Russell Kirk Quotes


"A body that has ceased to renew itself has begun to die."

"We cannot make a heaven on earth, though we may make a hell."

"Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created."

"First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order."

"Sudden and slashing reforms are as perilous as sudden and slashing surgery."

"Human society being complex, remedies cannot be simple if they are to be efficacious."

"When every person claims to be a power unto himself, then society falls into anarchy."

"For a nation is no stronger than the numerous little communities of which it is composed."

"To anarchy there succeeds tyranny or oligarchy, in which power is monopolized by a very few."

"To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things."

"A just government maintains a healthy tension between the claims of authority and the claims of liberty."

"There are two aspects or types of order: the inner order of the soul, and the outer order of the commonwealth."

"Our twentieth-century world has experienced the hideous consequences of the collapse of belief in a moral order."

"The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata."

"It is characteristic of the radical that he thinks of power as a force for good—so long as the power falls into his hands."

"Conservatives are champions of custom, convention, and continuity because they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know."

"The conservative acknowledges that the possession of property fixes certain duties upon the possessor; he accepts those moral and legal obligations cheerfully."

"All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk."

"The only true forms of equality are equality at the Last Judgment and equality before a just court of law; all other attempts at levelling must lead, at best, to social stagnation."

"Because of human restlessness, mankind would grow rebellious under any utopian domination, and would break out once more in violent discontent—or else expire of boredom."

"Society requires honest and able leadership; and if natural and institutional differences are destroyed, presently some tyrant or host of squalid oligarchs will create new forms of inequality."

"First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent."

"Conservatives sense that modern people are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, able to see farther than their ancestors only because of the great stature of those who have preceded us in time."

"A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society."

"A state in which an individual or a small group are able to dominate the wills of their fellows without check is a despotism, whether it is called monarchical or aristocratic or democratic."

"Like the atrocities and disasters of Greece in the fifth century before Christ, the ruin of great nations in our century shows us the pit into which fall societies that mistake clever self-interest, or ingenious social controls, for pleasing alternatives to an oldfangled moral order."

"Prejudice is not bigotry or superstition, although prejudice sometimes may degenerate into these. Prejudice is pre-judgment, the answer with which intuition and ancestral consensus of opinion supply a man when he lacks either time or knowledge to arrive at a decision predicated upon pure reason."

"For the institution of several property—that is, private property—has been a powerful instrument for teaching men and women responsibility, for providing motives to integrity, for supporting general culture, for raising mankind above the level of mere drudgery, for affording leisure to think and freedom to act."

Compiled by Thomas George