Resources: Books: Conservative Classics
Updated: Jul 10, 2021
What makes me the expert on conservatism, you ask? I’m certainly not claiming to be an expert. But I do read the experts and strive to faithfully translate their writings into blog posts and podcasts for contemporary eyes and ears. If you'd prefer to go straight to the source material there are plenty of books I highly recommend from the actual "experts".
In this post, you will find links to classical conservative texts that are must-reads for the true student of conservatism. I have also included books that contain excerpts from conservative intellectual giants who were essential to articulating the worldview.
Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind is one of the greatest contributions to twentieth-century American conservatism. Brilliant in every respect, from its conception to its choice of significant figures representing the history of intellectual conservatism, The Conservative Mind launched the modern American Conservative Movement when it was first published in 1953 and has become an enduring classic of political thought.
Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France is considered by many to be a masterpiece of political analysis and a compelling rationale against the French Revolution. The work has greatly influenced conservative and classic liberal intellectuals and stands as a powerful argument against violent revolutions, lawlessness, and unrest. Prior to 1790, Burke was a well-known member of the British House of Commons and a vocal supporter of the American Revolution. His condemnation of the French Revolution shocked many of his peers and supporters. Burke viewed the French Revolution as a violent and chaotic war without any guiding ideology or respect for the rule of law and feared it would lead to a situation that was both dangerous and corrupt. Many of Burke’s predictions came true as the Revolution devolved into bloodshed and anarchy with the Reign of Terror beginning in 1793 and then leading to the eventual military dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte. Burke’s work stands as an enduring statement in support of tradition, hereditary power, property rights, duty, and the monarchy.
This fascinating book by one of America's leading public intellectuals spans nearly half a century of writing, with essays on sex, politics, and religion. Irving Kristol has long been considered the godfather of neoconservatism, a political persuasion that breathed intellectual life into the moribund Republican Party during the 1970s and helped make Ronald Reagan's ascendancy possible. But because Kristol spent the bulk of his career in the highbrow journalistic world of essays and commentary, he never authored a full book that defines his mode of thinking or traces its development. This collection of essays is the closest thing there is, and it's a real treat: smart, often counterintuitive, and full of good writing. As Kristol notes on the opening pages, "An intellectual who didn't write struck me as only half an intellectual." And Kristol is clearly a full intellectual.
This volume captures the astonishing breadth and depth of Russell Kirk’s intellectual project. It offers the perfect introduction to a thinker whose wisdom is desperately needed today, and more relevant than ever.
“You can’t tell the story of modern American conservatism without [Russell Kirk].” —Matthew Continetti, The Atlantic
From America's call for a free press to its embrace of the capitalist system, Democracy in America--first published in 1835--enlightens, entertains, and endures as a brilliant study of our national government and character.
For today's readers, de Tocqueville's concern about the effect of majority rule on the rights of individuals remains deeply meaningful. His shrewd observations about the "almost royal prerogatives" of the president and the need for virtue in elected officials are particularly prophetic. His profound insights into the great rewards and responsibilities of democratic government are words every American needs to read, contemplate, and remember.
From America's call for a free press to its embrace of the capitalist system Democracy in America enlightens, entertains, and endures as a brilliant study of our national government and character.
The Conscience of a Conservative was published by Goldwater when he was an Arizona Senator and a potential 1964 Republican presidential candidate. The book reignited the American conservative movement and made Barry Goldwater a political star. The book has influenced countless conservatives in the United States, helping to lay the foundation for the Reagan Revolution in 1980. The book is considered to be a significant statement of politically and economically American conservative ideas which were to gain influence during the following decades. The book continues to inspire contemporary political commentary.
In this classic work, Leo Strauss examines the problem of natural right and argues that there is a firm foundation in reality for the distinction between right and wrong in ethics and politics. On the centenary of Strauss's birth, and the fiftieth anniversary of the Walgreen Lectures which spawned the work, Natural Right and History remains as controversial and essential as ever.