might not suspect have a role in a conservative history of culture. Kirk rescues Hume from the caricature of the great skeptic. Instead, Hume is the moderate skeptic who demolished the rationalist pretenses of the philosophes. Kirk argues that the founders (including Jefferson) were fundamentally conservative; practical men seeking to preserve the heritage of English culture and institutions rather than create a system of government from scratch like the French revolutionaries.

This book isn't perfect. I have it on good authority that Kirk was in error in describing the levelers of Cromwell's time as egalitarians. There are some organizational problems as well, such as the section on the Crusades.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why is this book out of print? December 27, 1998
By A Customer
My first Kirk book, "The Roots of American Order" stands as one of the most influential books I have read, and turned me into an instant fan of his writings. In an age when citizens are searching what it is to be an American, this book describes its vast and rich history and offers remedies for the future. Its scope stretches the history of the western hemisphere but its readability is surprisingly lucid. If anyone has a chance to grab this rare document I highly recommend securing it and treasuring its infinite wisdom. This is a book I wish all I know could have a copy.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the finest books on History ever written. Really! December 21, 1998
During my tenure in college (1990-94) as a history/political science major, no other book had as profound an effect on my intellectual development than Russell Kirk's The Roots of American Order. This, not the Conservative Mind, is his finest hour (alas, he died a few years back). It is an easy read but one that you will return to time and again as a reference work; it will also stimulate your interest in the works and authors discussed therein. While many liberal scholars will scoff at Kirk's wide-eyed prose and tendency towards ignoring any contradictory evidence (two of his ocasional flaws as a writer), if you are a conservative or libertarian, your intellectual mouth will water.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
For its genre, it's very difficult to beat Kirk's masterful historical survey of the spiritual, intellectual, and cultural sources of American order. Spanning from the ancient Judaic roots of Western religion, through the patrimony of the artful Greeks and law-giving Romans, through the "Light of the Middle Ages" and the sources of English Constitutional Law, right up to the Founding of American Constitutionalism, Kirk's erudition is scholarly while being easy to understand. Almost like a novel at times though never trite or careless, this is an excellent summary of the high points of Western Civilization. Kirk gives the impression that he has forgotten more than most of us will ever know. This is a perfect book for home-schoolers, American history teachers, or the average layman who wishes simply to make sense of the daunting rise and fall of civilizations that has led to the founding of the United States of America.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic! December 2, 1999
Kirk's Roots is a tour de force of the Western tradition. It is simply one of the finest surveys of the classical, religious, and European influences on American political thought ever composed. An erudite jem of prose for both general readers and scholars.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To Reconcile Liberty with Law June 7, 2009
Many people in the West tend to take it for granted that some sort of order is at work in the world. So observes Russell Kirk, noting that "they assume, however vaguely, that certain principles of justice exist, and that life has purpose of some sort." In 1974 he penned "The Roots of American Order" to remind us that despite the seeming cacophony of modern times, there exists an order which has traditionally anchored the nation and given it stability. His work is timely, as rising disorder suggests that our culture, in its haste to adapt to a changing world, is hacking unwittingly at these very roots.

Kirk traces out the development of order which gradually matured through the successes and failures of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and London respectively. When America came on the scene, because of this heritage she could set for herself a noble, unprecedented goal. Kirk cites nineteenth-century American thinker Orestes Brownson, who wrote that every nation has an task given it by Providence to realize; for the American Republic that destiny was to reconcile liberty with law.

A recurring theme in Kirk's historical overview is the role religion has played in the development of order. He observes that "in the twentieth century, many people do not find it easy to understand how all aspects of a culture grow out of the cult - out of common religious convictions. Yet the Hebrew and Greek and Roman civilizations all had arisen from the soil of religion; and when the power of the cult had declined, those cultures had begun to decay." This is because religion that fails to provide an overarching metanarrative does not produce a culture that will truly bind a people together and give it coherence.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is awesome for those who care about history and why it is...
Mr. Kirk has a great work here that puts history into perspective. He has written this work for those like me who want the meat and potatoes without all the frills.
Published 6 months ago by the grama
5.0 out of 5 stars There must be order
Russell Kirk stands out as the premiere authority on how God and natures God incorporated order and design in to the universe. Read more
Published 10 months ago by jaco7
5.0 out of 5 stars AMERICA'S TRUE ROOTS
So, many Americans simply think that a herd of great men just decided to go to Philadelphia in 1787, and invented all the great and good ideas which became the U. S. Constitution? Read more
Published 12 months ago by THOMAS JENSEN
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of Five Cities -best one book history Us
An exceptionally well written history of the ideas that shaped our American order. As Russell Kirk summarizes it is a story of five cities. Read more
Published on April 16, 2012 by Steve the Sage
4.0 out of 5 stars How did America achieve her Greatness!
Russell Kirk explains how 4 major cities played a major role in the founding of America. Russell takes the reader to Jerusalem for America's moral frame work; to Athens for her... Read more
Published on January 5, 2012 by Renee Diemel
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing!
Outstanding book about the origins of the civil society. A must read and classic for anybody interested in how our contemporary society, our system of government,how the various... Read more
Published on August 22, 2011 by Bryn C. Dunham
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant History of American Governance
Words can't express the depth and wisdom that is poured into this brilliant volume that encompasses the history of not one, but 4 civilizations who impacted American governance and... Read more
Published on March 12, 2010 by Eric A. Brasure
5.0 out of 5 stars best history book of all time?
This is quite possibly the best history book of all time. As a ph.d. in history myself, I've read thousands. A handful have actually made me sit up and take note. Read more
Published on October 22, 2008 by upchurch of mississippi
4.0 out of 5 stars "The Permanent Things": An Introduction
This is possibly the best educated person's introduction to the liberal arts and what it means to be conservative in the United States. Read more
Published on April 12, 2008 by Matt Metevelis
5.0 out of 5 stars How do we think about politics?
Kirk is a powerful thinker, and his work deserves close reading. The rediscovery of conservative political philosophy owes much to him. But what is unique about this book? Read more
Published on December 10, 2007 by Ben Bartlett
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