1. the conservative tradition burke’s “reflections on the revolution in france” demaistre’s...
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The Conservative TraditionBurkes Reflections on the Revolution in FranceDeMaistres Study on Sovereignty
Burkes ReflectionsBiographical/Historical BackgroundEthics of the CommunityConservatismNatural Hierarchy
I.Biographical BackgroundEdmund Burke (1729-1797)Born in Dublin, educated at Trinity CollegeBriefly attended law school, gave it up for literary careerPublished his first book when he was 27
I.Biographical BackgroundGets involved in Whig party politicsServes in British House of Commons from 1766 through 1780, then from 1780-1794Supported American independence, easing laws against Catholics
I.Biographical Background1773 travels to France and is appalled by tide of rationalism sweeping the countryOpposes the French RevolutionFounder of modern conservatismOne of, if not the, chief opponents of the Enlightenment
I.Biographical BackgroundPublication was widely anticipated and received huge reactionKing George loved it, as did most of the aristocracyWhy read it today?
I.Biographical Background2 main reasons:Relevance as a work of political scienceScience not in the sense that its empirically driven -- although there is some of that -- but rather science in predictive senseFounder of modern conservatism
I.Biographical BackgroundBurke was remarkably prescient about the likely development of the French Revolution and remarkably accurate about most revolutionsTo appreciate, heres the French Revolution in a nutshell:
II.French Revolution1788, King Louis XVI, facing financial crisisCalls for the assembly of the Estates Generale (French parliament which hadnt met since 1614!)Estates Generale divided along class lines:AristocracyClergyCommoners
II.French RevolutionElections for the common people -- or Third Estate -- were held in 1788, the legislature then convenes in 1789Voting was to be by class block (that is, one vote each class)Third estate wants vote by individual representative -- its rejected
II.French RevolutionThird Estate pulls out of assembly, declares itself the true government -- a National Assembly and storms the Bastille Prison1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen published
II.French RevolutionKing retreats to VersaillePalace is stormed by a group of market women Royal family forced to return to quarters in Paris under the control of the National Assembly
II.French RevolutionReflections on the Revolution in 17901792 King Louis XIV beheaded1793 Committee on Public Safety formed under leadership of Maximilien RobespierreReign of Terror begins1793 Queen (Marie Antoinette) beheaded
II.French Revolution1794 - Robespierre executed1795-1799 Thermidor Reaction to excesses of the Reign of Terror1799 Napoleon seizes power
II.French RevolutionBurkes Predictions: Reign of Terror:On the scheme of this barbarous philosophy, which is the offspring of cold hearts and muddy understandings, and which is as void of solid wisdom as it is destitute of all taste and elegance, laws are to be supported only by their own terrors and by the concern which each individual may find in them from his own private speculations or can spare to them from his own private interests...Why?
II. French RevolutionNo good political situation can endure without the rule of lawBy law here also include the habitual rules we have for social interactionNote, the force of a law, compulsive power of law, only comes through habit
II. French RevolutionForce of Law: HabitUltimately, the only way to change is through force
II.French RevolutionIn the groves of their academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.
II.French RevolutionBurkes Predictions: Reign of Terror:But when the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators, the instruments, not the guides, of the people...
II.French RevolutionModeration will be stigmatized as the virtue of cowards, and compromise as the prudence of traitors, until, in hopes of preserving the credit which may enable him to temper and moderate, on some occasions, the popular leader is obliged to become active in propagating doctrines and establishing powers that will afterwards defeat any sober purpose at which he ultimately might have aimed.
II.French RevolutionIf any of them should happen to propose a scheme of liberty, soberly limited and defined with proper qualifications, he will be immediately outbid by his competitors who will produce something more splendidly popular. Suspicions will be raised of his fidelity to his cause...
II.French RevolutionIt is, besides, to be considered whether an assembly like yours, even supposing that it was in possession of another sort of organ through which its orders were to pass, is fit for promoting the obedience and discipline of an army...
II.French RevolutionIt is known that armies have hitherto yielded a very precarious and uncertain obedience to any senate or popular authority; and they will least of all yield it to an assembly which is only to have a continuance of two years. ...
II.French RevolutionIn the weakness of one kind of authority, and in the fluctuation of all, the officers of an army will remain for some time mutinous and full of faction until some popular general, who understands the art of conciliating the soldiery, and who possesses the true spirit of command, shall draw the eyes of all men upon himself. Armies will obey him on his personal account. There is no other way of securing military obedience in this state of things...
II.French RevolutionBut the moment in which that event shall happen, the person who really commands the army is your master the master (that is little) of your king, the master of your Assembly, the master of your whole republic.Respect for the book soared after Napoleon came to power
II.Ethics of the CommunityRecall Lockes discussion on best way to evaluate societyHow do we evaluate society?
II. Ethics of CommunityFor Burke and the conservative tradition, going back to first principles does not involve imagining a hypothetical pre-political situation Instead we need to take account of the actual shared history of the culture in which we are a part:The government of a nation is no more its own creation than is its language. -- Joseph de Maistre
II. Ethics of CommunityOne of the great errors of our time is to believe that the political constitution of nations is a purely human creation -- that a constitution can be created much as a watchmaker manufactures a watch. Nothing could be more false, except perhaps the claim that a constitution can be created by an assembly of men. -- Joseph de Maistre Study on Sovereignty
II. Ethics of CommunityThe mechanics of governing are so complex, the fabric of society woven so tightly, that it is impossible for an assembly to come together and fashion a system of law that will workMoreover, tinkering with that fabric is folly at best; suicide at worst.
II. Ethics of CommunityThe science of constructing a commonwealth, or renovating it, or reforming it, is, like every other experimental science, not to be taught a priori. Nor is it a short experience that can instruct us in that practical science; because the effects of moral causes are not always immediate; but that which in the first instance is prejudicial may be excellent in its remoter operation...
II. Ethics of Communityand its excellence may arise even ... from the ill effects it produces in the beginning. The reverse also happens; and very plausible schemes, with very pleasing commencements, have often shameful and lamentable conclusions.
II. Ethics of CommunityIn states, there are often some obscure and almost latent causes, things which appear at first view of little moment, on which a very great part of its prosperity or adversity may most essentially depend.
II. Ethics of Community[I]t is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again, without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes. -- Burke, Reflections
II. Ethics of CommunityCant create a community because we cant create conventions. They are passed down from traditions of common life and shared historyConventions, laws, and habit are what make a communityMoreover, it is precisely this community which is the prerequisite for a the good political life (in the Aristotleian sense)
II. Ethics of CommunityAssociation vs. CommunityAssociation based on interests, voluntary, impersonalCommunity based on relationships, involuntary, personal
II. Ethics of CommunityAssociation is based on respect for persons (rights) whereas community is based on loveWhen love is involved, you have feelings for the specific person, not the properties of that personWhen respect is involved, you think about the actions taken, not the properties of the person taking the actions
II. Ethics of CommunityHobbes/Locke and the liberals err in seeing society as an associationBut Burke and the conservative tradition see society as a communityWhen you are in a community, you bear special obligation/relation to other members of the community
II. Ethics of CommunityMoral dilemmas emerge due to conflicts between personal choice and impersonal moral constraintse.g., dinner party, restaurant serviceThe move towards an