Bradley J. Birzer

About Bradley J. Birzer

Bradley J. Birzer is the co-founder of, and Senior Contributor at, The Imaginative Conservative. He is the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in History at Hillsdale College and Fellow of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Dr. Birzer is author of In Defense of Andrew Jackson, Russell Kirk: American Conservative, American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll, Sanctifying the World: The Augustinian Life and Mind of Christopher Dawson, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth, co-editor of The American Democrat and Other Political Writings by James Fenimore Cooper, and co-author of The American West.

Tolkien’s “The Return of the Shadow,” 1937-1939

By |2020-09-26T13:43:25-05:00September 26th, 2020|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Christian Humanism, J.R.R. Tolkien, Literature, Senior Contributors|

Christopher Tolkien, in “The Return of the Shadow,” breaks down J.R.R. Tolkien’s drafts of the sequel to “The Hobbit” into three phases. In the third phase, the situations around them do grow tellingly darker, with drastic implications for the story that could shake the foundations even of the Blessed Realm, the land of the [...]

Tolkien Begins the Sequel to “The Hobbit”

By |2020-09-25T12:23:31-05:00September 25th, 2020|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Christian Humanism, J.R.R. Tolkien, Literature, Senior Contributors|

J.R.R. Tolkien intended the new book, which would later develop into “The Lord of the Rings,” to be a simple sequel to “The Hobbit.” Yet somehow the sequel was growing more adult, and Tolkien admitted it reflected the “darkness of the present days” in the shadow of the Second World War. On September 21, [...]

Robert Nisbet’s Ten Conditions of Revolution

By |2020-09-17T16:21:09-05:00September 17th, 2020|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Revolution, Robert Nisbet, Senior Contributors|

Given the present moment in this era of confusion in American history, one wonders whether the events of 2020 count as revolutionary. Robert Nisbet’s ten conditions of real revolution may provide an answer. One of the twentieth century’s most astute observers of society, sociologist, historian, and man of letters, Professor Robert Nisbet (1913-1996), offered [...]

Tocqueville and a New Science of Politics

By |2020-09-14T11:33:29-05:00September 15th, 2020|Categories: Alexis de Tocqueville, American Republic, Bradley J. Birzer, Democracy, Democracy in America, Politics, Senior Contributors|

According to Tocqueville, a new political science must account for both the immediate and the universal, the moment and the eternal. When we fail to understand the choice that God has given us with democracy—that is, a science to guide, attenuate, and hone democracy—the baser instincts will rise to the fore. Tocqueville breaks his [...]

A Proper Anthropology

By |2020-09-08T11:18:53-05:00September 8th, 2020|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Christian Humanism, Christianity, Equality, Modernity, Senior Contributors|

Many today believe that men are just so many atoms, having nothing in common, defined only by time, place, and skin color. However, this is contrary to the wisdom of the Jews, the wisdom of the Christians, and the wisdom of the pagans. Unless we get our anthropology correct, we’ll never have order or [...]

Nock and Nisbet on Society and State

By |2020-09-04T15:20:28-05:00September 4th, 2020|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Civilization, Community, Culture, Robert Nisbet, Senior Contributors, Social Institutions|

As Albert Jay Nock argued in the 1930s, and Robert Nisbet in the 1960s, the state plays a zero-sum game: It desires to assume all power over society, even to the point of taking the place of the Church as the glue that holds all together, and thus it renders society obsolete in the [...]

Reflections on Tocqueville: The Pervasiveness of Equality

By |2020-08-31T14:44:00-05:00September 1st, 2020|Categories: Alexis de Tocqueville, American Republic, Bradley J. Birzer, Democracy, Democracy in America, Equality, Great Books, Senior Contributors|

To this day, though America has changed in size, shape, demographics, and technology, “Democracy in America” remains the single finest description of the American experiment. Introducing his work to the world, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that nothing struck him more than the pervasiveness of the idea of equality in the United States. Alexis de [...]

Robert Nisbet’s 11 Tenets of Conservatism

By |2020-08-27T17:19:55-05:00August 27th, 2020|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Community, Conservatism, Robert Nisbet, Senior Contributors|

Though less poetic than Russell Kirk, Robert Nisbet has as much right to be considered a “father of post-war conservatism” as does his Michiganian ally—especially given the timing of his eleven tenets of conservatism. Indeed, his ideas about society and the social relations of man are thoughtful and inspiring. Though conservatism arose as a [...]

The Sociological Roots of Robert Nisbet’s Conservatism

By |2020-08-27T13:01:43-05:00August 26th, 2020|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Conservatism, Robert Nisbet, Senior Contributors, The Imaginative Conservative|

Robert A. Nisbet rooted his eleven ideas of conservatism in contributions from sociology as an academic discipline. Sociology, in contrast to liberalism and radicalism, had merely focused on the aspect of being social and had thus best reflected the more obscure aspects of nineteenth-century conservatism. That conservatism, though, reflected some of the most important [...]

The “Leatherstocking Tales” and the American Frontier

By |2020-08-21T14:20:39-05:00August 21st, 2020|Categories: American Republic, American West, Bradley J. Birzer, Civilization, History, Literature, Republicans, Senior Contributors|

James Fenimore Cooper’s depiction of the frontier, as expressed in the “Leatherstocking Tales,” transcends race and sex. The frontier can make anyone a true American—noble, liberty-loving, and virtuous. Ultimately, “Americanness” is individual and cultural; it is based on virtue and merit. 1822-1827: Republicanism and the American Frontier With his third novel, The Pioneers, James [...]

James Fenimore Cooper and the American Republic

By |2020-08-17T16:25:00-05:00August 17th, 2020|Categories: American Republic, Bradley J. Birzer, History, Literature, Politics, Senior Contributors|

Reflecting many thinkers before him, James Fenimore Cooper argued in his works that America had a biblical duty to be the “Light Upon the Hill.” Cooper also believed that both the frontier and republicanism made America unique, vigorous, and consequential, and he spent his adult life advocating a purely American form of art. “Places [...]

The Innocent Patriotism of Mount Rushmore

By |2020-08-11T16:56:22-05:00August 11th, 2020|Categories: American Republic, Bradley J. Birzer, History|

I couldn’t help but see Mount Rushmore through the eyes of my children during our visit this summer. Given the recent events in America, I was craving something truly patriotic. As I looked upon the carved images of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt, I felt the awed satisfaction of wonder and amazement. I’ve now been [...]

Jefferson Against Conformity, 1945-1960

By |2020-08-10T16:02:14-05:00August 7th, 2020|Categories: American Founding, American Republic, Bradley J. Birzer, History, Politics, Senior Contributors, Thomas Jefferson|

Thomas Jefferson, many scholars have thought, represented the ideal of human individualism and personality, a renaissance man who struggled mightily against mediocrity. In the spirit of Jefferson, an individual can reach his own unique potential by properly pursuing a liberal education. Though perhaps odd to our ears in 2020, the time period dealt with [...]

Harry S. Truman and the Legacy of Thomas Jefferson

By |2020-08-03T15:33:10-05:00August 5th, 2020|Categories: American Republic, Bradley J. Birzer, Declaration of Independence, Foreign Affairs, History, Politics, Senior Contributors, Thomas Jefferson|

Harry S. Truman explicitly tried to tie Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence to the events and crusades of his own day. He saw the Declaration of Independence as an international document, belonging to all peoples yearning for freedom. When the first copy of the first volume of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, [...]

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