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James Burnham: Thinkers of Our Time Paperback – July, 1999
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Burnham was unique among conservative thinkers. Unlike conservatives who based their theories on religion, tradition, or natural law, Burnham was rigorously empirical in his approach to political problems. Nonetheless, this led him to conservative conclusions. Heavily influence by the so-called "realist school" of politics (Machiavelli, Michels and Pareto), Burnham sought to discover universal laws of politics and apply them to foreign policy and cultural change.
This is an enjoyable introduction to Burnham's thought and a model of organization. Francis discusses Burnham's overall philosophy and analyzes his thought chronologically, book by book. Francis also refutes a couple claims widely made about Burnham. First, he shows that (contrary to Rothbard) Burnham did devote considerable time to objecting to the growth of state power. Although Burnham was hardly a libertarian or even a minimal government conservative, he was generally supportive of free enterprise and limited government. Second, contrary to contemporary neoconservatives (and libertarian foreign policy writer Justin Raimondo), Burnham was not a proto-neocon. Burnham supported an "interventionist" foreign policy to fight the Soviet Union and communism, but his writings in this area can hardly be seen as a blueprint for a neocon New World Order.
This book should be supplemented by Kelly's recently published biography of Burnham, JAMES BURNHAM AND THE STRUGGLE FOR THE WORLD, which presents the neocon "take" on Burnham.