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Edmund Burke: The First Conservativeby Jesse Norman
Synopses & Reviews
Edmund Burke is both the greatest and the most underrated political thinker of the past three hundred years. A brilliant 18th-century Irish philosopher and statesman, Burke was a fierce champion of human rights and the Anglo-American constitutional tradition, and a lifelong campaigner against arbitrary power. Revered by great Americans including Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Burke has been almost forgotten in recent years. But as politician and political philosopher Jesse Norman argues in this penetrating biography, we cannot understand modern politics without him.
As Norman reveals, Burke was often ahead of his time, anticipating the abolition of slavery and arguing for free markets, equality for Catholics in Ireland, and responsible government in India, among many other things. He was not always popular in his own lifetime, but his ideas about power, community, and civic virtue have endured long past his death. Indeed, Burke engaged with many of the same issues politicians face today, including the rise of ideological extremism, the loss of social cohesion, the dangers of the corporate state, and the effects of revolution on societies. He offers us now a compelling critique of liberal individualism, and a vision of society based not on a self-interested agreement among individuals, but rather on an enduring covenant between generations.
Burke won admirers in the American colonies for recognizing their fierce spirit of liberty and for speaking out against British oppression, but his greatest triumph was seeing through the utopian aura of the French Revolution. In repudiating that revolution, Burke laid the basis for much of the robust conservative ideology that remains with us to this day: one that is adaptable and forward-thinking, but also mindful of the debt we owe to past generations and our duty to preserve and uphold the institutions we have inherited. He is the first conservative.
A rich, accessible, and provocative biography, Edmund Burke describes Burkes life and achievements alongside his momentous legacy, showing how Burkes analytical mind and deep capacity for empathy made him such a vital thinker—both for his own age, and for ours.
Edmund Burke is the greatest and perhaps also the most underrated political thinker of the past three hundred years. A brilliant 18th century political theorist, philosopher, and statesman, Burke was a fierce champion of human rights and the Anglo-American constitutional tradition, and a lifelong campaigner against arbitrary power. Burkes enormous importance has been largely forgotten in recent years, but as Jesse Norman, MP and scholar of political theory, argues in this penetrating biography, we cannot understand modern politics without him. Burke offered a compelling critique of liberal individualism, and laid the groundwork for contemporary conservatism by putting forth a vision of society based not on a self-interested agreement among individuals, but rather on an enduring covenant between generations.
In Edmund Burke, Norman explores Burkes convictions about community, inherited institutions, and civic virtue, showing how his analytical mind and his deep capacity for empathy made Burke such a vital thinker—both for his own age, and for ours.
About the Author
Jesse Norman is Member of Parliament for Hereford and South Herefordshire. Norman holds a BA from Oxford University and an MPhil and PhD from the University College London.Norman has taught philosophy at University College London and Birkbeck College, and is the author of several books and political treatises, including After Euclid, The Big Society, and Compassionate Conservatism. He has also written for The Times, Sunday Times, Financial Times, Guardian and Spectator; has appeared on TV on BBC 1, BBC News 24 and Sky News; and has been profiled on BBC online and elsewhere. He lives in London.
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