This is the fourth in a series celebrating the work of Russell Kirk in honor of his 100th birthday this October. Read more from the series here.
On October 3, Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, joined a panel at the American Enterprise Institute to commemorate the life and legacy of Russell Kirk, one of the leading American intellectuals of conservative thought. Hosted by AEI’s Ryan Streeter, the event also included commentary from Daniel McCarthy of Modern Ageand Ted McAllister of the Pepperdine School of Public Policy.
In his opening remarks, Gregg highlighted Kirk’s ability to articulate a principled case for conservatism. Contrary to critics such as Friedrich Hayek, who famously argued that conservatism lacked any defining principles, Russell Kirk grounded his thought accordingly.
“[Kirk’s] case for conservatism is not just reactionary,” Gregg explains. “His case for conservatism is not just nostalgic. His case for conservatism is not pure pragmatism.”
Taking a moment to reflect on Kirk’s “Ten Conservative Principles” (from his book, The Politics of Prudence), Gregg points to Kirk’s gift for weaving together an appreciation for liberty with an emphasis on order—a tension that we all ought to embrace “if principled conservatism is going to have a future in America.”
“Thanks to Kirk, these principles made their way into the modern American conservative project,” Gregg says. “….He brings together a commitment to liberty on the one hand, and a commitment to order and authority as well, in a way that very few people have managed to do…He takes what’s best of the pre-modern tradition and the modern tradition and brings them together in a way that adds strength and rigor to American conservatism.”
From panelists explores a wide range of other topics, as well, from The Roots of American Order to the American founding to natural law to the role of customs, imagination, and storytelling in Kirk’s intellectual project.
Watch the full event here.