George A. Panichas Conservator Extraordinaire.

Author:Folks, Jeffrey J.
 
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Restoring the Meaning of Conservatism: Writings from Modern Age, by George A. Panichas. Foreword by Jeremy Beer. Wilmington: ISI Books, 2008. 301 + xxxiv pages. $28 cloth. $18 paper.

This collection of writings by George A. Panichas, all of which appeared in the pages of Modern Age between 1965 and 2007, is a testament to the author's major contribution to conservatism for over four decades. During this period Dr. Panichas worked tirelessly as a scholar and editor, serving from 1984 to 2007 as editor of Modern Age, commenting widely on the religious, philosophical, and social issues of the moment, and engaging in extensive correspondence, all the while pursuing his own literary scholarship centered on such writers as Lawrence, Conrad, and Dostoyevsky. Panichas is the author or editor of 20 books, and perhaps a hundred or more essays, reviews, and occasional pieces (38 of which appear in this collection). More importantly, and what no mere enumeration of his accomplishments can suggest, Panichas is a scholar of a sort now endangered by university politics: one who, scorning the narrow partisanship and conformity of academe, has spent a lifetime of unflinching devotion to the pursuit of wisdom alone.

This pursuit has led Panichas on an arduous intellectual and moral journey during which he has mastered an impressive range of literary, philosophical, historical, and religious texts. Grounded in this extensive learning, Panichas brings his entire moral, intellectual, and spiritual being to the central task of criticism, an activity that he has termed the "courage of judgment." Indeed, what Panichas intends by "restoring the meaning of conservatism" has everything to do with a spiritual sense of wholeness, unity, and purpose. "We need to begin with the spiritual premises before we can even begin to deal with, or hope to alter, the political framework of life" (xxii), Panichas writes in the preface to this collection, and surely this is wise advice to conservatives at this troubled moment in our national history. Along with the spiritual basis, and necessarily accompanying it, is the assumption of personal moral responsibility, a matter that forms a major focus of many of Panichas's essays.

Significantly, and in spite of the book's title, Panichas prefers to speak of himself as a "conservator" rather than a conservative, and the former is clearly the more exact designation in regard to Panichas's lifelong labor. As a conservator, he is everywhere...

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