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The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia Hardcover – June 30, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Book Description

“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.

From the Back Cover

In essays ranging over time, place, and subject, Roger Kimball has produced gems of literary and social commentaries, which constitute an incisive critique of the relativism that afflicts our culture. His book is in the worthy tradition recalled in the subtitle, Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy. – Gertrude Himmelfarb
 
Roger Kimball is without doubt one of the best cultural observers of our day.  The scope of his knowledge and the depth of his insight are alike breathtaking.  To read him is to step away from the noise of post-modern bedlam into a place of enduring sense and wisdom. – Andrew Klavan, author of Empires of Lies
 
Posing as merely a collection of witty and penetrating essays, this book in fact contains the secret to nothing less than the regeneration of America, indeed of the English-speaking culture as a whole. With this work, Roger Kimball can no longer simply be thought of as an insightful and compelling commentator of the social, political and cultural scene, but must now be regarded as an important modern prophet, a philosopher for the future. – Andrew Roberts
 
Roger Kimball is eloquence personified, and he has written a timely, elegant, and bold defense of the immutable first principles and standards of excellence that animate and define the West. – Tim Goeglein, Vice President for External Relations, Focus on the Family
 
Roger Kimball’s essays . . . are as wise as they are elegantly written. – Martin Gardner
 
Roger Kimball is a trenchant and courageous critic of contemporary culture, although his positive values and his historical grasp make him far more than a mere polemicist. – John Gross
 
Roger Kimball’s mind is uniquely qualified to deal with literary and philosophical matters alike, able to see things from both a critical and a scholarly point of view. His position is conservative but not reactionary, humanistic but not populist, fresh but never trendy.” – John Simon
 
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: St. Augustines Press; 1 edition (June 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587312565
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587312564
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #828,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One may be forgiven for forgetting, in this age of texts and tweets, that there are men of great intellect who not only see what is not obvious but ask "Why must it be so?" When most observers may frown at the collapse of western culture and ponder only as far as wagering with our friends how much time we have left before we are sending smoke signals from teepees, Roger Kimball finds the broken threads of our past, shows how western culture is dying like an ice cube held in the hand, and suggests how to recognize the tiny philosophical fireflies that, if we had been paying attention, we could have whacked like a mole in the womb. Kimball shows that relativism has replaced objectivity, history, and values. Western culture no longer possesses common values and therefore we lose the virtues we once used to achieve those values. Kimball traces the "isms" of the last three centuries (marxism, communism, fascism, socialism, progressivism) which seem to change their names each time the scam is up. Kimball shows that Progressives are progressive only in the same sense as cancer. Finding the footprints of these "Friends of Humanity" in art, architecture, philosophy, politics and literature (there is even a defense of Kipling, yes that Kipling), Kimball warns that we need to pay attention, not to the Marxes and Lenins (although that is important) but to their unrecognized predecessors as Malthus was for Darwin and Baebuf for Marx. Once there is a Stalin, it is too late. There would not have been a Robespierre without a Rousseau. After a 100 million deaths in the 20th century from all the types of socialism, Kimball's wit is infectious as he reports Muravchik's definition of Socialism's motto, "If you build it, they will leave". As Kimball adds, "If they let you.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Length: 4:56 Mins
Roger Kimball is one of the greatest writers I've ever read. The Fortunes of Permanence is a collection of essays that address a variety of political topics along with art. The strongest are the last six or so which reveal the dysfunction that is socialism.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I am only through Part I of this book, I have to agree with Andrew Klavan that "Roger Kimball is without doubt one of the best cultural observers of our day. The scope of his knowledge and the depth of his insight are alike breathtaking. To read him is to step away from the noise of post-modern bedlam into a place of enduring sense and wisdom."

Wisdom. Who has it these days? The guy in the White House? Don't make me laugh.

How can we arrive at wisdom? First, realize that "information" is just that -- a bit of truth that comes into your head. "Professor Moriarty was born in 1834."

From there, you (hopefully) progress to knowledge, which requires you to integrate all those bits of information into some sort of whole.

Wisdom, at least in part, comes from testing your knowledge against your actual experience of reality, and from trying to understand human nature.

You may suspect that I have gone off-track, but these are major themes in this extremely important book.

For example, wisdom may be here. Thomas Jefferson, then President, was walking to church one Sunday and met an old friend.

(from memory)

Friend: What, Mr. Jefferson? Going to church? When you don't believe any of it?!

Jefferson: There has never been any country which had a government without religion. Such a thing is not possible. Since Christianity is the best religion known to mankind, I support it. The Chief Magistrate must set a good example, after all. Good day, sir.

I hope this gives you a good idea of the enormous attack on the lefties opened by this book. After all, it is one thing to be the Village Idiot (a la Dawkins), and it is another thing entirely to wonder what happens to a culture when it abandons its religion. Without shared stories, legends and myths, the culture collapses.
3 Comments 39 of 51 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By JLD on September 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Recently completed The Fortunes of Permanence. A thoroughly enjoyable, stimulating and worrying picture of the state of Anglo-American civilization highlighting the contributions a number of fascinating if (to me at least) somewhat obscure thinkers and 'Men of Letters' of the last two centuries. Very readable and Kimball's signature wit comes through strongly throughout. Always a good sign when a book makes you want to read about 20 others.
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Format: Hardcover
In our age of utter confusion about the purpose and ultimate value of Western Civilization, we are fortunate indeed to have a spokesman and guardian like Roger Kimball. He takes the whole of our history in stride and distills the essential points that everyone should grasp. In this great book, Periclean Athens is seen to be completely relevant to our times and dilemmas, and the great sweep of Western thought since then follows naturally and coherently. I hope this book is read, and more importantly understood, by our leaders, whether in politics, academia or the arts.
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Format: Kindle Edition
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. When I say "books I've read" it's important to note that I can't even recall most of the books I've read. There are a few that I have re-read and a couple more than once. Iwll definitly re-read this one. I read this book because it was recommended by Jay Nordlinger, whose judgement I respect, and I am greatful to him. The brief biographical sketches are engrossing and they play an important roll in furthering the theme of the book. At times the book drags, which is true of most books. It is not, as asserted in one review I read, just a collection of essays, but follows a theme and builds to conclusion. I highly recommend this book.
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