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Reflections on the Revolution in France by…

Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)

by Edmund Burke

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,994165,128 (3.69)30
  1. 20
    The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot by Russell Kirk (Anonymous user)
  2. 10
    Considerations on France by Joseph de Maistre (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Great companion piece. Another conservative, and an admirer of Burke, though he wrote with quite a different temperament. Both very deep thinkers, but while Burke is more nuanced and grounded, de Maistre is dark, profound and metaphysical. I prefer 'Considerations' but both works are excellent.… (more)
  3. 00
    Edmund Burke and the Natural Law by Peter J. Stanlis (Anonymous user)

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I try to scrape all unfavorable reviews down to an absolute minimum of length, so here goes:

Burke thinks that the answer to everything is common sense, although his term for “common sense” was “prejudice”, something that undoubtedly did not get the approval of the PR department or indeed any sort of non-Protestant living in Britain at the time. But it seems to me like Burke relished a fight, so that was probably part of the appeal of calling common sense “prejudice”.

The trouble is real however, in that, as Plato and the philosophers point out, common sense, or simply what you assume, is often simply wrong. Burke I don’t think could overcome his contempt for philosophy long enough to form a coherent reply, so instead he just rambled on about how wrong they all always are. So it remains that common sense is not always helpful and that this is detrimental to Burke. “Blessed are you when you are persecuted” is not common sense, but old Edmund Burke seems to me to think that as long as he could muster up sufficient prejudice/common sense for those pesky non-Protestants then he would be in the clear.

That’s as directed and calm as I could get it.
  smallself | May 25, 2019 |
  OberlinSWAP | Aug 1, 2015 |
  OberlinSWAP | Aug 1, 2015 |
How decayed is contemporary political discourse? So decayed that libertarians and small market conservatives consider Burke to be their forebear, and Marx to be the forebear of Democrats. I imagine that Marx and Burke would much rather have a beer with each other than with any of their lilliputian, soi-disant followers.

So, just to be clear. Burke claims that a society functions best when it has a completely stable set of institutions as its base: civil society, landed property, and a state/church marriage. Only if these persist will liberty give us worthwhile projects, rather than muck; only if they persist is capitalism and financial speculation anything other than a casino in which the rich get richer and the poor get shafted.

These institutions necessarily require what today we think of as 'government intervention.' The poor should be cared for; the benefits of social life should accrue to all, and not just the rich; the profits of the wealthy should be re-invested in productive enterprise and not frittered away on luxury or the aforementioned casino.

Burke is no more compatible with contemporary, so-called 'conservatism' than Marx is. They both saw the dangers of unrestrained capitalism. They both saw the dangers of 'utopian' revolutionary planning (although neither conservatives nor Marxist read those bits of Marx, for obvious reasons). Admittedly, Burke was a sycophantic, power-hungry hack; and Marx went from being a lunatic pamphleteer to an impressive but ineffectual research academic. Neither of them are role-models. But at least they were willing and able to think - actually *think* - about politics, rather than just spouting party line drivel.

All that aside, Burke's analysis of the French Revolution's violence is tendentious, sometimes slipping over into yellow journalism rather than convincing critique. He's not always wrong, but he is always hyper-polemical, and that's never very constructive. His praise of English political institutions is far more interesting, as is his defense of landed property, although it's hard to distinguish the philosophical claims (need for stability in society) from the class-based ideology (stability is produced by Whig aristocrats). And his rhetoric with regard to the dangers of democracy (and, therefore, the libertarianism of the contemporary right) needs to be taken on board by anyone who cares that we're about to destroy our economic, social and environmental heritage: "The will of the many and their interest must very often differ, and great will be the difference when they make an evil choice… government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions." "The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints… liberty, when men act in bodies, is power."

The solution for the problems of democracy is not, alas, more democracy, as nice as it would be to think so.

Also, the introduction to this Hackett edition is great, although Pocock doesn't really *show* that Burke wasn't in a rage against a proto-bourgeoisie. He does state it over and over again, but it doesn't seem important enough a point to make, considering that Burke most certainly was in a rage against some people an awful lot like the bourgeoisie of the later nineteenth century. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Edmund Burke does NOT like what he sees in Paris-be warned there are graphic descriptions of horrific atrocities being meted out on the Citizens; the phrase 'reign of terror' is a apt description'. He hits out at the political instruments of the Jacobins in the most searing of ways. One to read alongside others happening at that time like Mary Wollestonecraft, Thomas Paine Rights of Man (both need to be read by me) ( )
  wonderperson | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edmund Burkeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mahoney, Thomas H. D.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Brien, Conor CruiseIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dear Sir,
You are pleased to call again, and with some earnestness, for my thoughts on the late proceedings in France.
"It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles. . . "
"The age of chivalry is gone."
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This is maintained as a separate work. Do not therefore combine to editions with other essays.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140432043, Paperback)

‘To make a revolution is to subvert the ancient state of our country; and no common reasons are called for to justify so violent a proceeding’

Burke’s seminal work was written during the early months of the French Revolution, and it predicted with uncanny accuracy many of its worst excesses, including the Reign of Terror. A scathing attack on the revolution’s attitudes to existing institutions, property and religion, it makes a cogent case for upholding inherited rights and established customs, argues for piecemeal reform rather than revolutionary change – and deplores the influence Burke feared the revolution might have in Britain. Reflections on the Revolution in France is now widely regarded as a classic statement of conservative political thought, and is one of the eighteenth century’s great works of political rhetoric.

Conor Cruise O’Brien’s introduction examines the contemporary political situation in England and Ireland and its influence on Burke’s point of view. He highlights Burke’s brilliant grasp of social and political forces and discusses why the book has remained so significant for over two centuries.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:13 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

This new and up-to-date edition of a book that has been central to political philosophy, history, and revolutionary thought for two hundred years offers readers a dire warning of the consequences that follow the mismanagement of change. Written for a generation presented with challenges of terrible proportions--the Industrial, American, and French Revolutions, to name the most obvious--Burke's Reflections of the Revolution in France displays an acute awareness of how high political stakes can be, as well as a keen ability to set contemporary problems within a wider context of political theory.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300099797, 0300099789

Liberty Fund, Inc

2 editions of this book were published by Liberty Fund, Inc.

Editions: 086597165X, 0865971641

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