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The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Politically Incorrect Guides (Paperback)) Paperback – May 27, 2008

3.6 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Everything you should know--but PC professors won't teach--about our Western heritage

Western civilization is the envy of the globe. It has given to the world universally accepted understandings of human rights (rooted in Judeo-Christian principles), created standards for art, music, and literature that have never been equaled, and originated political and social systems that have spread all across the planet.

Unfortunately, the fog of political correctness now obscures these and other truths about Western civilization. Leftists and Islamic jihadists find common cause in assailing Western "colonialism," "imperialism," and "racism" as its defining characteristics. Guilt-ridden Western leaders and public figures speak of their cultural patrimony in disparaging terms they would never dare to use about a non-Western culture. And in the academy, "multicultural"-minded professors flatter students into believing they have nothing really to learn from Sophocles or Shakespeare.

But now, Professor Anthony Esolen--one of the team-teachers of Providence College's esteemed Development of Western Civilization Core Curriculum--has risen to the West's defense. The Politically Incorrect Guide(TM) to Western Civilization takes on the prevailing liberal assumptions that make Western civilization the universal whipping boy for today's global problems, and introduces you to the significant events, individuals, nations, ideas, and artistic achievements that make Western civilization the greatest the world has ever known.

Today--with the West imperiled as never before by the global jihad and threats from China and elsewhere--defending the West has become an urgent imperative: if we don't value what we have and what we have inherited, we will surely lose it. The Politically Incorrect Guide(tm) to Western Civilization is an essential sourcebook for that defense.

From the Back Cover

Christianity. Judaism. Dead white males. Old-fashioned morality. The traditional family. Tradition itself. Everything the liberals hate can be summed up in two words: Western civilization. Here is the ultimate Politically Incorrect Guide(tm): a sprightly, informative summary of the original source of all things politically incorrect from Moses, Caesar, and Christ, to Dante, Thomas More, and the Founding Fathers.

PC professors don't want you to know that:

* Patriarchy and civilization go hand-in-hand (just ask the ancient Romans)
* Modern science came from the Middle Ages (and a Biblical view of the universe)
* The Renaissance was the flowering of a specifically Christian and classical culture
* The "progressive ideas" of the nineteenth century led to the fascism, communism, and two world wars of the twentieth century

"`The glory that was Greece...the grandeur that was Rome'--not so long ago, these were the birthright of every educated American. But no more. If you had to name one thing that the vandals who've seized control on our college campuses don't want their students to learn, it would be Western civilization. More and more, we live with blinders on, ignorant of everything but current fads. In this sparkling book--the ultimate Politically Incorrect Guide(tm)--Anthony Esolen provides a fabulous introduction to the history and culture of the West. Esolen opens up a new world of people and ideas for those of us who live in the twenty-first century but don't want to be prisoners of the passing moment."
--Elizabeth Kantor, Ph.D., author of The Politically Incorrect Guide(tm) to English and American Literature

"An acclaimed translator of Dante, and a brilliant teacher of Western civilization, Professor Esolen is the perfect Virgil, guiding the student through the fugue-like influence of Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome."
--Russell Hittinger, William K. Warren Professor of Catholic Studies, University of Tulsa

"With a mind and heart well-formed by the very best that has made Western civilization both civil and great, Esolen vividly portrays our four-millennia drama in thought, politics, the family, art, poetry, architecture, war, peace, and the blessed intricacies of everyday life--his eye ever trained on the true, the good, and the beautiful, and rightly indignant of all that now threatens to reduce Western civilization to ashes and a new barbarism."
--Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D., author of 10 Books That Screwed Up the World


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Product Details

  • Series: Politically Incorrect Guides (Paperback)
  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Regnery Publishing (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596980591
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596980594
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By James E. Egolf on June 22, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Prof. Anthony Esolen is an English professor at Providence College who wrote a good survey undermining the childish politically correct nonsense re Western Civilization. The book titled THE POLITICALLY INCORRECT GUIDE TO WESTERN CIVILIZATION (PIGWC) is a good book for the unitiated as well as for those who are seasoned readers of what constitutes Western Civilization.

When this reviewer first received this book, he thought that was little to learn for those who have studied European History. This book was a pleasant surprise and informative even for those learned in European studies.

Prof. Esolen began this book with a good introduction to the history, political systems, and literature/philosophy of the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans. Esolen gave a good explanation of the politcal loyalties of the Greek Polis, especially Athens and Sparta, and the Roman Republic. He gave a much needed explanation of the conflict between the Ancient Greeks and the Persians during the Persian Wars (490-479 BC). Esolen intelligently explains the reasons for the Greeks loyaly to the Polis and the Roman loyalty to the Roman Republic and the city of Rome. There is a further explanation for the demise of the Greeks especially the Peloponnesian War (c. 431-404 BC.). There is a good explanation for the disintegration of the Roman Empire. Esolen explains that the Romans, who could be harsh and severe, were also tolerant of the different peoples whom they ruled. For example, those from North Africa, Western Asia, Greece, Gaul or France, the British Isles, etc. could be Roman citizens regardless of their origin of birth and geography.

Esolen excelled in this book in describing Ancient Greek and Roman literature and philosophy.
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Format: Paperback
First of all, it's a shame that there aren't college courses offered for each of the P.I.G. books. As a student myself, I lament the amount of information that the education systems I've passed through have blissfully ignored. Thank God for these books. (Then again, shouldn't our schools be teaching this stuff to begin with instead of the other way around?)

Where to begin with Esolen's book? He covers an unbelievable amount of history, art, and philosophy in only about three-hundred pages. That's quite a feat. More importantly, he's made a wonderful case for the study of Western Civilization. By the end of this wonderful book you're most likely wondering where this world would be without the influence of the West--most likely still digging around in mud huts.

Esolen is extremely easy-to-read, which helps readers of all levels to get comfortable with such a large helping of information. He has an extensive knowledge of history as well as literature, and his pages are filled with references to famous thinkers such as Plato, Shakespeare, and Eliot.

Esolen's book has a broad historical focus, attempting to bring many different movers and shakers to light--most importantly, as the author so eloquently argues, Jesus Christ.

As one who is working towards a degree in English Literature, I especially liked the book's comments on the true existence of "bad" art; so often in classes I hear nothing but "all art is equal." This kind of comment as well as the rest of Esolen's amazing and poignant book is refreshing for someone who has grown up in a world of political correctness and banal multiculturalism. Esolen is providing a remedy!
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"The study of the Classics teaches us to believe that there is something really great and excellent in the world, surviving all the shocks of accident and fluctuations of opinion, and raises us above that low and servile fear which bows only to present power and upstart authority."

That's what William Hazlitt wrote in "The Round Table" (1817). The study of the classics and ancient history is of itself politically incorrect in an era when even conservatives pretend to be revolutionaries. So in a sense any book that encourages us to examine the deep roots within western civilisation of those values that even the most "progressive" amongst us profess to defend is itself both valuable and politically incorrect.

Today's politically correctness is strangely one eyed. It pretends to be culturally relativist when comparing the west with other cultures but dogmatically chauvinist when comparing contemporary culture with it's antecedents. If medieval Christendom were a foreign country it would get a better hearing. This attitude is, I suspect, rooted in the adoption by both the right and left of the 19th century idea of progress and it's idea of perpetual improvement, rather than the more empirically sound, but discomforting idea, that cultures oscillate between advanced and backward.

Still all that being said I found this book mixed. I was, at first, disappointed with the average quality of the book.

But there were positive points. Esolen's chapter on Rome and it's republic was excellent and well worth the 'price of admission'. He shows quite clearly why the framers of the American constitution saw the Roman republic, with it's rule of law and separation of powers, as a worthy model.
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