Robert Nisbet (1913-1996) was a professor of sociology at Columbia University and authored numerous books, including Quest for Community, Conservatism: Dream and Reality, The Present Age, and Twilight of Authority.

Robert Nisbet’s “The Social Group in French Thought”

By |2021-02-24T19:24:01-06:00February 24th, 2021|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Civilization, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Political Philosophy, Politics, Robert Nisbet, Senior Contributors|

In “The Social Group in French Thought,” Robert Nisbet explains that social philosophers such as Bodin, Hobbes, and Rousseau undermined and sabotaged private law and intermediary institutions. Their thought culminated in the French Revolution and in its radical and nationalist legislation. Robert Nisbet’s dissertation began by lamenting that the history of freedom has been written [...]

Robert Nisbet’s Chance Dissertation

By |2021-02-22T14:06:47-06:00February 22nd, 2021|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Robert Nisbet, Senior Contributors|

Robert Nisbet had written and completed his dissertation, “The Social Group in French Thought,” rather speedily, beginning it in January 1939 and finishing it a mere six months later. Though Nisbet would publish his most famous work, “The Quest for Community,” fourteen years later, that book would not have been possible without the dissertation. When [...]

Robert Nisbet’s Youth

By |2021-02-05T11:05:29-06:00February 5th, 2021|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Robert Nisbet, Senior Contributors|

Growing up in Maricopa, the young Robert Nisbet fell deeply in love with libraries. Almost as soon as he learned to read—sitting on his mother’s lap as she read to him—the young man began to devour books voraciously, loving the literature of the Age of Coolidge. Though proudly possessing the Confederate soul of a southern [...]

Roosevelt’s Folly: Robert Nisbet’s Second World War

By |2021-01-25T16:07:45-06:00January 25th, 2021|Categories: History, Robert Nisbet, War, World War II|

From the beginning of their friendship, Franklin D. Roosevelt could not see Joseph Stalin as anything other than an ally, an anti-imperialist and proto-democrat, representing all that was modern and rational and equalitarian. Robert Nisbet concludes that Roosevelt’s arrogant blindness was the key to Soviet mischief. World War II—especially the European theatre—intrigued Robert A. Nisbet [...]

Robert Nisbet’s Mentor: Frederick Teggart

By |2021-01-14T15:58:26-06:00January 15th, 2021|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, History, Robert Nisbet, Senior Contributors|

Robert Nisbet was greatly influenced by his professor Frederick Teggart and his many ideas. Teggart was a brilliant scholar and historian, one of University of California Berkeley’s most successful lecturers, and “an impressive stretcher of minds.” “I have met no one since then who has approached him in range, diversity, and depth of knowledge,” Robert [...]

Revisiting Robert Nisbet’s Conservative Classic

By |2020-10-09T15:40:05-05:00October 9th, 2020|Categories: Community, Conservatism, Freedom, Modernity, Robert Nisbet|

In his analysis of alienation in the modern world, Robert Nisbet recognized an important truth about the human person, which makes “The Quest for Community” timely even today: The individual cannot be understood except in relationship to other individuals in time and space. The abstract, autonomous individual does not exist nor can he ever exist. [...]

Robert Nisbet’s Ten Conditions of Revolution

By |2021-01-22T14:12:04-06:00September 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 the last year 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), [...]

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 long [...]

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 reaction [...]

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 concerns [...]

Is Conservatism an Ideology?

By |2020-04-25T03:15:59-05:00April 24th, 2020|Categories: Bradley J. Birzer, Conservatism, Ideology, Robert Nisbet, Senior Contributors|

In his excellent, short book, Conservatism: Dream and Reality, Robert Nisbet had no problem in identifying conservatism as an ideology. Whereas his friend, Russell Kirk, had repeatedly resisted defining the faith as anything other than a “way of being” quite contrary to all ideologies (in essence, an anti-ideology). Nisbet proclaimed it one of three ideologies [...]

Moving Toward Dread Conformity

By |2020-04-10T11:06:40-05:00April 8th, 2020|Categories: Books, Bradley J. Birzer, Civil Society, Civilization, Conservatism, Robert Nisbet, Senior Contributors|

In 1953, Robert Nisbet published “The Quest for Community,” a book that reveals to us that our own quest has become something both natural and unnatural. That is, it is natural to desire to belong, but it is horrifically unnatural in the ways we choose to commune. 1953 was a banner year for the conservative [...]

Did Edmund Burke Support the American Revolution?

By |2020-03-17T17:36:43-05:00March 17th, 2020|Categories: American Founding, American Republic, Bradley J. Birzer, Conservatism, Declaration of Independence, Edmund Burke, History, Independence Day, Robert Nisbet, Russell Kirk, Senior Contributors|

Many conservatives have assumed that Edmund Burke was opposed to the American Revolution. It is, to my mind, an erroneous assumption. “Burke broke his agentship and went publicly silent on the American cause once war broke out,” Robert Nisbet claimed in his most definitive analysis of Edmund Burke, written and published in 1985. His fellow [...]

Measuring the Influence of Russell Kirk and Other Conservative Authors

By |2019-10-08T17:40:40-05:00May 12th, 2019|Categories: Christopher Dawson, Conservatism, Culture, Eric Voegelin, Irving Babbitt, Robert Nisbet, Russell Kirk|

By using Google’s Ngram Viewer, we find that Russell Kirk’s reputation hit its highpoint in 1964, and then began a painful decline that remained unabated until his death in 1994. What does Ngram tell us about other conservative authors, like Robert Nisbet, Leo Strauss, Eric Voegelin, and Christopher Dawson? While I would never consider myself [...]

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