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The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin by [Robin, Corey]
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The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin Kindle Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Length: 305 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

Review


Acclaim for The Reactionary Mind:


"Robin is an engaging writer, and just the kind of broad-ranging public intellectual all too often missing in academic political scienceEL. Robin's arguments deserve widespread attention."
--The New Republic


"A very readable romp through the evils of Conservatism."
--The Observer


"The common opinion on the Left is that conservatives are fire-breathing idiots, who make up in heat what they lack in light. Robin's book is a welcome correction of this simplistic view and puts the debate where it ought to be: on the force and content of conservative ideas."
--Dissent


"This little book will continue to spark controversy, but that is not the reason to read it: it is a witty, erudite and opinionated account of one of the most significant movements of our times."
--Times Higher Education


"...written with panache. The series of scholarly strikes Robin makes against conventional wisdom are often exhilarating."
--The Daily


"The Reactionary Mind is a wonderfully good read. It combines up-to-the-minute relevance with an eye to the intellectual history of conservatism in all its protean forms, going back as far as Hobbes, and taking in not only restrained and sentimental defenders of tradition such as Burke, but his more violent, proto-fascist contemporary Joseph de Maistre. Some readers will enjoy Corey Robin's dismantling of different recent thinkers--Barry Goldwater, Antonin Scalia, Irving Kristol; others will enjoy his demolition of Ayn Rand's intellectual pretensions. Some will be uncomfortable when they discover that those who too lightly endorse state violence, and even officially sanctioned torture, include some of their friends. That is one of the things that makes this such a good book."
--Alan Ryan, Professor of Political Theory, Oxford University


"A fascinating exploration of a central idea: that conservatism is, at its heart, a reaction against democratic challenges, in public and private life, to hierarchies of power and status. Corey Robin leads us through a series of case studies over the last few centuries--from Hobbes to Ayn Rand, from Burke to Sarah Palin--showing the power of this idea by illuminating conservatives both sublime and ridiculous."
--Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University


About the Author


Corey Robin teaches political science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, Harper's, and the London Review of Books.

Product Details

  • File Size: 931 KB
  • Print Length: 305 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 29, 2011)
  • Publication Date: September 29, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005H5O20C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
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  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,664 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Many of us on the American left like to believe that there are two Republican agendas: the red-meat, culture-war stuff, and the real game of corporatism going on underneath the cover of populist theater. (Heck, a lot of Republicans believe a variation of this.) Many of us, if not most, also continue to indulge ourselves in the self-flattering fantasy that the right is just kind of deluded, and if we explain the facts slowly and carefully, then *this* time, they'll come around.

George Lakoff hurled the first brick at these notions with his books Moral Politics and Don't Think of an Elephant, but in the end, Lakoff is a linguist, and his language-focused approach was, maybe inevitably, superficial. Corey Robin finishes the job. As this book shows, you need a deeper philosophical underpinning either to have the kind of success the right has had in the last 40 years, or to fight it. Not only is the conservative agenda coherent, simple, and well backed by hundreds of years of intellectual tradition, but that backing is much scarier than advertised - founded as it is on the belief that "some are fit, and thus ought, to rule others."

The Reactionary Mind is chiefly an analysis rather than a history, but it does back up its analysis, in a way that isn't shrill (well, okay, the chapter on Ayn Rand is pretty indulgent and unenlightening, but you don't need to read it to get the rest of the argument). Opinion may be the star of this show, but in a country swimming in useless and redundant progressive opinion, Robin's offers the tremendous relief of actually understanding what you are up against. Lakoff got a lot wrong, but he was right that the left needs more than just a list of grievances. Robin clarifies a way of thinking about conservatism that will strengthen your will to fight, and is already strengthening the left's arguments in the public sphere.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A lot of people seem to think that is book is an anti-conservative screed. In fact, it's a pretty sympathetic portrait of conservatism that gets to the appeal of conservative philosophy, in particular its inherent romanticism. As a political observer, I've always had trouble understanding how conservatives think. This book helped me a lot with that.

The introduction is the strongest part of the book, in my opinion. There is a bit of meandering in the middle -- in particular the discussion of two former conservatives and of American policy in Latin America seem a bit tangential to the overall discussion. Still, a very good, informative read overall.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There is not much literature on what it means to be conservative (outside the very specific US context). OK, there is an essay by Michael Oakeshott, but it was written in ... 1956.

So Corey Robin has written the most enlightening book on conservativism there is. In contrast to romanticized perspective of Michael Oakeshott, in this book conservativism is being viewed more as a revanchist outlook which develops as a reaction against emancipation initatives of the left.

Ayn Rand and Antonin Scalia are treated quite harshly in the book - it is not for me to decide whether such attitude is or is not justified, but those two chapters are quite entertaining to read. The author does not insist that all conservatism is bad or silly though, the idea that stuck in my mind after having finished the book is that "the conservative speaks for a special type of victim: one who has lost something of value". I consider this to be a profound observation that in itself would have been a sufficient reason to read the book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm so glad I ignored the NYTimes review of this book. Corey Robin provides a coherent synthesis of a whole host of thinkers and thinking, bringing them under one "conservative" umbrella. Robin connects each piece of his argument to an overarching logical framework and I therefore don't understand what it means that he is preaching to the "converted" and this is just red meat for lefties. While progressives may be more open than a conservative to Robin's ideas, this book doesn't preach or rally leftist troops at all. Rather, his book provides a comprehensive explanation, that sort of which I've never run across before summarized in this fashion, of conservative motives and thinking. Just because he pops Ayn Rand once or twice doesn't take away from a solid book.
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Robin's book is a collection of recent essays. As such, it's focus can wander. For readers attracted by its title, the strength of the book is in its first few chapters, where Robin makes a strong case for a re-evaluation of the relevance of conservative original thinkers, such as Burke and de Maistre, and for the origins of conservatism as organically linked to the forces of its opposition. The discussion of conservatism as a dialectical movement balancing declarations of preservation with a real program of violent counter revolutionary violence is revealing of seeming contradictions between the rhetoric and practice of contemporary conservatism in the US, and to a degree the UK is compelling.

The final chapter, on conservatism and violence does a very good job of synthesizing what has been discussed in earlier chapters. It in itself is an excellent thesis on the conflicted nature of conservatism, and how conservatism suffers from its own success, with a neat historical survey of similar phases of conservatism included. This is the strength of the book.

My criticisms are of the middle chapters, which are far less focused, and contribute little to the book's value. And, there is a tendency for Robin to present conservatism as oddly immutable, and only partly, or not at all a capable of introspection and change. This may be true, but I doubt it. Conservatism is not a reflection of Nietzsche's Eternal Return of the Same. But Robin seems to want to frame the emergence of the Tea Party as part of an immutable template. This does not feel right. The questions seem to be, what distinguishes conservatism from Fascism, and is that part of what we are seeing?
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