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Cover Political Thinkers

17. Burke  

David Boucher

This chapter examines Edmund Burke's political thought. It first provides a short biography of Burke before discussing the three main interpretations of him: first, as a utilitarian; second, in relation to natural law; and the third, which attempts to bring together the two antithetical interpretations. It argues that even though Burke has elements of utilitarianism in his thought, and although he subscribes to natural law and universal principles, both somehow have to coincide in the traditions and institutional practices of a community. On the question of political obligation, although he uses the language of contract, it is clear that Burke does not subscribe to its central tenets. The chapter proceeds by exploring Burke's views on sovereignty, constitutionalism, colonialism, and slavery.


Cover Political Ideologies

3. Conservatism  

Mark Garnett

This chapter examines the basic features of conservative ideology, with particular emphasis on its strongly contested nature. It begins with a discussion of two major issues: whether conservatism is distinctive ideology and whether the core ideas of conservatism have changed over time. It then shows how conservatism differs from varieties of liberalism and goes on to explore ‘conservatism’ in the United States, along with some apparent manifestations of conservatism in political parties and movements outside the United Kingdom. Finally, it looks at the relationship between conservatism and religion. Case studies on the ideas of Edmund Burke, Winston Churchill, Barry Goldwater, and Friedrich von Hayek are presented.


Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

17. Catharine Macaulay and Edmund Burke  

Alan Coffee

This chapter discusses the contrasting philosophies of Catharine Macaulay and Edmund Burke regarding the fundamental nature of political society and the approaches to take on reform. Macaulay’s philosophy revolves around the core ideal of freedom as independence from arbitrary control. Additionally, Macaulay’s work recognized that people’s beliefs are shaped by the social environment but could be manipulated by elites. On the other hand, Burke’s philosophical beliefs are organic, contextual, and pragmatic while addressing the complexity and range of social considerations and human motivations that contribute to a viable and productive state. However, Burke’s philosophy could be challenged as to whether he provides protection against possible abuse of power or not. The chapter also covers the weakness in their philosophical works while considering equal citizenship rights for women and minority social groups.