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“Cultural instructions.” Everyone who has handled a package of seedlings has encountered that enigmatic advisory. This much water and that much sun, certain tips about fertilizer, soil, and drainage. Planting one sort of flower nearby keeps the bugs away but proximity to another sort makes bad things happen. Young shoots might need stakes, and watch out for beetles, weeds, and unseasonable frosts. It’s a complicated business.
But at least since Cicero introduced the term cultura animi (“cultivation of the mind or spirit”), such “cultural instructions” have applied as much to the realm of civilization as to horticulture. In this wide-ranging investigation into the vicissitudes of culture in the twenty-first century, the distinguished critic Roger Kimball traces the deep filiations between cultivation as a spiritual enterprise and the prerequisites of political freedom. Drawing on figures as various as James Burnham, Richard Weaver, G. K. Chesterton, Rudyard Kipling, John Buchan, Friedrich von Hayek, and Leszek Kolakowski, Kimball traces the interconnections between what he calls the fortunes of permanence and such ambassadors of anarchy as relativism, multiculturalism, and the socialist-utopian imperative.
With his signature blend of wit and erudition, Kimball deftly draws on the resources of art, literature, and political philosophy to illuminate some of the wrong turns and dead ends our culture has recently pursued, while also outlining some of the simple if overlooked alternatives to the various tyrannies masquerading as liberation we have again and again fallen prey to. This rich, rewarding, and intelligent volume bristles with insights into what the nineteenth-century novelist Anthony Trollope called “The Way We Live Now.”
Partly an exercise in cultural pathology, The Fortunes of Permanence is also a forward-looking effort of cultural recuperation. It promises to be essential reading for anyone concerned about the direction of Western culture in an age of anti-Western animus and destructive multicultural fantasy.
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Racist bigots would love this. Got this book in hopes of learning something architectural (for free, thank god. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Christopher
Although I enjoyed the book, I found the relentless quoting of other authors well, relentless. The book felt like the author was constructing a world view by stringing together... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Gerry Curry
Easily my favorite read of the year. The Fortunes of Permanence is an amalgam of art, culture, and philosophical discourse. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Christopher Ott
Best book I've read in years. It pulls together so many aspects of my life's reading and knowledge and is beautifully written.Published 10 months ago by Charlotte Cranberg
Here we have another of the unaccomplished essayists preferred by the National Review.
A great deal of time is spent diagnosing problems and issues, in this case the... Read more
I came for cultivation and found foaming at the mouth. (Quiet in back!) '[W]e resist the idea that we might be in need of tutelage', we're told on page 136. Read morePublished on July 25, 2013 by Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso'
I gave this book five stars because, in reflecting on all of the books I've read, none comes to mind presently as more thought provoking. Read morePublished on May 25, 2013 by S. Charles Wickersham
Yet unlike some other really important books in the Western canon, it's a genuine joy to read. Witty, hard-hitting, fearless, unashamedly intelligent without being... Read morePublished on January 29, 2013 by Andrew Roberts
An outstanding series of essays that deserve to be read by everyone. This is Roger Kimball's best book although they are all worth reading.Published on January 21, 2013 by S. J.