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How to be a Conservative summary

Roger Scruton

Conservative Ideology for Contemporary Times

3.7 (177 ratings)
23 mins

Brief summary

How to be a Conservative by Roger Scruton explores the principles and values that underpin conservative thought. It offers a guide for those who believe in the importance of tradition, custom, and community in the face of modern challenges.

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    Scruton grew up in a Labour-voting family, but twentieth-century events made him a conservative.

    How do you go from a lower-middle-class childhood in inner-city Manchester, to a salubrious career in national journalism, and a life-long support of conservatism? It’s not the most predictable of journeys. For the author, Roger Scruton, it began when he saw his father – a lifelong Labour voter – campaign against the suburban sprawl.

    He’d always been a socialist; he believed that the working class had been enslaved by the aristocracy, and that it was necessary to wage a class war. But he also had a deep fondness for the English countryside, the country’s historical architecture, and the old ways of living and working. Modern housing – he thought – threatened all of that.

    This side of his father’s character influenced Scruton’s thinking. He came to see that it was always better to conserve things, especially when the proposed alternatives were so much worse. 

    The key message here is: Scruton grew up in a Labour-voting family, but twentieth-century events made him a conservative. 

    The second factor that turned the author into a conservative was the May 1968 rioting in Paris. Scruton was in the French capital at the time of the protests. As he watched students smash shop windows and attack the police, he felt a surge of anger. In his view, these middle-class intellectuals were railing against the very society that allowed them their privileged lives.

    Scruton’s conservatism grew even stronger after Margaret Thatcher became the British prime minister in 1979. The 1970s had been a period of decline in the UK. To Scruton, it seemed as if the country, especially its institutions and universities, had succumbed to a self-hating leftism; a philosophy that denigrated all the good things that Britain had achieved.

    But, with Thatcher, the nation found a new confidence. She stood proudly for free enterprise and for freedom of the individual. While Scruton didn’t agree entirely with Thatcher’s rhetoric, he did sympathize with her basic philosophy: that people had to take responsibility for their own lives, rather than blindly trust the state.

    The fourth influence over Scruton’s politics also came in 1979, when he visited what was then Communist Czechoslovakia. Scruton was there to give a talk; and when he examined his audience, he saw firsthand where the policies of radical leftism led.

    There to listen to him were former lecturers, rabbis, novelists, and psychoanalysts. But now the Communist regime employed all these people as coal stokers. Each one of them had had their potential snuffed out by authoritarians who sought to control all aspects of human life.

    From that moment on, Scruton was firmly committed to the cause of freedom – something, he believed, that was worth conserving at any cost.

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    What is How to be a Conservative about?

    How to be a Conservative (2014) presents the case for traditional conservatism in a world that seems inhospitable to its existence. In this short volume, English philosopher Sir Roger Scruton lays out the case for the nation-state, a free market, and a more sensible approach to multiculturalism and human rights.

    How to be a Conservative Review

    How to be a Conservative is a thought-provoking book by Roger Scruton that explores the principles and values of conservatism. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers a clear and comprehensive understanding of conservative thought, providing readers with insights into its core ideas and beliefs.
    • With meticulous analysis, the book examines the challenges that conservatism faces in modern society, offering valuable perspectives on current political debates.
    • Through engaging and accessible writing, Scruton presents his arguments in a nuanced and compelling manner, ensuring that the book is never dull or boring.

    Who should read How to be a Conservative?

    • Those who walk on the right side of politics
    • Anyone interested in political philosophy
    • Leftists looking for an alternative perspective

    About the Author

    Sir Roger Scruton was an English philosopher and writer, who sought to further traditionalist conservatism. He wrote on art, music, culture, politics, sexuality, and religion, among other things, and was a regular contributor to popular media like the Times, the Spectator, and New Statesman.

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    How to be a Conservative FAQs 

    What is the main message of How to be a Conservative?

    How to be a Conservative explores the values and principles that guide conservative ideology.

    How long does it take to read How to be a Conservative?

    The reading time for How to be a Conservative varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in 15 minutes.

    Is How to be a Conservative a good book? Is it worth reading?

    How to be a Conservative offers insights into conservative philosophy and is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of How to be a Conservative?

    The author of How to be a Conservative is Roger Scruton.

    What to read after How to be a Conservative?

    If you're wondering what to read next after How to be a Conservative, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Righteous Indignation by Andrew Breitbart
    • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
    • Beyond Order by Jordan B. Peterson
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