Don’t Lose Sight of Culture

Bust of Plato in the library of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)
Manners, morals, and decent politics stand or fall together.

Day-to-day politics is of intrinsic interest for us political animals, and the issues of the day orient much or most of our political reflection. But ideas, and ideas of a high order, ultimately give life and definition to the conservatism that has animated NR since its founding in 1955.

The indispensable Books, Arts & Manners section of National Review (what we call “BAM” in-house), last but not least in each and every issue, allows for contributors to thoughtfully engage with books that, for good or for ill, shape our self-understanding as a free people. This section — sponsored by the nonprofit National Review Institute — brings out elegant writing, as well as deeper reflection on human nature, conservative political thought, culture, and manners more broadly. As a trustee of NRI and an occasional contributor to NR, I am delighted to recommend Books, Arts & Manners.

The best politics, and the best human lives, are necessarily informed by what the great Edmund Burke so memorably called “the moral imagination.” Burke, the first modern conservative, knew that manners, morals, and decent politics stand or fall together. And NR’s founder, William F. Buckley Jr., was a stylish writer, a man of wide reading, and cultivated in every sense of the term. In important respects, the Books, Arts & Manners section serves as a reminder of the urbanity that informed and defined WFB as a person and thinker. It is, I suggest, a precious part of his legacy, which is why it’s so important for NRI to support and promote this cultural work.

For the recent 65th anniversary of the magazine, NR’s editors invited distinguished scholars and writers, young and old alike, to discuss the classics of classical liberalism and conservatism. The 50th anniversary issue, to which I was happy to contribute, memorably highlighted the best and most enduring conservative books of the half century that followed NR’s founding. This is “BAM” at its peak. But its movie reviews by the likes of Ross Douthat, and its reflections on modern manners by the likes of Rick Brookhiser, also charm and instruct, and keep readers coming. NRI brings these pieces to life through complementary events — regular book and movie discussions led by fellows Jay Nordlinger, Kyle Smith, Kevin D. Williamson, and others.

In an age when politics can all but consume us, it’s critical that we not lose sight of our culture and the preservation of the permanent things. NRI’s commitment to the thought and culture that defines BAM becomes even more indispensable as we approach the centenary of Bill Buckley’s birth in 2025.

This giving season, I ask that you support National Review Institute’s continued efforts to highlight the importance of culture and ideas of a higher order. Please donate generously to NRI’s End-of-Year Fund Appeal today.

Donate here.

All donations are fully tax-deductible and go towards NRI’s educational and outreach programs and fellowships — including its sponsorship of Books, Arts & Manners and related cultural pursuits. NRI has an ambitious goal to raise $500,000 by the end of the calendar year. Please donate today — every dollar counts.

Thank you for your support and for your dedication to a worthy cause.

Daniel J. Mahoney — Mr. Mahoney is a professor emeritus at Assumption University and a senior fellow at the Real Clear Foundation. His new book, The Statesman as Thinker: Portraits of Greatness, Courage, and Moderation, will be published in May.


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