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Rights of Man (Penguin American Library) Paperback – May 1, 1984

4.6 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


He gives Edmund Burke a rich plummy reading. Paine's voice is incisive and direct. Although some of the text is dry (the section on finances, for example), most is filled with reason, logic and irony. These are eternal words of wisdom from a man of principle. Today's politicians should read them again and again. - soundcommentary.com --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Publisher

Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin American Library
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised ed. edition (May 1, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140390154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140390155
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #488,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Rights of Man is a riposte to Edmund Burke's criticism of the French Revolution. Its message is the superiority of reason, in the form of Republican government armed with the Declaration of the Rights of Man, over despotism which holds populations in ignorance. With the American and French revolutions fresh in his mind, Paine was writing in a world on the threshold of freedom and that comes through in his forceful and forthright style. That said, and most important for the reader to appreciate, much of what he has to say still applies today. Paine in scathing in his critique of hereditary monarchy and privilege. He says "the idea of hereditary legislation is.......as absurd as an hereditary mathematician, or an hereditary wise man." He rejects the notion of government laws being justified by tradition and therefore irrevocable. His argument against Burke's defence of the 1688 revolution in England is perhaps the best in the book. Paine argues that the only thing that is truly hereditary is the Rights of Man : "The Rights of men in society, are neither devisable, nor transferrable, nor annihilable, but descendable only." The book is a superb polemic when both understood in its historical context and applied to world politics today. His arguments for reform of the House of Lords strike a particularly pertinent note. He expresses liberal doctrines that many people take for granted but in our own genocidal times Paine reminds us that many of the topics that impassioned him should continue to impassion everyone with an interest in humanity. The style of the writing may put off a few as many themes disappear and reappear throughout the book instead of being dealt with in a coherant whole. The fact that it was written in two parts and that he is one of the greatest pamphleteers of modern times should compensate for this minor irritation.
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Format: Paperback
Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man" is truly a classic defense of self government and reprsentative republicanism. Paine copmletely demolishes Edmund Burke's defense of aristocracy and monarchy as outmoded and absurd institiutions. Paine shows the immorality of monarchy and the plunder that it commits on it's own people through high taxes,unjust property laws,and priveleges for the nobility. Paine shows the virtues a representative system has over the monarchial form. He denounces aristocracy and monarchy as "frauds" and based upon tyranny. The first review by Will Murphy critsizing Paine as a sort of statist is way off the mark. Paine did recommend many ideals of the welfare state. It must be remembered he was speaking to an age where a large wealthy aristocracy ruled alongside the monarch, living in luxury off the high taxes drained from the middle, lower and working classes. Paine was one of the formost defenders of freethought in religion,speech, and ideas.To imply Paine was a sort of 18th century fascist is utterly absurd and ahistorical. Paine was not an enemy of property, just an enemy of aristocracy,who in his day did not obtain property by hard work. Usually property rights in monarchial nations were written to favor the wealthy and powerful, and grant them priveleges at the expense of the populace. Paine completely destroys the ideal that a chosen few were meant or ordained by God to rule. If you love freedom, you can't go wrong with the "Rights of Man".
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Format: Paperback
"Rights of Man" (1791-92) is Thomas Paine's famous response to Edmund Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution of France" (1790). Although it helps have read Burke's essay, a general background is sufficient to understand and appreciate Paine's basic and groundbreaking arguments.
Paine and Burke were originally allies; Burke not only supported self-rule for the American colonies, he also supported the emancipation of the House of Commons from monarchical control and the independence of both Ireland and India. Many of his allies, then, were bewildered by his fervent opposition to the French Revolution; Burke drew the line between territorial autonomy from a distant or aloof government and the total overthrow of existing monarchies and institutions. For Burke, humankind's real enemies were drastic change and "unsocial, uncivil, unconnected chaos," and he proved himself a staunch defender of the status quo, of precedent, and of gradual reform.
Jerry Muller, in his recent--and superb--book "The Mind and the Market" asserts that Burke's denunciation of the French revolution is "the single most influential work of conservative thought published from his day to ours." (This, of course, depends on what one means by "conservative.") Yet Muller and likeminded historians inevitably cherry-pick Burke's more attractive economic and philosophical arguments and foreground Burke's critique, in Muller's words, "of the revolutionary mentality that attempts to create entirely new structures on the basis of rational, abstract principles." (Muller doesn't even mention Paine, much less the example of the United States.) Such a focus inevitably sidesteps Burke's brief for the supremacy of European monarchical institutions and of the landed aristocracy. And that's where Paine comes in.
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Format: Paperback
Paine wrote RoM while in France, during the early years of the revolution, in response to an antirevolutionary pamphlet from his previous friend Burke. There is lots of polemics going on, and the crux of the matter is that Burke makes light of The Declaration of the Rights of Man, which was adopted by the French National Assembly in August 1789, after the storm of the Bastille. The Declaration, written by Lafayette with some input by Jefferson, is a brief and concise document. It became the preamble of the constitution of 1791.
Here a shortened version.
1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the ... rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. ...
4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; ... These limits can only be determined by law.
5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.
6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. ...
7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. ...
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