Edmund Burke: The First Conservative

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Basic Books, May 21, 2013 - Biography & Autobiography - 336 pages
A provocative biography of Edmund Burke, the underappreciated founder of modern conservatism
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. Once revered by an array of 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, responsible government in India, and more. 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 Burke's life and achievements alongside his momentous legacy, showing how Burke's analytical mind and deep capacity for empathy made him such a vital thinker-both for his own age, and for ours.thread on pub day of what people at basic like about it (editors)
"You won't find a more impressive political philosopher than the 18th-century MP who more or less invented Anglosphere conservatism. And you won't find a pithier, more readable treatise on his life and works than this one." --Wall Street Journal

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User Review  - wagner.sarah35 - LibraryThing

A good look at the life and philosophy of the 18th-century politician Edmund Burke. I really appreciated the first half of the work, detailing Burke's life and major political endeavors. In the last ... Read full review

EDMUND BURKE: The First Conservative

User Review  - Kirkus

Member of Parliament Norman (Compassionate Economics, 2008, etc.) comprehensively explains the history and the writings of the man whose thoughts have been quarried by politicians for hundreds of ... Read full review


List of Illustrations
An Irishman Abroad 17301759
In and Out of Power 17591774
Ireland America and King Mob 17741780
India Economical Reform and the Kings Madness 17801789
Reflecting on Revolution 17891797
Reputation Reason and the Enlightenment Project
The Social Self
Forging Modern Politics
The Rise of Liberal Individualism
The Recovery of Value

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About the author (2013)

Jesse Norman, MP, is widely regarded as one of the rising stars of the British House of Commons. A former Parliamentarian of the Year, he was educated at Oxford (BA) and holds a PhD in philosophy from University College London. His previous books include Edmund Burke: The First Conservative.

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