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Reflections on the Revolution in France (Dover Value Editions) Paperback – February 10, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0486445076 ISBN-10: 0486445070

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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Value Editions
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (February 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486445070
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486445076
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #608,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By stavrogin on November 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
I cannot believe that noone has reviewed this.Burke wrote this incredibly farsighted dissection of the French Revolution at a point when most English opinion leaders were supportive of that great orgy of sadistic bloodletting. He wrote this in 1790 as a reply to a clergyman who was of course a big supporter of the Revolution. Burke dissects the reverend and was able to foresee the emergence of a dictator well before the Reign of Terror and Robespierre and of course before anyone had heard of Napoleon. It includes many memorable phrases such as " the age of chivalry is dead; the age of sophists and calculators has begun." Other memorable phrases living until our times include " the unbought grace of life." Burke is probably the unsurpassed political genius of the last two hundred years. By all means if you want to know the essence of conservatism as prudent reform vs the awful beast of millenarian utopian leftism, this is where you must start.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Puterbaugh on July 1, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't think anyone involved in my education ever required me to read this book, which I find one of the most interesting books of the last 500 years.

As an example of Burke's thinking, let's turn to the "natural rights" of man: "life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness." The traditional defense of these arguments has been that they derive from God, or from Providence, or from Nature (whatever "Nature" with-a-capital-N might turn out to be!)

But by now, there is an entirely different, Burkean argument for these rights. I can't put the argument with Burke's eloquence, but he would say that these are **American** rights, declared at the founding of our nation, and since then handed down from generation to generation as a priceless birthright, as the proper inheritance of every American citizen. They don't have to "derive" from anywhere except the American political tradition, the American political inheritance, which we should be on constant guard to protect, so that we may hand the same precious birthright on, to our children and grandchildren.

Burke's analysis of the French National Assembly is masterful, and also contains lessons for today. What impressed Burke strongly was the devotion of the revolutionaries to abstract ideas, and the fact that they delivered the government of France into the hands of incompetents. Almost 300 of the 600 were petty lawyers, plus some illiterate peasants and a few merchants --- "and you expect these people to run a government?" Burke would ask, adding, "especially after all legitimate power had been destroyed?" He tellingly notes that NONE of the members of the National Assembly had any experience with government, and so (obviously) they were not up to the task.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Derek Jones on February 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Reflections" is ostensibly a tract attacking the French Revolution of 1789 but in reality its importance is its case for conservatism. The polemical nature of the book means that it is not a systematic analysis so one has to search for Burke's conservative principles.

One of his most important principles is "prescription", by which the possession of property and authority are given (at least some) legitimacy by the passage of time. Burke did not oppose all change but believed that if things are going well then they are best left alone. He wrote "A state without the means of change is without the means of its conservation", but believed that change should be for "proved abuses". Burke saw society as organic, as a "partnership" bridging all generations. In typical Burkean language he wrote that citizens "should approach the faults of the state as to the wounds of a father, with pious awe and trembling solicitude." As in any natural organism change must be slow and gradual. He observed that "I do not like to see anything destroyed, any void produced in society." He was, of course, opposed to abstract theories that he thought at best irrelevant and at worst dangerous. Society, thought Burke, needed not abstract reasoning but practical and pragmatic statesmen. He was even more opposed to revolution for it leads to excesses and unintended results.

Not surprisingly Burke stresses the importance of codes of conduct, custom and what he called "prejudice". He writes of the "pleasing illusions" that constitute "the decent drapery of life". These "antient opinions and rules of life" include politeness, deference, the chivalrous treatment of women, the "spirit of a gentleman" and the "spirit of religion".
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