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The Conservative Sensibility

Written by: George F. Will
Narrated by: Peter Ganim
Length: 24 hrs and 37 mins

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Publisher's Summary

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, a monumental new reflection on American conservatism, examining how the Founders' belief in natural rights created a great American political tradition - one that now finds itself under threat.

For more than four decades, George F. Will has attempted to discern the principles of the Western political tradition and apply them to America's civic life. Today, the stakes could hardly be higher. Vital questions about the nature of man, of rights, of equality, of majority rule are bubbling just beneath the surface of daily events in America. 

The Founders' vision, articulated first in the Declaration of Independence and carried out in the Constitution, gave the new republic a framework for government unique in world history. Their beliefs in natural rights, limited government, religious freedom, and human virtue and dignity ushered in two centuries of American prosperity. Now, as Will shows, conservatism is under threat - both from progressives and elements inside the Republican Party. America has become an administrative state while destructive trends have overtaken family life and higher education. Semi-autonomous executive agencies wield essentially unaccountable power. Congress has failed in its duty to exercise its legislative powers. And the executive branch has slipped the Constitution's leash. 

In the intellectual battle between the vision of Founding Fathers like James Madison, who advanced the notion of natural rights that pre-exist government, and the progressivism advanced by Woodrow Wilson, the Founders have been losing. It's time to reverse America's political fortunes. 

Expansive, intellectually thrilling, and written with the erudite wit that has made Will beloved by millions of fans, The Conservative Sensibility is an extraordinary new book from one of America's most celebrated political writers.

©2019 George F. Will (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"A monumental achievement. The Conservative Sensibility is not a 'Washington book' about partisan politics - it's much bigger than that. It's a career capstone that will stir your soul with its passionate reminder of what conservatism really means. Buy it, read it, share it." (Senator Ben Sasse, New York Times best-selling author of Them and The Vanishing American Adult)
 

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • kevinf
  • 13-06-19

Conservativism explained and in practice

George Will does a good job of explaining conservatism in this book. He gets into a substantial amount of analysis and thought on the subject here. George explores what it has meant to be a conservative in the past and what it should mean today.

George goes back to the founders of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and explains natural rights, how the founders wanted them in the Constitution, and how individual rights would never be inferior to government. In my opinion, the book is a peek into the intellectual architecture that makes up the ideology of conservatism. He talks about majority rule and minority opposition as well and it's context within the Constitution.

I don't want to debate George here... and without getting into in too deep, I can say my only real issue with the book is that there doesn't seem to be any wiggle room on his belief of conservatism. However; if you have read George before then you are not surprised he's binary on the subject.

Can't I believe in natural rights but also believe there's a benefit to having a progressive working government that doesn't interfere with my liberty? What if I believe in capitalism and small government but I also think regulations are sometimes needed for a healthy market? What if I believe in small government but I don't think you should cut funding to programs to the point where government doesn't work right? I just think there's room for some gray in George's world of black and white while still considering yourself a conservative.

I definitely recommend to those who want to know what it means to be a conservative, in the past and moving forward to today. While I didn't agree with George on everything and I thought he needed to be debated here and there, I very much enjoyed the book and it was very educational. George's analysis was a historical look at conservatism as well as a few insightful thoughts on what it means to be conservative today.

If you are looking for George's analysis of today's Republican party compared to conservatism of yesterday, you won't find it in this book in any real form. If you're looking for an eloquent dissection of what a conservative was and should be... look no farther.

Book was well narrated and is a "must have" for political junkies.

26 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • Larry A. Keller
  • 31-07-19

Probably would be better read than listened to

I hate giving this book less than a perfect score. I have a lot of respect for George Will, but this work is not a light read. One needs to spend the time necessary to digest much of what the author is trying to say. I find that very difficult when the book is being read to me.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Daniel S.
  • 11-08-19

Thoughtful amalgam of a life’s work

George will, I’ve not followed for long, seems to be a useful contributor to the story of Conservatism in the United States. His historical analysis seems well tied to a conservative worldview which has been informed by years of tireless contemplation and research. If only he had put aside his animus towards the religious predilections of our forefathers , this book would warrant 5 stars. It seems as though in one breath he chided those who have a religious axe to grind and with the very next, reveals his own implement of woodcutting and grinds away to the tune of enlightenment atheist humanism. His course here would have been better served to build a larger tent by laying out the reasons atheists find a comfortable home within conservatism and alongside their religious brethren. Nevertheless, it will remain on my shelf, digital and otherwise.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Henry May
  • 05-10-19

George is trying to have it both ways

I've been reading George Will's columns since I was in high school in the mid-1970s. With the exception of his occasional forays into baseball, I've generally found myself alternately agreeing and disagreeing with him. My disagreements have become more substantial since learning attended the University of Illinois Laboratory High School. I shouldn't hold this against him, but it does make him a privileged faculty brat in my view. That comes through loud and clear with Will's advocacy for the type of free market capitalism that made America great. It also provides a frame for his positions on climate change denial. Regulating the free market is bad, even when it may be necessary to save the planet.
On the other hand, as an "amiable, low-voltage atheist" who understands and clearly states that the founders were not fundamentalist christians, Will appeals to my own religious sensibilities. This is obviously going to compromise some of the very alliances he wishes to form with his positions on the free market.
Finally, he seems to alternately praise Saint Ronnie for the demise of the Soviet Union and take him to task for starting us down the road to becoming the debtor nation we are today, all the while completely ignoring Iran-Contra

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Lee
  • 23-06-19

Founding Fathers wisdom explained

Those of us over 50 were taught civics and American government based the foundation of ‘Federalist vs Republican’ concepts and comprises. Too many of those arguments are no longer presented in our schools or universities. Our society seems to have forgotten the difference between needs and wants. Mr. Will does an excellent job of bribing those issues into today’s politics.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Erik
  • 13-07-19

Hard to Describe

This book was a hodgepodge of so many topics, from Hitler to the plague, Darwin to religion, I didn’t really know what to make of the sheer volume of topics touched on or discussed at length. There were certainly nuggets throughout.

I got the sense that this book is intended to be George Will’s magnum opus, which if not, it certainly deserves to be.

I doubt I will read this book again, but I am positive I will use it as a reference book in the future.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • James Adams
  • 12-11-19

A Masterpiece and Master Class

George Will (where have you been?) brings today’s reader, haplessly bombarded in the present political maelstrom, a much needed deep drink from the well of America’s historical wisdom, from our Founding Fathers to Lincoln to Goldwater and even Moynihan. A telling reminder that a government originally envisioned as a sparse and almost unnoticed substrate that facilitates progress mostly by getting out of people’s way, may - as we demand and expect it to meet our every need and comfort - subsume and dominate our lives. As we stray from, neglect and ultimately forget America’s founding wisdom one wonders: will our society can remain truly free?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 22-07-19

A lot of information to digest.

George Will packed a lot of information into this book. While it is worth listening to, you need a text copy to follow along because there are points you will want to revisit. It is hard to highlight parts in an audiobook.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Lahana Singer
  • 11-07-19

Essential Reading

Mr. Will is such a great thinker and word Smith. I will be listening to this book again.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Bobby Ellinthorpe
  • 30-07-19

Erudite and thought-provoking

This committed liberal came away with a lot to think about after reading this trenchant apologia of the conservative point of view. We'll never met an aphorism he didn't like and at the end of the day rationalizes the white patriarchy but he does so genially. The American political right doesn't deserve such an eloquent advocate. Will restores rhetoric which has been deprecated to its proper esteem as defined by the power to prove, please, and in the case of this reader, just about almost persuade

4 of 6 people found this review helpful