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Conservatism: Dream and Reality (Library of Conservative Thought) New edition Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0765808622
ISBN-10: 0765808625
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Robert A. Nisbet (1913-1996) was Albert Schweitzer Professor Emeritus of the Humanities at Columbia University. Some of his books include The Sociological Tradition, History of the Idea of Progress, and Metaphor and History.



Brad L. Stone is a professor in, and Director of, American Studies in the Department of Sociology at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Product Details

  • Series: Library of Conservative Thought
  • Paperback: 130 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers; New edition edition (October 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765808625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765808622
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #681,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
In this slim volume - not much more than 100 pages long - Robert Nisbet provides perhaps the best discussion of what the conservative "ideology" is all about. (I have never really understood the Kirkian "conservatism isn't an ideology" argument.) As Nisbet says, he will deal with the "pre-political," which is the strata of conservative essentials, although he doesn't neglect the "political strata."
Nisbet's approach to conservatism will be familiar to those who have read his other works. Chapter 1 concerns the birth of modern conservatism. It begins with Burke and his reaction to the French Revolution. (Burke, like Nisbet, saw Rousseau as the chief architect of the French Revolution.) It is further developed in its interaction with (and often reaction to) the Industrial Revolution. Chapter 2 (which takes up almost half of the book) is the most important chapter. It is entitled "the dogmatics of conservatism" and explains the various conservative essentials - property, religion, anti-egalitarianism, diffused authority. Chapter 3 - "consequences of conservatism" - treats some of the broader sociological and historical aspects of conservatism. Nisbet returns to some familiar territory, such as the birth of sociology in the 1800s by conservatives such as Le Play, historical writings on the Middle Ages, and the idea of progress. The final chapter - "prospects of conservatism" offers some shrewd comments on the state of contemporary conservatism (up to the date of the book's publication, 1986).
As another review said, this books will be an eye-opener to many people.
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Format: Paperback
Conservatism is a tough idea to write a survey on. This is particularly because, unlike many of the "isms" like libertarianism, socialism, populism, etc. - conservatism is quite hostile to the idea of systemetization. Thus, asking for a systemic articulation of the conservative philosophy is like asking for a systemic articulation of what jazz (as a single entity) is (and is not).

As hard as this task is, renowned conservative sociologist Robert Nisbet attempts to give us a history and explanation of conservatism and what it is (recognizing, of course, that the task is made difficult by the fact that conservatism is more an attitude than a system).

The book is written in four sections: "Sources of Conservatism" gives us an attempt at the ideological origin of conservatism, which Nisbet suggests was first really articulated by Edmund Burke and later, Alexis de Tocqueville (giving a few mentions to Aristotle). The second, and longest, section is "Dogmatics of Conservatism" (as oxymoronic as that title may be). Here, Nisbet tries to identify the themes appearing in the various conservative philosophies from Burke's to Tocqueville's to Oakeshott's. Resistance to the Englightenment's rationalism (utilitarianism, natural rights derivable solely by reason, etc), emphasis on history's importance in the studies of social arrangement, antipathy toward the idea of "laws of progress" etc. Third is a chapter on the "Consequences of Conservatism" which include a somewhat pessimistic view of the human condition, antipathy toward the armchair intellectual (philosophes, utilitarians) etc. Nisbet concludes with "The Prospects for Conservatism" where he surveys the state of the conservative intellectual climate in the 1980's and beyond.
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Format: Paperback
Nisbet offers a quite consise and easy-to-read introduction to comtemporary conservatism. A good thing with Nisbet is that he - unlike Kirk who tend to focus on the anglosaxon world - also regards for example Hegel as a good thinker in the conservative tradition. However, a feeling is the over-emphasize on laissez-faire in conservatism. I'd recommend "The Meaning of Conservatism" as a more comprehensive guide to conservatism.
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