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In the 1960s, Russell Kirk lectured and debated on many college campuses, ably defending traditional ideas against various liberal and radical adversaries. Enemies of the Permanent Things, first published in 1969, is the most significant extended meditation on culture and politics to come out of the rough and tumble of those years. It is an invaluable document, articulatin In the 1960s, Russell Kirk lectured and debated on many college campuses, ably defending traditional ideas against various liberal and radical adversaries. Enemies of the Permanent Things, first published in 1969, is the most significant extended meditation on culture and politics to come out of the rough and tumble of those years. It is an invaluable document, articulating the response of a critical witness to the radically anti-authoritarian turn taken by the intellectual elite in that destructive decade.


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In the 1960s, Russell Kirk lectured and debated on many college campuses, ably defending traditional ideas against various liberal and radical adversaries. Enemies of the Permanent Things, first published in 1969, is the most significant extended meditation on culture and politics to come out of the rough and tumble of those years. It is an invaluable document, articulatin In the 1960s, Russell Kirk lectured and debated on many college campuses, ably defending traditional ideas against various liberal and radical adversaries. Enemies of the Permanent Things, first published in 1969, is the most significant extended meditation on culture and politics to come out of the rough and tumble of those years. It is an invaluable document, articulating the response of a critical witness to the radically anti-authoritarian turn taken by the intellectual elite in that destructive decade.

30 review for Enemies of the Permanent Things: Observations of Abnormity in Literature and Politics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trenton

    The copy I have was inscribed by the author as a wedding present to Dinesh D'souza and his wife Dixie. Sadly, they are now separated, which might explain how I got the book. The copy I have was inscribed by the author as a wedding present to Dinesh D'souza and his wife Dixie. Sadly, they are now separated, which might explain how I got the book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Hicks

    This was my first venturing into Kirk's writing. I only knew he was considered a bastion for modern conservatism in the time following WWII, and I can now see why this is true. Enemies of the Permanent Things is a book committed to diagnosis, not necessarily prognosis. His dissection of modern society (circa 1969) is thorough and demanding while not being totally depressing (maybe initially but he cheers up). As the subtitle denotes, he calls us back to the "norms" of politics and literature tha This was my first venturing into Kirk's writing. I only knew he was considered a bastion for modern conservatism in the time following WWII, and I can now see why this is true. Enemies of the Permanent Things is a book committed to diagnosis, not necessarily prognosis. His dissection of modern society (circa 1969) is thorough and demanding while not being totally depressing (maybe initially but he cheers up). As the subtitle denotes, he calls us back to the "norms" of politics and literature that have been laid out for us by generations and generations of men and women before us; this "democracy of the dead" as Kirk often writes, citing Chesterton. The seemingly vague foundation from which Kirk bases his argument on is surprisingly sturdy and has a pedigree equally as solid. He brings in T.S. Eliot, Max Picard, Ray Bradbury, Eric Voegelin, and of course Edmund Burke and the likes. Throughout the work there are these glimpses of optimism that Kirk identifies from this group or that group as they strive to remember these Permanent Things, these axioms of humanity that allow us to live and love one another peaceably without destroying our dignity and individuality. However, nearing 50 years later, I struggle to see where these certain groups have gone. The most striking part of this book is the underlying optimism that I sense from Kirk. He has not lost hope and writes in order to shed light on the decaying and dehumanized mind of modernity. He is especially candid about the Christian nature of conservatism; not as an attempt to make conservatism exclusive (although he makes it difficult to imagine how one can grasp on to conservative ideals wholeheartedly and not have faith in Jesus Christ) but more to show the consistency and influence of its roots. I did enjoy Kirk's writing, and, more importantly, he pointed me to a heritage of conservatism that can keep one reader busy for a lifetime.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sally Ewan

    This was not an easy read, but it was full of important truth. Kirk presents those who tell the truth about the human condition, and those who do not. In the first section, we learn the definition of 'norms': enduring standards by which we live, and why norms are critical. The next section is on the norms of literature and the aberrations from the norms. I was unfamiliar with the work of Ilya Ehrenberg and therefore unable to appreciate Kirk's comments on it as much as I could with his treatment This was not an easy read, but it was full of important truth. Kirk presents those who tell the truth about the human condition, and those who do not. In the first section, we learn the definition of 'norms': enduring standards by which we live, and why norms are critical. The next section is on the norms of literature and the aberrations from the norms. I was unfamiliar with the work of Ilya Ehrenberg and therefore unable to appreciate Kirk's comments on it as much as I could with his treatment of Dickens, Eliot, and Ray Bradbury. The section on norms in politics was fascinating. Kirk was a prophet in 1969 as he talked about the danger of ideology supplanting actual thoughtful exchange of ideas. He addresses the problems of liberalism, behavioralism, and centralization. The final section on authority, just government, and ordered freedom was so clear and wise that it seems impossible to disagree with him.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    I was in love until I got to the chapter on Eric Voegelin. Then I wanted to get a tattoo (silly things) of the entire chapter on my arm. Russell Kirk + Eric Voegelin + a chapter on used bookstores = an immanentized eschaton. The irony!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mjber

    Quotes: "When the moral imagination is enriched, a people find themselves capable of great things" "An abnormal generation is a generation of monsters, enslaved by will and appetite." "if common sense is discarded - why, it is supplanted not by a universal intelectualism, but by common nonsense." "Books often reflect the spirit of the age; but also books can conjure up the spirit of the age. Good literature alters the climate of opinion, and the shape of society, for the better; while the literature Quotes: "When the moral imagination is enriched, a people find themselves capable of great things" "An abnormal generation is a generation of monsters, enslaved by will and appetite." "if common sense is discarded - why, it is supplanted not by a universal intelectualism, but by common nonsense." "Books often reflect the spirit of the age; but also books can conjure up the spirit of the age. Good literature alters the climate of opinion, and the shape of society, for the better; while the literature of decadence, or the decay of literary tradition, can undermine the commonwealth." "Leisure indeed is the basis of culture; and it is one of the paradoxes of our age that while we boast of our time-saving machines, neither the villager not the laird has half the time to think that once he had." "The ideologue, in particular, denounces "escape"; for he is the prisoner of his own political obsessions, and misery loves company. Lewis writes that he never fully understood this denunciation of "escape", this hatred of mythopoetic literature, "till my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, 'What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and most hostile to, the idea of escape?' and gave the obvious answer: jailers... But there is perhaps this truth behind it: that those who brood much on the remote past or future, or stare too long at the night sky, are less likely than others to be ardent or orthodox partisans."" And there are many other worthy quotes!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    Excellent.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    Recommended by James Schall in Another Sort of Learning, Chapter 14, as one of Eight Collections of Essays and Letters Not To Be Missed.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Stilley

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Knowles

  11. 5 out of 5

    Robert Alford

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  13. 4 out of 5

    Winston Elliott III

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Sandberg

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

  16. 5 out of 5

    David Zach

  17. 5 out of 5

    Adam

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bob

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert Corzine

  20. 4 out of 5

    Greg Mcneilly

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ross Brian Stager

  23. 4 out of 5

    Vince

  24. 4 out of 5

    Len

  25. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  26. 4 out of 5

    David

  27. 4 out of 5

    J.A.A. Purves

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alex Catharino

  29. 5 out of 5

    Seth

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karen

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