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Reflections on the Revolution in France: A Critical Edition Paperback – March 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Providing a fresh perspective on a much-studied classic, Clark's edition is both innovative and informative. The first modern edition to reprint the text of the first edition of the Reflections, it brings readers closer to the historic document. . . . This volume should become the starting point for serious study of the Reflections."—F. P. Lock, Queen's University


" . . . [Reflections on the Revolution in France] will help both the student and the advanced scholar to engage with one of the founding texts of modernity, as well as providing, in its own right, an interpretive contribution to Burke studies."—History of Political Thought

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Library of Liberal Arts title. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (March 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804742057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804742054
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,006,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James E. Egolf on August 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
Edmund Burke (1729-1797)wrote REFLECTIONS ON THE REVOLUTION IN FRANCE in 1789 which was four years before the rise of the fanatical Jacobins and the execution (murder)of Louis XVI. This book was not only well written but very prophetic on the tragic events that were part of the French Revolution. Burke showed historical insight and warned both the British and the French what was going to happen.

Burke cited conditions in France prior to the French Revolution. He certainly did not give a false representation of the economic and social conditions in France, but he was clear that, while not perfect, the French had advanced culture and tolerable living standards. He also warned the French that abrupt changes without recourse to tradition and legal norms were dangerous and would end in tyranny. Readers should be aware that Burke's assessment of the French political system was that the French had reasonble politcal freedom and prosperity. To destroy this political system would end in political disruption, social and political violence, lack of law-and-order, and the rise of tyrannical military leaders.

One should note Burke's assessment of the members of the French National Assembly which was vacilating and subject to the whims of any "political interest group" was serious. He suggested that military officers would be among those "pleaders" would be military officers who would be difficult to control. He also warned that when someone who understood the art of command got control of the military officers, the days of the French Republic and the National Assembly were over.
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Format: Paperback
Edmund Burke is considered by many to be the first to expound upon Conservative principles. And this book provides plenty of justification for that view. Burke's "reflections" are especially potent since they not only provide a common sense defense of Conservative values but allow one to examine the consequences of ignoring those values, vis-à-vis the French Revolution. Burke defends the stability that comes with constancy and aged wisdom and derides those that embrace variability and experimentation as virtues. However, the reader is not left with the impression that Burke is opposed to all change. Quite the contrary. Recognizing the fallibility of Man, Burke fully expects that there is to be changes in our habits and prejudices as part of the normal course of human endeavors in order to improve upon established wisdom. But he forthrightly rejects the wholesale dismissal of knowledge and wisdom accumulated over vast periods of time. And he holds no punches in castigating the French Revolutionaries who were so presumptuous and arrogant as to count their vernacular wisdom wiser than that of all generations preceding them. He uses example after example of failures in the French experiment to demonstrate the futility and imbecility of starting afresh instead of building upon an existing foundation. This book is an absolute must read for conservatives.
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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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"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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