The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left

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Basic Books, Dec 3, 2013 - History - 296 pages
2 Reviews
For more than two centuries, our political life has been divided between a party of progress and a party of conservation. In The Great Debate, Yuval Levin explores the origins of the left/right divide by examining the views of the men who best represented each side of that debate at its outset: Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. In a groundbreaking exploration of the roots of our political order, Levin shows that American partisanship originated in the debates over the French Revolution, fueled by the fiery rhetoric of these ideological titans.

Levin masterfully shows how Burke's and Paine’s differing views, a reforming conservatism and a restoring progressivism, continue to shape our current political discourse—on issues ranging from abortion to welfare, education, economics, and beyond. Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand Washington’s often acrimonious rifts, The Great Debate offers a profound examination of what conservatism, liberalism, and the debate between them truly amount to.

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User Review  - wagner.sarah35 - LibraryThing

If you prefer your politics deeply theoretical, this is a book for you. I read this book out of more interest in 18th-century politics than modern ones, but the author makes some well-targeted ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dono421846 - LibraryThing

Burke stands for preserving the fundamental political structures with only cautious incremental reforms, while Paine rallies for the political entailments of his beliefs in natural rights, liberal ... Read full review


ONE Two Lives in the Arena
TWO Nature and History
THREE Justice and Order
FOUR Choice and Obligation
SEVEN Generations and the Living

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About the author (2013)

Yuval Levin is the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the founder and editor of National Affairs. A contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and National Review, he lives in Maryland.

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