The Conservative Mind Book Summary By Russell Kirk

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The Conservative Mind is a book written by Russell Kirk in 1953, and it takes a look at the history of conservative thought.

This book looks into the foundations of conservatism and provides readers with an understanding of how it has evolved through the centuries.

It seeks to explain why people choose to hold certain beliefs, as well as how those beliefs have affected their behavior over time.

Along with this, readers will gain an appreciation of what can make an effective leader that follows this philosophy.

The book aims to provide readers with tools they can use to make informed decisions about their own lives and those of other people.

With this in mind, The Conservative Mind is sure to be stimulating reading for anyone interested in exploring the various sides of contemporary political debate.

The Conservative Mind Book

Book Name: The Conservative Mind (From Burke to Eliot)

Author(s): Russell Kirk

Rating: 3.7/5

Reading Time: 15 Minutes

Categories: Politics

Author Bio

Russell Kirk was an American author and historian who, through his magnus opus The Conservative Mind, left an indelible mark on the direction of the conservative movement in post-WWII America.

He wrote numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, such as The Roots of American Order to enrich the minds of readers with a complete understanding of the various elements that came together to create the United States.

Kirk's insights on political and economic theory provide invaluable guidance for those seeking to form their own opinions about our society today.

Thus, even in the 21st century, his insights provide an essential context for interpreting current events and shaping public opinion.

Why Unequal Leadership Is Needed For Conservatism: The Power Of Property And The Misguidedness Of Democracy

Misguidedness Of Democracy

The Conservative Mind has a long history, dating back to ancient times when the belief in a divine order was paramount.

In these days, gods and rulers were at the top of the power pyramid, rewarding those who followed the rules and punishing those who sought to rebel.

The belief in this kind of perfection was accepted by many early societies that wish to preserve order within their society so that immorality wouldn’t take hold.

Today, conservative values still heavily rely on these roots from centuries ago in developing their principles with many of them stemming from an ideal basis as well as distrust of sudden change and an opposition to democracy.

The purpose of scientific studies are met with skepticism while property is seen as a source of power.

In this book summary you’ll discover how these old traditions have evolved over time and why they remain staples of conservatism today.

An understanding of these origins will showcase why the beliefs underlying conservatism continue to inform its views in modern times, making it much easier for individuals to better comprehend the stances taken on various topics.

The Moral Imperative Of Conservatism – Believing In A Higher Power For Guidance And Justice

Conservatives have a strong belief in the power of God, and this faith guides many of their decisions.

Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France was the first to bring awareness to conservative ideas.

All conservative thinkers believe in a higher power, and for most this is conventional Christianity.

According to Burke, reason, revelation and an assurance beyond our senses all strongly indicate that God both exists and has an infinite capacity for knowledge.

This is further reinforced by how most people acknowledge a form of divine influence guiding our lives.

When something endures changes in society, it’s often seen as an expression from God’s will.

Furthermore, believers feel that life would lose its purpose without acknowledging a higher power.

To use one example; if you were tempted to break a business contract without any repercussions but held back due to some unseen morality offering punishment – it can be argued that this morality is grounded (probably literally) in exercising what one considers right due to divine influences manifesting through them actively making moral choices with faith being at its heart..

Conservatives Believe That Ignoring Our Differences Leads To False Hopes And Obscuring Reality

A conservative does not believe in the call of the French Revolution: “All men are created equal.” That’s because it’s just not true; people are different from each other in countless ways, such as gender, age, strength, morality, intellect, and wealth.

Those differences have a huge impact on a person’s life.

As an example, somebody with a steady hand and calm demeanor will make a much better surgeon than someone who is clumsy or easily stressed.

Moreover, postulating that everyone is equal leads to false hopes and ignores reality.

Let’s take the case of someone wanting to become an actor.

Although they might have taken your words to heart and gone all out chasing their dreams of winning an Oscar someday, if their acting skills aren’t up to par then there really isn’t much chance of achieving that goal!

The same goes for soil; not all soil is created equal as it has varying features which makes it suitable for some plants but not others.

To suggest otherwise would be ignoring reality itself!

That is why conservatives don’t subscribe to the notion that all men are created equal – because our differences make us unique and give us individual potentials in life.

Progress Comes From Combining Work With Abilities, Not Aiming For Absolute Equality

Absolute Equality

It is essential to understand that progress in life comes from a desire to achieve a better than average living.

To achieve this goal, inequality has traditionally been shown to be necessary.

That’s why conservatives firmly believe that striving for absolute equality is not only misguided, but can be detrimental for the progress of society at large.

This has been supported by research and evidence, such as W.H.

Mallock’s Labor and the Popular Welfare which explains that anyone can work- following instructions without question- but that it takes ability to think and invent new ways of doing things or give improvements of existing systems in order to truly reach progress.

However, such abilities are often overlooked in an equal society where people do not receive any incentive for using their unique talents and capacity; regardless of how much work they put in the end result will always remain the same.

Therefore, we can conclude that while work is important, rewarding people who use their abilities is also essential for progress; otherwise people may become frustrated with no tangible rewards and stop making changes or puting extra effort into tasks performed.

This reality holds true for both those considered normal workers and investors looking ahead for innovations since nobody will benefit from anything new invented if there are no incentives offered to use one’s individual talent set.

We Need Leaders: The Conservative Argument For The Establishment Of A Natural Aristocracy

Conservatives believe that a civilization is only truly possible when a natural aristocracy emerges to lead the masses.

This aristocracy doesn’t have to be determined by a birthright, as this was once typical of societies ruled by monarchs.

Rather, according to early conservative thinker John Adams, other factors like fame, skillfulness and wisdom can play an important role in determining why people follow a certain leader.

The idea behind this is that without leadership from within society itself – and particularly from those better suited for it – there would be no sense of security for anyone.

A group of 100 people attempting to reach consensus on something as straightforward as what to eat for dinner (as we described earlier) could quickly end up in chaos and stagnation with no one inspiring others with their own set of skills or experiences.

A natural aristocracy provides both guidance and structure in which all individuals have equal value, but some are able to make greater use of their abilities so that everyone can reach the same goal – being part of a civil society rather than one ruled by anarchy or savagery.

This is an ideal held tightly at the core of the Conservative view on life.

Canning’S Argument: Why Conservatives Reject The Ideal Of Democratic Government

A conservative isn’t a democrat and they know it.

That’s because democracy, while often striving to give every individual equal voice in their government, doesn’t always acknowledge or represent the important interests in society.

As George Canning said, men shouldn’t seek to govern themselves, but instead should seek to be governed well.

To do that, representation of key societal groups needs to be based on their significance and importance – not just by who has the voting power.

For example, people who rely financially on the government outnumber those who are actually paying all those taxes for financial support.

So those relying on the welfare program have more voting power when in actuality it’s likely to lead to large-scale government debt in the long term – making this system of voting unrepresentative of what’s really good for society.


The Conservative Mind acknowledges that as long as there’s been the notion of property, it has been attached to power.

That’s why they believe that in a modern democracy such as ours, the power associated with property needs to be adequately represented in government.

Historically, whoever had access to the most land often held the most power.

Simply put, those with vast holdings of property produced goods and gave people space to live in exchange for services—and when the property changed hands, so did its associated power.

Unfortunately, today densely populated cities tend to have a much larger influence on a government than rural areas with less population density—yet millions of square miles still need to be utilized for necessary activities like food production and other crucial endeavors.

If we want true change in society that promotes justice, conservatives feel that the property-power connection must be taken into account and represented in our modern democracies—and this understanding must be applied when attempting to make political decisions.

Can Numbers And Formulas Replace Intuition When It Comes To Human Behavior? Conservatives Say No

The Conservative Mind makes the argument that abstract concepts and numbers are unable to capture the complexities of human behavior.

When we try to use measurements and numbers to describe people, we’re oversimplifying their actions and values, leaving out important details or being surprised when individuals don’t act as expected.

For example, some utilitarians believe that it’s possible to calculate the best solution for any given situation.

They often assign values (like joy or pain) to different actions in an attempt to predict outcomes- but this approach often clashes with what many conservatives feel is morally right.

Furthermore, the French Revolution serves as a powerful example of how misguided actions based on numerical data can be.

Edmund Burke was particularly critical of the revolutionary forces at play, recognizing that their intentions were more complicated than simply generating “happiness” through primitive calculations.

At the end of the day, Conservatives recognize that attempting to measure and quantify human behavior fails to reflect its true complexity- and trying to do so frequently leads us astray.

The Role Of Conservatism In Achieving Moderately Progessive Change

Progessive Change

A primary tenet of conservative thinking is that society should be changed, but only gradually.

This gradual process of transformation is seen as a means of nurturing and preserving the existing social contracts between the generations.

Thus, hasty decisions or radical overhauls are to be avoided in favour of thoughtful planning and institution building.

In Britain for example, the strong conservative party resisted sudden changes during the 19th and 20th centuries, helping to maintain stability in the face of Revolutionary tendencies elsewhere in Europe.

Even powerful institutions such as the Church and Crown were regulated by conservative thinkers instead of being overthrown violently.

In this way conservatism preserves practices which are beneficial to societal identity while at the same time allowing for change.

The role of a politician has been understood to involve guidance rather than total control when it comes to introducing changes – there can be no obstacle which cannot be navigated through slow and steady steps forward into a new era.

Wrap Up

The Conservative Mind is an exploration of the conservative philosophy that underscores much of modern politics.

It examines the idea that conservative thought has been present throughout history and continues to shape decisions in contemporary times.

The main thrust of the book is that conservatism relies on a belief in God and a natural aristocracy, while also being suspicious of unguided scientific advances in predicting humanity’s behavior.

In conclusion, it can be said that the Conservative Mind provides an in-depth look into how conservatism plays a role in current society and why it remains important even in our more progressive age.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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