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Roots Of American Order Hardcover – July 1, 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Hardcover, July 1, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rambling scholarship that affirms faith in American ideals and institutions.

Copyright 1992 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Kirk's book is exactly what people need to read...[he's] made it easy, even pleasurable, for them to do so." -- Esquire

"The Roots of American Order is destined to be accorded a distinctive status…." -- Wall Street Journal

"[A]nyone who wishes to reflect and talk on the topic 'America'...will do himself a favor [to read] Kirk's book." -- Christianity Today

"[T]his is a most impressive affirmation of faith in American ideals and institutions." -- Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 559 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Inst; 1 edition (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932236082
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932236088
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,999,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Russell Kirk was perhaps the most distinguished American conservative writer of the twentieth century. His life's pursuit was the question of order: how can society maintain the balance between freedom and license, community and individual. In later works, Kirk turned to the question of how modern society can retain an allegiance to the permanent things in the face of decay.

THE ROOTS OF AMERICAN ORDER is a massive study that is in many respects the culmination of Kirk's life's work. Tracing the concept of order from ancient times to nineteenth century America, Kirk highlights those thinkers and ages have provided the United States with her institutions. Starting with the ancient Israelites and ending with Orestes Brownson (the American Burke who, like Kirk, was a convert to Catholicism) Kirk distills the influence of each on American life. In a sense there are four cities that influenced America: Jerusalem, Athens, Rome and London.

Kirk even claims some for the American cause that you might not suspect have a role in a conservative history of culture. Kirk rescues Hume from the caricature of the great skeptic. Instead, Hume is the moderate skeptic who demolished the rationalist pretenses of the philosophes. Kirk argues that the founders (including Jefferson) were fundamentally conservative; practical men seeking to preserve the heritage of English culture and institutions rather than create a system of government from scratch like the French revolutionaries.

This book isn't perfect. I have it on good authority that Kirk was in error in describing the levelers of Cromwell's time as egalitarians. There are some organizational problems as well, such as the section on the Crusades.
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By A Customer on December 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
My first Kirk book, "The Roots of American Order" stands as one of the most influential books I have read, and turned me into an instant fan of his writings. In an age when citizens are searching what it is to be an American, this book describes its vast and rich history and offers remedies for the future. Its scope stretches the history of the western hemisphere but its readability is surprisingly lucid. If anyone has a chance to grab this rare document I highly recommend securing it and treasuring its infinite wisdom. This is a book I wish all I know could have a copy.
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Format: Paperback
Many people in the West tend to take it for granted that some sort of order is at work in the world. So observes Russell Kirk, noting that "they assume, however vaguely, that certain principles of justice exist, and that life has purpose of some sort." In 1974 he penned "The Roots of American Order" to remind us that despite the seeming cacophony of modern times, there exists an order which has traditionally anchored the nation and given it stability. His work is timely, as rising disorder suggests that our culture, in its haste to adapt to a changing world, is hacking unwittingly at these very roots.

Kirk traces out the development of order which gradually matured through the successes and failures of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and London respectively. When America came on the scene, because of this heritage she could set for herself a noble, unprecedented goal. Kirk cites nineteenth-century American thinker Orestes Brownson, who wrote that every nation has an task given it by Providence to realize; for the American Republic that destiny was to reconcile liberty with law.

A recurring theme in Kirk's historical overview is the role religion has played in the development of order. He observes that "in the twentieth century, many people do not find it easy to understand how all aspects of a culture grow out of the cult - out of common religious convictions. Yet the Hebrew and Greek and Roman civilizations all had arisen from the soil of religion; and when the power of the cult had declined, those cultures had begun to decay." This is because religion that fails to provide an overarching metanarrative does not produce a culture that will truly bind a people together and give it coherence.
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Format: Hardcover
For its genre, it's very difficult to beat Kirk's masterful historical survey of the spiritual, intellectual, and cultural sources of American order. Spanning from the ancient Judaic roots of Western religion, through the patrimony of the artful Greeks and law-giving Romans, through the "Light of the Middle Ages" and the sources of English Constitutional Law, right up to the Founding of American Constitutionalism, Kirk's erudition is scholarly while being easy to understand. Almost like a novel at times though never trite or careless, this is an excellent summary of the high points of Western Civilization. Kirk gives the impression that he has forgotten more than most of us will ever know. This is a perfect book for home-schoolers, American history teachers, or the average layman who wishes simply to make sense of the daunting rise and fall of civilizations that has led to the founding of the United States of America.
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