Roger Scruton is an old-fashioned Tory and while some of his ideas will appeal to Americans, particularly cultural and political conservatives, others will cause most of us on this side of the Atlantic, particularly conservatives, to bristle. For instance, Mr Scruton shares with America's Far Left (and the entire city of Portland, Oregon) a loathing for the suburbs. But further than this, he decries even the notion that people should want their own homes with their own small plot of land. It's that old Tory business--he believes that if you were born with a large estate you ought really to keep it and preserve it well and so forth. But if you were born without the large estate, you ought, in Mr Scruton's view, to be content living in an apartment because that's better for society and the environment. About economic opportunity, he has, as far as I can tell, absolutely nothing to say, not in this book and not in anything else of his I've ever read. Again, it's that old Tory hooey which even the British Conservative Party dumped, back when they chose Thatcher.
Mr. Scruton is a good deal more sound when it comes to questions of culture. He goes too far not in his defense of High Culture but in his trashing of Low Culture. Still, he's more right than wrong here.
The sections on Sex and Marriage are the best in the book, spot on.
I've never liked Scruton's arguments about religion. He seems to advocate Christianity not because he believes it to be true but because he thinks it makes for a more civilized and orderly society. This is, at best, an incomplete view of Christianity (Jesus, as you may recall, was known to upset applecarts, throw over tables, kick money-changers out of temples, etc.; he was really quite hard on the social order of his day). It's also theologically untenable. Either you believe Christianity to be true and you throw yourself headlong into trying to achieve salvation or you choose some other belief system to follow. Trying to be a Christian merely because you think it will make people behave better in public just doesn't wash and is yet another example of Scruton's Toryism, his belief that preserving order trumps all. Most Americans, Left and Right, accept that our systems of government and politics will put our society in a nearly constant state of flux and we live, most of us happily, with the resultant disorder. We accept no class or caste system; poor people get rich, rich people get poor, Christians and others will follow the dictates of their consciences regardless of the effect on order. It's not always an easy system under which to live but it's our system and few of us would trade it for Mr Scruton's gulag of order and civility.
So, as I wrote at the outset, American readers, particularly conservatives, will find some things to like here, but they will also find some things that grate.
Mr Scruton's prose will engender this same dichotomy of feelings: he can go from elegant to turgid in an instant and, once he goes turgid, he tends to stay turgid for quite a while.