Dr. Edward Peters 

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10 jan 2013

Review of Gregory Wolfe, Right Minds: A Sourcebook (Regnery, 1987) 245 pp.

Edward Peters, Review of G. Wolfe, Right Minds: A Sourcebook of American Conservative Thought (1987), in Reflections (Fall 1987) 4.



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Gregory Wolfe has done something that is becoming rather rare these days: he has compiled a genuinely useful book. In an age bombarded by theories, opinions, and ideas – most of them wrong – Gregory Wolfe has showed us where to find those sources of reliable right-thinking, and how to find them quickly.


For starters, Right Minds is more than a broad bibliography of traditional and conservative thought; it is an annotated bibliography, which means that after each entry there follow a couple of sentences accurately describing the contents of the work and its potential usefulness to the reader. This alone is a great aid in research. But the summations are only as useful as Wolfe is reliable. And how reliable is that?


Gregory Wolfe matriculated through a liberal arts education at Hillsdale College in Michigan and Oxford University in England. For several years, he has been an editor and the director of publications at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, long America’s premier collegiate conservative organization.


Following his conversion to the Faith a few years ago, Wolfe quickly became recognized as one of the brightest in an exciting group of young Catholic thinkers. This fall, in fact he begins his latest task as a professor of English at Christendom College in Virginia.


In short, the training and associations which Wolfe has acquired over the years make him eminently well-suited to provide this general guidebook to the American conservative movement. Off hand, I think, the only person who might be more qualified for this task would be William F. Buckley, Jr. And he was needed to write the Foreword!


But for a bibliography, even an annotated one, truly to be useful (as opposed to ponderous), it must be limited to the best and the brightest works, the leading journals, and the most important organizations. Even at this, the list can become lengthy. But here again, Wolfe, I submit, has chosen wisely and carefully. There are, to be sure, hundreds of entries, but they are neatly broken down into quite manageable topics such as government, law, religion, welfare, media, education, literature, and so on.


It is hard to pick a favorite section from a book which is filled with favorite sections. I suppose, though, I found especially useful the section which discussed modern conservative journals, of which there were even more than I suspected. Given the fact that the age of the systematic treatise is over (for better or for worse) and that most discourse now takes place in the shorter article format (how many “books” today are but collections of previously published journal pieces grouped around a theme?), keeping abreast of those organs of publications is a necessary part of the informed study and application of right-minded ideas.


So, if you are a student, educator, journalist, public servant, or just a conscientious citizen who knows something is wrong out there, but can’t quite remember where it was all explained correctly, then I suggest Gregory Wolfe’s “sourcebook of American conservative thought” might well point you in the right direction.