Virtue and the Promise of Conservatism
The Legacy of Burke and Tocqueville
Often loud and acrimonious, the public tug-of-war between a reinvigorated conservatism and a liberalism in apparent disarray has obscured an equally important competition-that among conservatives themselves.
In Virtue and the Promise of Conservatism, Bruce Frohnen joins the fray in an effort to rescue the essence of conservative virtue from rationalists and materialists of whatever political stripe. He argues that we have "lost and must attempt to regain the conservative good life and the outlook which made it possible." The tools needed to do that, according to Frohnen, are humility and—yes—political action aimed at combatting the centralizing and materialistic structures and beliefs interfering with the formation and retention of family, church, and neighborhood.
“Anyone interested in the intellectual foundations of contemporary conservatism can profit from reading this book.”
—Perspectives on Political Science
“This is a book finely thought out, relentlessly logical and stately in pacing and construction.”
“Frohnen’s timely contribution can help redirect our civic debate toward more fundamental questions.”
—New Oxford Review
“A timely and thoughtful examination of conservative thought, [this book] is an ambitious attempt to meld two sizable objectives: it endeavors to find a principled, conservative, definition of virtue, and it challenges conservatives to form a defense of a conservative view of the good life based on virtue.”
—American Review of Politics
“The most probing analysis of the fundamental characteristics of conservative thought since Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind. This is a significant contribution to modern political thought whose thesis and positive proposals for the realization of the good life merit the close attention of all who are concerned with reversing the intellectual and moral decline of the West.”
—George W. Carey, author of The Church in the Market Place
“Bruce Frohnen has written an insightful study of modern conservatism, one that uniquely delineates its philosophical and spiritual sources in Western thought and gives a ringing Burkean call for reawakening and conservative reform. Well worth reading and pondering.”
—Ellis Sandoz, author of A Government of Laws: Political Theory, Religion, and the American Founding
“An incisive and sympathetic critique of conservatism, this book is a powerful attempt to buttress conservatism’s philosophical foundations. Frohnen illuminates the thought of Burke and Tocqueville with elegance and a sure touch.”
—Werner J. Dannhauser, Michigan State University
“This topic is very timely. The theoretical battle over the proper definition of conservatism is at the root of many policy disputes within the Reagan and Bush administrations. . . .Virtue and the Promise of Conservatism is a very good book, and a rather original one. The author covers a tremendous amount of ground very intelligently. I know of no comparable defense of conservative traditionalism.”
—Peter Augustine Lawler, author of Under God with Liberty: The Religious Dimension of American Liberty and editor of American Political Rhetoric
“The real value of this book is its statement of a new version of conservatism. As much as ‘liberalism’ has been attacked (from the left and the right) in recent years, there has been no adequate theoretical and philosophic conservative alternative presented. Frohnen has gone a long way toward remedying this failure. . . . His scholarship is superb and beyond reproach. His quotations are judicious and always precisely to the point. He knows his subjects very well and has zeroed-in on much of the secondary literature as well.”
—Gordon J. Schochet, author of The Authoritarian Family and Political Attitudes in Seventeenth-Century England: Patriarchalism in Political ThoughtSee fewer reviews...
Drawing deeply from the writings of Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville, both critics of untempered reason and "the drive toward a spiritually impoverished egalitarian materialism," Frohnen explores how their work has influenced individuals as diverse as traditionalist Russell Kirk, "apocalyptic" libertarian Michael Oakeshott, and neoconservative Irving Kristol.
While differing greatly in their views and prescriptions, these contemporary conservatives, Frohnen shows, are nevertheless united in their desire to preserve the local community's natural and fundamental institutions. This preservation, he argues, requires a renewed faith in and humble acceptance of the essential good contained within these institutions.