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Russell Kirk
1918 - 1994

Philosopher, columnist and author. Kirk is considered by some to be the foremost conservative philosopher of the 20th century. Founder and first editor of Modern Age magazine, education columnist for National Review magazine, syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times syndicate, contributor to many of the world's most respected policy journals, president of the Wilbur Foundation, editor of the Library of Conservative Thought, holder of an earned doctorate of letters and a dozen honorary doctorates, Guggenheim Fellow, author of The Conservative Mind (1953), The Politics of Prudence (1993), and more than 25 other books and hundreds of essays and articles.

Books by Russell Kirk
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Assault on Religion, The (1986)
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Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot (1995)
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Portable Conservative Reader, The (1982)
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Every right is married to a duty, every freedom owns a corresponding responsibility. There cannot be genuine freedom unless there exists also genuine order in the moral realm and in the social realm.

[The conservative] thinks of political policies as intended to preserve order, justice, and freedom. The ideologue, on the contrary, thinks of politics as a revolutionary instrument for transforming society and even transforming human nature. In his march toward Utopia, the ideologue is merciless.

1993 - from The Politics of Prudence
Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity.

1993 - from "Ten Conservative Principles", in the second chapter of The Politics of Prudence
The liberal mentality seems bent upon annihilation of the convictions and circumstances that have made possible a liberal democratic society.

Sep. 21, 1989 - from his essay "Malcom Muggeridge's Scourging of Liberalism"
Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked. Separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all.

1993 - from "Ten Conservative Principles", in the second chapter of The Politics of Prudence
[C]ivilized society requires orders and classes.... If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum. Ultimate equality in the judgment of God, and equality before courts of law, are recognized by conservatives; but equality of condition, they think, means equality in servitude and boredom.

1953 - from The Conservative Mind
Privilege, in any society, is the reward of duties performed.

1953 - from The Conservative Mind
The twentieth-century conservative is concerned, first of all, for the regeneration of spirit and character -- with the perennial problem of the inner order of the soul, the restoration of the ethical understanding, and the religious sanction upon which any life worth living is founded. This is conservatism at its highest.

1953 - from The Conservative Mind
The best way to rear up a new generation of friends of the Permanent Things is to beget children, and read to them o' evenings, and teach them what is worthy of praise: the wise parent is the conservator of ancient truths. As Edmund Burke put it, 'We learn to love the little platoon we belong to in society.' The institution most essential to conserve is the family.

1993 - from The Politics of Prudence
Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence. Burke agrees with Plato that in the statesman, prudence is chief among virtues. Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity.

1993 - from "Ten Conservative Principles", in the second chapter of The Politics of Prudence
[The conservative believes] in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience.

1953 - from The Conservative Mind
Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.... In a genuine community, the decisions most directly affecting the lives of citizens are made locally and voluntarily. Some...are carried out by local political bodies, others by private associations: so long as they are kept local, and are marked by the general agreement of those affected, they constitute healthy community. But when these functions pass by default or usurpation to centralized authority, then community is in serious danger.

1993 - from "Ten Conservative Principles", in the second chapter of The Politics of Prudence
Not by force of arms are civilizations held together, but by subtle threads of moral and intellectual principle.

1953 - from The Conservative Mind
Along with T.S. Eliot and Donald Davidson ... Malcolm Muggeridge tells us that, as Christian belief is rejected, so modern civilization stumbles down to dusty death. So thought the novelist Robert Graves; so the historian Eric Voegelin; so the sociologist Pitirim Sorokin. Culture arises from the cult; when the cult dissolves, so in time does the culture.

Sep. 21, 1989 - from his essay "Malcom Muggeridge's Scourging of Liberalism"
[Conservatives have an] affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems.

1953 - from The Conservative Mind
Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety. They feel affection for the proliferating intricacy of long-established social institutions and modes of life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and deadening egalitarianism of radical systems.... The only true forms of equality are equality at the Last Judgment and equality before a just court of law; all other attempts at leveling must lead, at best, to social stagnation.

1993 - from "Ten Conservative Principles", in the second chapter of The Politics of Prudence
First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it; human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.

1993 - from "Ten Conservative Principles", in the second chapter of The Politics of Prudence
The intelligent conservative combines a disposition to preserve with an ability to reform.

from The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Conservatism
The good society is marked by a high degree of order, justice, and freedom. Among these, order has primacy: for justice cannot be enforced until a tolerable civil social order is attained, nor can freedom be anything better than violence until order gives us laws.

from The Roots of American Order
Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions.... A state in which an individual or a small group are able to dominate the wills of their fellows without check is a despotism, whether it is called monarchical or aristocratic or democratic.

1993 - from "Ten Conservative Principles", in the second chapter of The Politics of Prudence
Somewhere [Malcom] Muggeridge remarks that people learn not from exhortation, but from experience. Before this century is out, doubtless the surviving votaries of liberalism will be taught some more disagreeable lessons.

Sep. 21, 1989 - from his essay "Malcom Muggeridge's Scourging of Liberalism"
Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.... The conservative knows that any healthy society is influenced by two forces, which Samuel Taylor Coleridge called its Permanence and its Progression.... He thinks that the liberal and the radical, blind to the just claims of Permanence, would endanger the heritage bequeathed to us, in an endeavor to hurry us into some dubious Terrestrial Paradise. The conservative, in short, favors reasoned and temperate progress; he is opposed to the cult of Progress, whose votaries believe that everything new necessarily is superior to everything old.

1993 - from "Ten Conservative Principles", in the second chapter of The Politics of Prudence
Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription. ... Conservatives sense that modern people are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, able to see farther than their ancestors only because of the great stature of those who have preceded us in time.

1993 - from "Ten Conservative Principles", in the second chapter of The Politics of Prudence
Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectibility.... To seek for utopia is to end in disaster.... All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk. By proper attention and prudent reform, we may preserve and improve this tolerable order.... The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell.

1993 - from "Ten Conservative Principles", in the second chapter of The Politics of Prudence