The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin

The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin

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by Corey Robin
     
 

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What is conservatism today? And what is its lineage? In The Reactionary Mind, political scientist Corey Robin (author of the acclaimed and prize-winning Fear: The History of a Political Idea) makes a strikingly bold claim about the right's political and intellectual foundations.

Robin contends that from the eighteenth century through today, the

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Overview

What is conservatism today? And what is its lineage? In The Reactionary Mind, political scientist Corey Robin (author of the acclaimed and prize-winning Fear: The History of a Political Idea) makes a strikingly bold claim about the right's political and intellectual foundations.

Robin contends that from the eighteenth century through today, the right has been united by a defense of inequality and privilege and by a deep hostility to all forms of progressive politics. The book ranges widely, covering figures as various as Edmund Burke and Antonin Scalia, John C. Calhoun and Ayn Rand, Joseph de Maistre and Phyllis Schlafly. While mindful of differences within the right, and of change across time, Robin insists upon the unifying themes of the "counterrevolutionary experience"—the defense of rule in the face of movements demanding freedom and equality. The variation on the right that one sees, Robin claims, is as much a product of tactical adjustment as anything else. The right has always learned from the left. Abhorring stasis, it has opted for a dynamic conception of society, involving struggle, violence, and war. This capacity for reinvention and partiality to violence has been crucial to its continued vitality.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This volume is a collection of Robin's (political science, Brooklyn Coll.; Fear: The History of a Political Idea) essays, reviews, and other short works published between 2001 and 2011 in outlets such as the Nation and the London Review of Books. While his previous book was an original, extended argument about the place of fear in political theory and contemporary American culture, here Robin attempts to deliver his argument in his introduction and conclusion, which bookend pieces ranging in subject from Ayn Rand to Antonin Scalia to the Cold War in Guatemala to Abu Ghraib. The overall argument seems to be that conservatives are all basically alike; that they share an aggrieved sense of loss; that they above all else favor hierarchy in both public and private domains; that they share an affinity for violence; and that the Right often comes to resemble the Left. VERDICT The book's brief, miscellaneous sections mean that readers may well find the arguments difficult to follow and may prefer to wait to read it in full, perhaps in Robin's next monograph. They may well also conclude that the subtitle's mention of Sarah Palin, about whom Robin says little, is a contribution from the publisher's marketing department.—Bob Nardini, Nashville
From the Publisher
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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199793747
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
09/29/2011
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

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