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Reflections Of The Past Essay

1933 words - 8 pages

Edmund Burke is considered one of the most influential intellectuals, best known for criticising the French revolution in his 1790 publication, “Reflections on the Revolution in France.” It is a book that has been the topic of a variety of debates and disagreements, but has always had the distinction of being able to influence a number of different groups, including the classic liberal. The text criticizes the French revolution on a number of different principles.
One of Burkes main problems with the revolution is that the revolutionary leaders attempted to change the entirety of Frances political system overnight rather than take it gradually and change things one by one. He claims that the New France has little chance of succeeding (230) because of what he sees as impulsive. He also states that, innovation is not reform, which also requires reflection (119). He compares this to the view the philosophers, where the approach lacked realism during a time when abstractness could be fatal. The complete abolition of the entire political system in 1789 ended with an immense amount of confusion during transformation. The prior political system, Feudalism, was declared void and so the entirety of the governmental institutions was dissolved. This includes the army, the local government, the judicial system and the clergy. This all relates to the political ideology of the philosophers, which held that a revolution was good at destruction, but not so good at the rebuilding process.
Though it is debateable if Burkes critique of the revolution was right or wrong, the even did stimulate him to devise his political ideology. His ability to insinuate logical points of politics makes this a rather important book. The main idea behind this book is that society in general is vast and should not be tinkered with like a machine without some prior though given to it. Instead, society is a repository of human intelligence that should be looked upon with veneration, and when society does get reformed, as in the case of the French Revolution, is should be done with respect for the continuality of its traditions (117).
The political community is a creation made by history, a bond between the world’s inhabitants, which make the idea of a free government possible. Other similar ideas include that the social individual has its own natural aristocracy and that the general rules and principles are no help to politics. Burke had a clear disdain for the rights proclaimed by the French and Burke does his best to set out what he sees as the real rights of men (150). There is no argument that Burke definitely believes in rights but he also stresses the point that in order for a person to enter civil society and gain any advantages, they may have to give up some of their liberties.
For Burke, he had misgivings about leaders who didn’t bother to search the wisdom of their ancestors but instead blindly rush into decisions that effect the entire society and then acted as...

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