Useful Curmudgeon

Gentle Regrets

Thoughts from a Life

Roger Scruton

Continuum, $19.95, 248 pp.

Roger Scruton may not be a household name, but he is a contemporary cultural exemplar from the British side of the pond, someone who has given clear and eloquent expression to his challenging point of view. He is a conservative intellectual, a philosopher with a specialty in aesthetics, and a social thinker who started life in an English village, attended the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe (where T. S. Eliot briefly taught), went on to study philosophy at Cambridge, and thereafter pursued a stormy career as a teacher at Birkbeck College in London. At odds with the left-wing academic establishment-over politics, modern architecture, the value of tradition, Christianity (or the lack thereof) in modern life-he founded the Salisbury Review, an organ of opinion meant to embolden defenders of the Western cultural heritage and gall postmodernists who advanced the idea that high culture was an elitist power play.

In the 1980s, Scruton became the polemicist that many academics loved to hate. And while the historian Eric Hobsbawm, his colleague at Birkbeck, defended the Communist Party and still managed to become a Companion of Honour, Scruton was headed for academic disaster. He reports his book The Meaning of Conservatism “blighted what remained of my academic career.” He then taught and lectured in Eastern Europe, sharpening his position by observing the agitprop, desperation, and vacuity of the regimes about...

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