Friday, November 20, 2009

Edmund Burke: An Ambiguous Conservative

He stood for both the ancien régime and classical liberalism. (Via Serge) To quote:
At the same time, there is no denying that Burke would have had nothing but scorn for the notion that we could loose ourselves from our fundamental human obligations by writing them off as something historically contingent. Bromwich reminds us that the same Burke who penned the Thoughts also held that our “social ties and ligaments … in most cases begin, and always continue, independently of our will” and that society is a partnership “not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Bruce Frohnen’s essay on Burke and human rights offers a way of reconciling these apparently conflicting aspects of Burke. On the one hand, Burke held that all men “have a right to the fruits of their industry; and to the means of making their industry fruitful. They have a right to the acquisitions of their parents; to the nourishment and improvement of their offspring; to instruction in life, and to consolation in death.” On the other hand, he emphasized that the manner in which these rights get their determinate content is conditioned by particular historical and cultural circumstances and that any responsible defense of these rights must be sensitive to these circumstances. Prudence rather than abstract theory must guide the defender of human rights, and reform rather than revolution must be his program.

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