Book


Late in life, William F. Buckley made a confession. Capitalism is “boring,” he told me. “Devoting your life to it,” as conservatives do, “is horrifying if only because it’s so repetitious. It’s like sex.” Since that conversation ten years ago, I’ve been asking what is conservatism and what’s at stake for its proponents. This book is my answer.

From the French Revolution to the Tea Party, conservatism has been a reactionary movement, a defense of power and privilege against democratic challenges from below, particularly in the private spheres of the family and the workplace.

Available in paperback for only $13! Order now on Amazon.

 

“I confess to being one of those who likes to divide conservatives into their parts as opposed to treating them as a whole. Robin makes a vigorous case that I am wrong, and I am tempted by his analysis….Robin is an engaging writer, and just the kind of broad-ranging public intellectual all too often missing in academic political science.”

The New Republic

“And I think that the best model [of conservatism] is, as I said the other day, the Corey Robin notion that it’s about preserving hierarchy.”

—Paul Krugman, New York Times

“A very readable romp through the evils of Conservatism.”

The Guardian/Observer

“‘The Reactionary Mind’ certainly cuts hard against the common view that the radical populist conservatism epitomized by Sarah Palin represents a sharp break with the cautious, reasonable, moderate, pragmatic conservatism inaugurated by the 18th-century British statesman Edmund Burke….This counterrevolutionary spirit, Mr. Robin argues, animates every conservative, from the Southern slaveholders to Ayn Rand to Antonin Scalia, to name just a few of the figures he pulls into his often slashing analysis.”

New York Times

“…ground-breaking book…”

Rolling Stone

“If conservatives have been the ‘left’s best students,’ Robin teaches the Left to become better students of the Right.”

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

“‘The Reactionary Mind’ demands to be taken seriously by conservatives, and it helps that it’s written with panache. The series of scholarly strikes Robin makes against conventional wisdom are often exhilarating.”

The Daily

“Robin, a New York-based political scientist and regular contributor to publications like The Nation and the London Review of Books, has written an original book with an armful of theses that shed revealing light on the whys and wherefores of right-wing politics in the United States and beyond.”

The National

“Stemming from a conversation he had with the late William F. Buckley, Robin’s book provides clear, well-documented insight on how the right came to be what it now is.”

Washington Times

“I feel sure that if trapped on a desert island with the man, I should soon commit suicide.”

The American Conservative

“We asked our editors what they’ve been reading lately, and almost all of us have been reading for Occupy Wall Street. We recommend Corey Robin’s Reactionary Mind, the first edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money.”

n+1

“Corey Robin’s extraordinary collection, constantly fresh, continuously sharp, and always clear and eloquent, provides the only satisfactory philosophically coherent account of elite conservatism I have ever read. It’s all great, a model in the exercise of humane letters.”

—Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland

“This book is 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, showing the power of this idea by illuminating conservatives both sublime and ridiculous.”

—Kwame Anthony Appiah, Princeton University

“Beautifully written, these essays deepen our understanding of why conservatism remains a powerful force in American politics.”

—Joyce Appleby, UCLA and past president of the American Historical Association

“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. Some readers will enjoy Corey Robin’s dismantling of Barry Goldwater, Antonin Scalia, and Irving Kristol; others will enjoy his demolition of Ayn Rand. Some will be uncomfortable when they discover that those who too lightly endorse state violence, and even torture, include some of their friends. That is one of the things that makes this such a good book.”

—Alan Ryan, Oxford University

Order now on Amazon.

45 Responses to “Book”

  1. troy grant November 20, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    Watching your C-Span interview I find a fatal flaw in your book. You don’t consider the scientific description of the conservative mind as seen in the classic study in Psychological Bulletin, “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition.” by John T. Jost, Jack Glaser, Arie W. Kruglanski, and Frank J. Sulloway as it applies to left wing conservatism (Stalin, Pol Pot, Caescescu, etc). You make the common mistake of identifying conservatism as a strictly right wing feature leaving left conservatism to be identified as whatever one wants. The scientific definition of conservatism does not differentiate between left and right because its characteristics are common to both sides. That coupled with your right libertarian slant and the right wing bombshell doing the interview, leaves a lot to be desired. You would both be a good fit for FOX, not C-Span.

    The four authors write: “”People embrace political conservatism (at least in part) because it serves to reduce fear, anxiety and uncertainty; to avoid change, disruption and ambiguity; and to explain, order and justify inequality among groups and individuals.” To come to this conclusion the authors examined 88 different psychological studies conducted between 1958 and 2002 that involved 22,818 people from 12 different countries. They boiled that information down into a number of psychological attributes that are closely associated with people who are politically conservative.

    A synopsis can be found here:
    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Society/Conservatives_Deconstruct.html

    • Jazper January 4, 2014 at 12:51 am #

      Of course, it’s an old, old, old and very boring proposal that conservatism is simply a defense of (unjust) hierarchy or inequality. Naturally that’s how it seems to those with absolutely no sympathy for the Right, no understanding of it, no intuitive grasp of the non-Leftist values that drive it. A mark of the shallowness of Robin’s prog-left-lib reviewers — that they all cite this old, boring misconception as a “fascinating” or “provocative” thesis. What they really mean, most likely, is that they themselves have always believed the same tired canard and slander, and they’re very happy to see it reconfirmed. A first step towards a proper understanding of the Right: distinguish “conservatism” from Reaction, and distinguish the old Right of throne, altar, nationalism, etc. from the new Right of Homo Economicus (Rand, etc.). To lump together these deeply incompatible positions as “conservatism” is just idiotic. Many of the positions under discussion are more different from each other by every important measure than from the “democratic” or “leftist” positions with which they are supposed to contrast.

      • Cat Food February 9, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

        As a rightist myself I’m a bit perplexed as to what you find so disagreeable about Corey’s thesis. Of course a classic throne and altar conservative differs from a libertarian or a Randian objectivist in many important respects, yet we have to consider what binds them as movements of the right in the first place. How could Nietzsche, GW Bush, and Hayek all be men of the right despite their vast differences? It’s because they reject egalitarianism, the battle cry of the left. To be on the right is to oppose the proposition that everyone should have equal socio-economic and political power. I may not be in Corey’s court because I find leftism unfeasible but I think we see eye to eye on this basic point. I suppose the reason some liberals and conservatives might find this thesis ‘new’ or ‘revisionist’ is because Americans in general are illiterate when it comes to basic European political terminology, hence those laughably awkward moments when Americans call fascists leftwing or think George Washington was a libertarian.

  2. Evildoer April 3, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    I really enjoyed and gained insight from the book. I was a bit disappointed that most of it was the old articles themselves. The format left most of the conceptual heavy lifting to the introduction and the book could have been much better if it were written from scratch. It also opened the door to some criticism. Yet I was really shocked by Marc Lilla’s review and his reply to your reply. It was not serious criticism. It was almost character assassination. His nonsense about “false consciousness” which seems to me almost the opposite of your argument, was particularly unbelievable. He practically revoked your Licentia Docendi. Given that this attack came from an establishment that is generally left of center, I think that calls for an explanation. Why is your argument to threatening at this particular moment in history, not the the Right, but to people like Lilla. I hope you take the time to offer a reflection on that question.

  3. troy grant January 4, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    Conservatism from the left? What were Stalin, Pol Pot, Caescescu, Mao, liberals? What is a conservative if not an authoritarian regardless what wing he or she comes from?

    • Sarah February 19, 2014 at 12:25 am #

      Stalin was in favour of a new philosophy that, while theorized about for some time, was still untried . To be in favour of change, particularly sudden or violent change, is demonstrably not conservative, it is progressive or even revolutionary. Undoubtedly, once they were in power, the Communist parties became conservative. They wished to preserve the new status quo that they perceived to be good and/or that preserved their vested interests and power.

      Most of today’s Republican or Conservative movements in the West have for some time now been associated with economic libertarianism (free markets) and increasingly moving towards social libertarianism as well. Regardless of the fact that some of it’s members CHOOSE a traditionally moral or religious life for themselves, there is a growing discomfort with involving the State in the bedrooms of the Nation, amongst other things. Libertarianism is still considered conservative, quite ironically since the New Right is NEW, but it is demonstrably not authoritarian, at least, not in the normal sense.

      It is strangely not “Right” in the old sense either, since the Meritocracy was the child of the Left, born out of the removal of power entrenched in the remains of aristocracy (privilege by birthright, rather than merit). The New Right is the Old Left of the French Revolution and its sister the American Revolution. But that is the way of it, today’s progressive is always tomorrow’s conservative.

      You may need to rethink that authoritarian=conservative / conservative=authoritarian link.

      What also needs to be rethought is the progressive/revolutionary = always good and conservative = always bad
      If the status quo is “good” (just, fair etc) then preserving it is good and change is bad (potentially at least)
      If the status quo is “bad” (corrupt, unjust) then preserving it is also bad, and change to a better state is good

      Where people fall on the conservative – progressive continuum at any moment relates to A) what they think of the current status quo on the matter, B) where their personal interests lie, or C) both.

      • Troy Grant February 19, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

        Ruling cons have long known that demonizing liberals is a good way to beat libs and beat them they must as they often do. Libs are major obstacles to conservative’s greed. The result is that most liberals now call themselves “progressives” and shy away from the “liberal” brand. In fact, many libs defend conservatives, the authoritarians that rape, pillage and plunder the earth, perhaps believing still in the old “careful, frugal, traditional” definition of “conservative”.

        Humanist libs want peaceful change in the minds of men. Violent and revolutionary change is left up to radicals or left wing cons, authoritarians that may “win” a bloody war and will always run the government into the ground as all cons do. See “Why Conservatives Can’t Govern” by Alan Wolfe:

        http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2006/0607.wolfe.html

        Right Libertarians may be socially liberal, but ignore the glaring contradiction that monopolies destroy the free market they tout, and that produce the concentrated wealth/power destructive of liberty. Paleocon monopolists Koch Bros. are libertarians of convenience and the gun toting Tea Party they bought cannot be more conservative authoritarian.

        With your help, ruling conservatives with lots of money-power to conserve have been muddying the lib/con definitions for a long time. They do this with creation vs evolution, climate change and climate change denial, 99% thugs vs the 1% victims, corporations are people, private and public and so on. In all cases their profiteering is behind it. To conserve and expand what they possess, cons will lie, cheat, steal, authoritatively trying to satisfy their bloated egos at public expense.

  4. troy grant February 9, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

    The absolutist conservative right and left dislike nuance. To assume that because they tolerate gross inequality liberals want everyone to be perfectly equal is condescending and stupid.

    Conservatives may not believe in science, but most liberals know enough science to accept and welcome diversity as necessary for healthy ecosystems. What most liberals do not accept is the destruction of our earthly habitat by clueless conservatives that over-consume, pollute, lie, cheat, steal, maim and kill because its a “free market”.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Page 99 Test « Corey Robin - September 22, 2011

    [...] The Reactionary Mind also got some fabulous pre-publication blurbs from some of the top scholars in American history (Joyce Appleby and Rick Perlstein), political theory (Alan Ryan) and philosophy (Anthony Appiah). You can find them all here. [...]

  2. Revolutionaries of the Right: The Deep Roots of Conservative Radicalism » New Deal 2.0 - September 27, 2011

    [...] conversation between Professor Corey Robin and Christopher Hayes focused on Robin’s new book, The Reactionary Mind. Click here for more details on the [...]

  3. Guest Post: The Deep Roots of Conservative Radicalism. | Rortybomb - September 27, 2011

    [...] between Professor Corey Robin and Christopher Hayes focused on Robin’s new book, The Reactionary Mind. Click here for more details on the event.  I really hope you can all make it, should be an [...]

  4. Two on Hayek and the Deep Roots of Conservative Radicalism « Chasing Fat Tails - October 6, 2011

    [...] I recommend reading the post in its entirety; I would further recommend buying Robin’s book The Conservative Mind. I plan to read it as soon as possible, given how much I enjoy reading Robin’s blog and the [...]

  5. Corey Robin/Chris Hayes Event Tonight; Also – David Frum, Counterrevolutionary. | Rortybomb - October 6, 2011

    [...] between Professor Corey Robin and Christopher Hayes focused on Robin’s new book, The Reactionary Mind. Click here for more details on the event, which starts at 7:00pm at the Martin E. Segal [...]

  6. Foreclosures, Halloween Costumes, and How the 1% Views the Law » New Deal 2.0 - October 31, 2011

    [...] customs, and laws to be protectors of capital and hierarchy, you need to get a copy of The Reactionary Mind, [...]

  7. Halloween Costumes, Foreclosures, Creditor’s Bargains and how the 1% View Our Laws on Debt | Rortybomb - October 31, 2011

    [...] capital and hierarchy, first of all that’s adorable, and second you need to get a copy of The Reactionary Mind, [...]

  8. Pathology of the Will: A Theory of the Contemporary Right Wing in America – Part 1 « Politics 2100: Blogging as if the Future Mattered - November 4, 2011

    [...] Right can ally itself with other dissatisfied groups because it has always been overtly and covertly counter-revolutionary rather than conservative of the status quo.  While claiming conservatism, the counter-revolution [...]

  9. The Dueling Identities of Congressman Ron Paul — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen - December 28, 2011

    [...] be. On the contrary, Paul serves as a shining example of what Corey Robin’s called “the reactionary mind” — the caustic voice of a dominant order that feels its hegemony slipping away and looks [...]

  10. Stuff I Should Be Reading: The Reactionary Mind « richard bowker - January 4, 2012

    [...] The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  11. George W. Bush's Last Disaster - The Republican Party - Politics in the Zeros - January 23, 2012

    [...] Are they authoritarian, reactionary anti-progressives, the modern version of the Confederacy, as Corey Robin posits? Are they fueled by hate, racism, and vindictiveness, the desire to punish the black man in the [...]

  12. Rather Too Long An Argument Against Douthat, Now that I Wrote It Out | My Blog - January 29, 2012

    [...] reviewers have complained that Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind severely overreaches when he writes things like this: Conservatism is a fanciful voice of … [...]

  13. strange criticism | Fredrik deBoer - February 4, 2012

    [...] of Corey Robin’s Reactionary Mind: Some reviewers have complained that Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind seriously overreaches when he writes stuff like [...]

  14. Starting to Understand the Reactionary Mind « Samir Chopra - February 9, 2012

    [...] Brooklyn College colleague Corey Robin‘s new book, The Reactionary Mind, has, thanks to its provocative thesis (and its brilliant prose, a rare quality in an academic [...]

  15. Provincialism’s Easy Allure Or, Writing Outward From The American Academy « Samir Chopra - February 16, 2012

    [...] The Reactionary Mind, Corey Robin writes, As sophisticated as the recent literature about conservatism is, however it [...]

  16. The Willful World of the American Right Wing « Politics and a Sustainable Future - March 2, 2012

    [...] espouse the viewpoints of the elect, powerful few, as Corey Robin has described in his account of the Reactionary Mind.  The ideologues of the Right may not be wealthy but may and can realistically hope for material [...]

  17. New Article and Paper on the State Public Workforce Losses in 2011 | Rortybomb - March 27, 2012

    [...] second theory could be called the Corey Robin theory, which would argue conservatism is everywhere a “reactionary movement, a defense of power [...]

  18. Twin Peaks: The Tea Party’s Economic and Social Agenda « Corey Robin - April 2, 2012

    [...] second theory could be called the Corey Robin theory, which would argue conservatism is everywhere a “reactionary movement, a defense of power and [...]

  19. How Can Herbert Spencer’s 1892 Revisions to his Social Statics Help Us Understand Conservative Opposition to the Individual Mandate? | Rortybomb - April 16, 2012

    [...] the progressive, socialist, and reform movements? Even though he agreed with them in principle, to see democratic challenges from below succeed would both show that the other side can deliver on its projects and would threaten [...]

  20. What’s the Hullabaloo about? | Democratic Perspective - April 20, 2012

    [...] can find her blog at http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/. Also, Heather Barton recommended reading “The Reactionary Mind” by Corey Robbins. Share this:ShareEmailPrintDiggRedditFacebookStumbleUpon This entry was [...]

  21. Arendt and Sontag on Conservatism, Romanticism, and ‘Interesting’ Politics « Samir Chopra - April 30, 2012

    [...] the Wolfe Institute‘s Spring 2012 Faculty Study Group met to discuss Corey Robin‘s The Reactionary Mind, which aims to identify substantive theses central to that political tradition by way of an [...]

  22. Economic Rights Must Be Contested « Notes on a Theory… - July 25, 2012

    [...] conservative view of liberty is one of  domination–that employers should be free to dominate their employees, that the ability of capital to [...]

  23. The American Socialist Century - August 27, 2012

    [...] other party conservatism is any kind of new development in conservative thought. Corey Robbin had controversial, but not by that light entirely incorrect insights to offer on that score last year. Developments [...]

  24. newsrackblog.com » Blog Archive » GOP soul searching is something to see - November 9, 2012

    [...] else.  In the “Easy to be Hard” chapter of his extremely interesting book “The Reactionary Mind,” Corey Robin summarizes this kind of thinking as one of the central features of conservatism [...]

  25. My interview with Corey Robin | Micah Uetricht - November 10, 2012

    [...] book The Reactionary Mind explores this thesis in a wide array of essays that examine torture under the Bush administration, [...]

  26. How ACORN Stole the 2012 Election – JUBILEE - December 6, 2012

    [...] Or you could go even farther back, to the Know Nothings of the mid-19th century. As Corey Robin would argue, these roots run deep (so ignore ahistorical pleas for a supposedly bygone [...]

  27. Miguel De Unamuno: Conservative War-Lover? « Samir Chopra - December 6, 2012

    [...] struck by these passages as I was reminded of the description–in Corey Robin‘s The Reactionary Mind–of the conservative spirit as one fascinated by [...]

  28. How ACORN Stole the 2012 Election — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen - June 17, 2013

    […] Or you could go even farther back, to the Know Nothings of the mid-19th century. As Corey Robin would argue, these roots run deep (so ignore ahistorical pleas for a supposedly bygone […]

  29. Corey Robin Interview — Podcast July 15, 2013 | Democratic Perspective - July 16, 2013

    […] Williamson and Bill Timberman about the thinking that led to his 2011 book, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. Conservatives claim to be the defenders of tradition and traditional values, but from its earliest […]

  30. Morning Feature – The Reactionary Mind, Part I: Lord of the Manor | BPI Campus - August 29, 2013

    […] week Morning Feature considers Corey Robin’s book The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. Today we begin with Robin’s argument that conservatism appeals to personal experiences of […]

  31. Morning Feature – The Reactionary Mind, Part II: Transgression and Struggle | BPI Campus - August 30, 2013

    […] week Morning Feature considers Corey Robin’s book The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. Yesterday we began with Robin’s argument that conservatism appeals to personal experiences […]

  32. Morning Feature – The Reactionary Mind, Part III: An Ideology of “No” (Non-Cynical Saturday) | BPI Campus - August 31, 2013

    […] week Morning Feature considers Corey Robin’s book The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. Thursday we began with Robin’s argument that conservatism appeals to personal experiences of […]

  33. How Can Herbert Spencer’s 1892 Revisions to his Social Statics Help Us Understand Conservative Opposition to the Individual Mandate? | fundmanagr - September 4, 2013

    […] the progressive, socialist, and reform movements? Even though he agreed with them in principle, to see democratic challenges from below succeed would both show that the other side can deliver on its projects and would threaten […]

  34. Between two Onions: Breaking Bad edition | chuckofthesea - October 1, 2013

    […] revanchist streak. In this respect, he shares a great deal with Corey Robin’s prototypical conservative. There’s no solidarity in Walter White’s world because he’s not trying to make […]

  35. How the Media and the Elites, Not the Voters, Move the Country to the Right | Guillotine mediocrity in all its forms! - November 20, 2013

    […] in light of Corey Robin’s devastating demolition of the myth of “Burkean Conservatism” in “The Reactionary Mind,” where he dwells and expands upon just how un-Burkean Burke himself became in “Letters on a […]

  36. Republicans will keep heading right!: What the media doesn’t comprehend | Women Born Transsexual - November 26, 2013

    […] in light of Corey Robin’s devastating demolition of the myth of “Burkean Conservatism” in “The Reactionary Mind,” where he dwells and expands upon just how un-Burkean Burke himself became in “Letters on a […]

  37. 2013: Year In Review | Unlearning Economics - January 1, 2014

    […] mentions: Corey Robin, whose blogging and book are both excellent, if a little jargon-filled; Robert Vienneau, who posts consistently interesting […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,641 other followers