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Burke's arguments against the French Revolution - Essay Example

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Burke’s work concerns two important consequences of the French Revolution. First, is his focus on aspects connected with the ‘terror’, and second, are those aspects of French thought which had gone into informing the general tenets of individual liberty and democracy…
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Burkes arguments against the French Revolution
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Burke's arguments against the French Revolution

Download file to see previous pages... Burke’s work concerns two important consequences of the French Revolution. First, is his focus on aspects connected with the ‘terror’, and second, are those aspects of French thought which had gone into informing the general tenets of individual liberty and democracyBurke’s work concerns two important consequences of the French Revolution with respect to the present discussion. First, is his focus on aspects connected with the ‘terror’, and second, are those aspects of French thought which had gone into informing the general tenets of individual liberty and democracy. In both senses, and to the extent that these are examined mostly from a historical standpoint, he is deeply concerned with the consequences of various forms of change. That is, and in his own words, he is not interested in problems in the “abstract principles” [Burke, 1987: 109] . The terror is a period of history marking the French Revolution, and it is characterized as the term suggests, with extreme acts of depravity. During the reign of the French terror, priests, aristocrat's and various sympathizers were often indiscriminately burned or hanged – and, private property suffered a similar fate: “frauds, impostures, violences, rapines, burnings, murders, confiscations, compulsory paper currencies, and every description of tyranny and cruelty employed to bring about and to uphold this Revolution have their nature effect, that is, to shock the moral sentiments of all virtuous and sober minds, the abettors of this philosophic system immediately strain their throats in a declamation against the old monarchical government of France” [Burke, 1987: 108]. The ‘terror’ poses a number of problems for Burke. It was a period of history – contemporary as he writes this work, where freedom was equated with a complete disregard for “moral sentiments of all virtuous and sober minds”. For Burke, the lack of hierarchy and political authority, results in barbarous extremes or indeed, chaos. He does equivocate in his condemnation of this situation, but what is important, is that it informs his judgment of what ‘the state of nature’ or a ‘state without authority’ is characteristic of. As a subject of Britain, he raises much concerning the Revolution of 1688, but sees a far more positive outcome. The ‘Glorious Revolution’ in Britain, brought about the institution of Parliament, and for Burke the English predilection to constitutional authority, is much preferred to the terror in this respect. Aside from the extremes of the ‘terror’, he views greater autonomy and freedom with cultural and not simply political repercussions. In this sense, he might be regarded as a Platonist or an elitist. That is, a hierarchy must be maintained not simply to exert direct political control or authority, but also to convey a moral standard or what might be described as a standard of ‘taste’, so to speak. By this, it is implied to the extent that he is critical of the ‘decadence’ that greater freedom and autonomy (especially in Britain) has brought about. One could describe this social criticism as essentially a critique of the ‘nouveau riche’, over and against the preferred sentiments of aristocratic values. Concerning the nouveau riche, for example, he asserts: “Why should the expenditure of a great landed property, which is a dispersion of the surplus product of the soil, appear intolerable to you or to me when it takes its course through the accumulation of vast libraries [Burke, 1987: 142]. The freedom of the many – or, even a ‘select’ many (e.g. the Bourgeoisie) is a condition which Burke is deeply critical of.. The above passage suggests that ‘wealth’ or “surplus” is better spent on the preservation of libraries than on the forms of entertainment that appealed to the growing middle classes. The status quo for Burke, is a hierarchy which is not merely constitutional, but also social. His criticism of freedom is thus political and social. Thus, the undermining of authority for Burke, can be understood as extending from both direct (the terror) and indirect forms (cultural, e.g. the ‘nouveau riche’), and in both senses, he regards the consequences as central with respect to what he does regard as the proper political authorit ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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