Edmund Burke – Reflections on the Revolution in France

Edmund Burke – Reflections on the Revolution in France

I read this as part of an attempt to understand populism. Burke, an 18thcentury Englishman, favored the American Revolution, but opposed the French Revolution. This seems strange at first glance. But it actually makes quite a bit of sense.

Burke saw the American Revolution as a restoration of traditional British values, such as the rule of law. The French Revolution consciously rejected tradition and tried to create a brand new man from scratch. The result was the rule of the mob, not the rule of law, and the Terror.

The parallels to today’s rise of populism on the left and especially the right during the last few years make Burke quite relevant; suffice it to say that despite, or perhaps because of his conservatism, he would not be a Trump supporter.

Burke overemphasizes tradition in my opinion, and takes a few ugly stances in the book common to his time, especially regarding Jews. But he is a perceptive analyst, and his arguments are as powerful against today’s populist threats as they were against the ones in Burke’s time.

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