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Reflections on the Revolution in France (Hackett Classics) Paperback – September 15, 1987

4.4 out of 5 stars 82 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Pocock is, without question, the leading historian of eighteenth-century British-American political thought. . . . All of his skills are brilliantly employed in the Introduction. . . . In addition to being the best treatment of Burke's thought in context, it is . . . the best and most concentrated presentation of Pocock's own view of the main contours of eighteenth-century political thought. . . . Finally, the Reflections and other texts by Burke are then woven into this rich fabric, thus providing the reader with an understanding of Burke's thought which is deeper and more complex (and surely more historically sensitive) than any available in the secondary literature. --James Tully, McGill University



Of all the scholars who currently study the history of Western political thought, no one is more fertile, eloquent, and ingenious than J. G. A. Pocock. --Keith Thomas, in the New York Review of Books

From the Publisher

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

  • Series: Hackett Classics
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.; First Edition edition (September 15, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872200205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872200203
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #420,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James E. Egolf VINE VOICE 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.
1 Comment 41 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
To begin with: this book is a pamphlet, not a treatise. It is a call to action about a specific event, not a political programme. Burke enthusiasts may maintain it is; but let's not forget he remained a Foxite still, when he wrote this. Yes this was addressed to English, not French audiences, and was a warning to revolutionary sympathisers, but Burke had yet to cross the floor and would not do so for several years. Nor does this read stylistically, anyhow, like a treatise, even like Locke's highly contextual Two Treatises. Readers expecting a statement of the conservative creed may be disappointed. Hence the 4, not 5 stars.

As a historical document, however, the Reflections are invaluable. Burke published his point-by-point assault on the French Revolution in 1790, when the revolution was still widely popular in Britain. He was an English MP and his public, even if the Reflections are formulated as two letters to a French aristocrat, was British political opinion.

First, his book contrasts admirably the gradual, and ultimately more successful, British path to democracy to the French. Indeed the core of his argument is that the revolution laid waste to tradition, depriving its end system of the essential legitimacy that stems from it. Second, Burke was the first to warn - years before the `terror' - that radical change, once initiated, would be exceedingly difficult to stop. Third, he makes penetrating (and scathing) observations on the role of class renegades; his dissection of their motivations is striking and finds application in all situations of political upheaval. Burke's warning on radical change was vindicated not just in France, but repeatedly in Europe through the 19th and early 20th centuries.
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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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