[This review was published in the July/August 1996 issue of Conservative Review, pp. 36-37.] 


Book Review


A Guide for Exuberant Living

By Clark L. Corey

Plymouth, MI: 1994


Reviewed by Dwight D. Murphey 


            One would think from the title that this book is something of a Norman Vincent Peale inspirational work, not unlike the motivational tracts that people in sales never cease to crave to keep their spirits up in a difficult occupation.

            It is much deeper than that, however, and the thrust of its message is decidedly pessimistic in that the book describes and analyzes the attack that has for so long been made against American and European culture.  The “exuberant living” is for those who, through grass-roots citizenship in the form of Jefferson’s “wards,” which Corey recommends as a way back from our predicament, make themselves leaders in the struggle to revitalize our civilization.  Professor Corey, having described an intellectual and cultural nightmare, has no doubt chosen the title to emphasize that there is much that we can do, if only we will.  “The intent here is to provide a rapid expansion in the number of people who can see for themselves and comprehend the danger, while, at the same time, recognizing the positive, the exuberance possible in a life of purpose, in the rebuilding of human society.”

            Clark L. Corey once flew combat missions with the 8th Air Force in England and is now a retired professor of metallurgy at Wayne State University.  He reminds this reviewer of Raphael Kazmann (an author familiar to readers of Conservative Review), whose professional life has been in engineering but who thinks deeply about the nature of man and society.  Corey is extremely well-read, and there are thoughtful references to the likes of Wilhelm Roepke, Konrad Lorenz, Richard Weaver, Walter Lippmann, John Dewey, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Lester Ward—to name just a few men of various persuasions.  The book is a distillation of years of study and reflection by a man who agonizes over our society’s apparent acquiescence in a nihilistic destruction of itself.

            I gather the volume is self-published.  It soars with Carlyle-type vigor, and with the candor and honest exposition that is most easily accomplished, in an age when conformity is demanded from virtually all quarters, when an author has no one to satisfy but himself.  At the same time, it suffers from some deficiencies (such as a repetitiousness that becomes tiresome in the final third) that a careful editing would eliminate.  The latter flaw makes it less than a perfect book, but the candor, honesty and erudition make it valuable to people who care about the survival of our society.

            Corey sees the West as having given rise to a progressive development of a natural human society based on a struggle upward toward a human condition that is “proper to man.”  He devotes considerable attention to the sources, such as in language and religious purpose, of this natural order.  It is an order that embodies, certainly, what most conservatives believe to be essential.

            He also sees what this reviewer has long stressed as perhaps the central fact in modern life—that Western intellectuals have for several centuries been in the vanguard of a war of subversion to destroy precisely this natural order.  They have, he says, launched an attack on every aspect of it.  Oliver Stone, then, is to be seen as merely among the latest of several generations of nihilists who intend nothing less than the genocide of Western society.

            In the course of this analysis, Corey shows how a broad range of specific issues and episodes fit into the larger picture.  This leads him into such seemingly disparate subjects as the abuse of environmentalism, the use of the Holocaust as a propaganda vehicle, the methods of teaching reading, the coup against Diem in Vietnam, the Rodney King case, crime, poverty, the Spanish Civil War… and several others.  It is gratifying that he spells out the facts about Kent State and the World War II evacuation of the Japanese-Americans from the west coast (for both of which he largely relies on studies this reviewer has written for Conservative Review).

            It isn’t likely that any reader will agree with Corey on every point in a discussion so wide-ranging.  I don’t share with him, say, the fundamental dualism of truth-versus-renegadism that he projects, since reality is extremely complex and I agree with John Stuart Mill in thinking that much of the disagreement over social philosophy comes from each faction’s seeing just part of the truth while excluding the rest.  Nor do I join him and many other conservatives in an overall condemnation of the Enlightenment, since the alienated intellectuality that lies at the heart of the modern attack on Western culture stems primarily from a rejection of the Enlightenment and only secondarily from an abuse of Reason.

            Just the same, Corey’s is a provocative and instructive book, well worth reading and passing along to others.