The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (Paperback)
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“Cultural instructions.” Everyone who has handled a package of seedlings has encountered that enigmatic advisory. This much water and that much sun, certain tips about fertilizer, soil, and drainage. Planting one sort of flower nearby keeps the bugs away but proximity to another sort makes bad things happen. Young shoots might need stakes, and watch out for beetles, weeds, and unseasonable frosts. It’s a complicated business.
But at least since Cicero introduced the term cultura animi (“cultivation of the mind or spirit”), such “cultural instructions” have applied as much to the realm of civilization as to horticulture. In this wide-ranging investigation into the vicissitudes of culture in the twenty-first century, the distinguished critic Roger Kimball traces the deep filiations between cultivation as a spiritual enterprise and the prerequisites of political freedom. Drawing on figures as various as James Burnham, Richard Weaver, G. K. Chesterton, Rudyard Kipling, John Buchan, Friedrich von Hayek, and Leszek Kolakowski, Kimball traces the interconnections between what he calls the fortunes of permanence and such ambassadors of anarchy as relativism, multiculturalism, and the socialist-utopian imperative.
With his signature blend of wit and erudition, Kimball deftly draws on the resources of art, literature, and political philosophy to illuminate some of the wrong turns and dead ends our culture has recently pursued, while also outlining some of the simple if overlooked alternatives to the various tyrannies masquerading as liberation we have again and again fallen prey to. This rich, rewarding, and intelligent volume bristles with insights into what the nineteenth-century novelist Anthony Trollope called “The Way We Live Now.”
Partly an exercise in cultural pathology, The Fortunes of Permanence is also a forward-looking effort of cultural recuperation. It promises to be essential reading for anyone concerned about the direction of Western culture in an age of anti-Western animus and destructive multicultural fantasy.
About the Author
Roger Kimball is Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion and Publisher of Encounter Books. He writes regularly for a wide range of publications here and abroad, including The Wall Street Journal, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Literary Review, City Journal, and The Times Literary Supplement. Since 2006, Kimball has written “Roger’s Rules,” a regular column on cultural and political subjects for PJMedia. He is the author of several books, including the now-classic Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education, The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America, and The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art. Mr. Kimball lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children.