A recent study by the Pew Forum revealed in great detail what even casual observation makes plain: Americans, like their European counterparts, are increasingly less religious than they used to be. Moreover, religious diversity is on the rise. As Western culture becomes more secular and more religiously diverse, it is interesting to wonder what holds it together. Can secular conceptions of human meaning provide a sufficient foundation for social life and political affiliation? The challenge of modernity and liberalism specifically, at least beginning with Hobbes, has been how human beings who share little more than common fear and common natural…
Books reviewed in this essay:
The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin, by Corey Robin. Oxford University Press.
The Common Mind: Politics, Society and Christian Humanism from Thomas More to Russell Kirk, by André Gushurst-Moore. Angelico Press.
The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future—and Why They Should Give It Back, by David Willetts. Atlantic Books.
Amidst the recurring question of whether Edmund Burke is relevant to contemporary politics, we are presented with three volumes that approach this vital issue in different ways, and with varying levels of scholarly and popular perceptiveness. All the books under review attempt to connect the witness and insights of the great statesman to ongoing conflicts in society and politics. Perhaps the disparate assessments of Burke alone could suggest the resiliency of his legacy; however, the importance of Burke the political theorist dictates a closer examination of these critical works.
Drew Maciag's Edmund Burke in America is a historiographical essay. After a brief introduction, the author proceeds to a short chapter laying out his interpretation of Burke’s thought, then reviews and characterizes various interpretations of Burke’s work by Americans, beginning in the late eighteenth century and proceeding more or less chronologically through to the present day. Historiographical essays can be quite interesting and helpful for examining the preoccupations and prominent points of view of intellectuals over time. All thinkers of any real stature have within their work a set of assumptions, concerns, and goals that may receive varying emphases depending on…