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In what sense is Burke the founder of modern British Conservative thought?

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In What Sense is Burke the founder of Modern British Conservative Thought? Edmund Burke, the passionate defender of the "ancient principles", is considered by all accounts the founder of modern British political conservatism; and generations of 'conservative' thinkers have centred their political thesis on his philosophical and practical wisdom. Although Burke never produced anything that may be regarded as a systematic political treatise, he governed his life though a consistent political creed. Political thinkers have drawn from Burke's creed and have grouped a set of ideologies that form the foundations of modern day conservatism. It can therefore be stated that Burke gave birth to such ideologies. However, it is important that here an understanding of an ideology is noted; as conservatism is unwilling to be subscribed to fixed notions, but instead evolves to the current political climate based on past experiences. Conservatism is a 'common - sensical' philosophy, "a Natural disposition of mind"1 which rejects the idea that human beings can be perfected. Modern Conservative thought subscribes to substantive views regarding the nature of society, the role of reason in human affairs, the proper tasks of government and to a certain extent the nature of moral and legal rules; and in this essence cam be considered an ideology. ...read more.


The revolutionary destruction of hallowed customs would not improve the world but fragment it. Authority he asserted preserves traditions, which contain the "accumulated wisdom and experience of past generations"5. Frenzied revolutionaries destroy these resources. Authority permits human beings to evolve whilst preserving the inheritance of past civilisations, this, which is founded on centuries of evolution, is preferable to the uncharted waters manufactured by irrational revolutionaries. Burke argued that the stability of British intuitions derived from their having grown, almost organically, as society, had changed. The British constitution, not being written down, or 'imprisoned in words'6, had a dynamic element, which operated as a safety valve. Burke accepted that a "state without means of correction was also a state without the mean of conservation"7. This was epitomised by the absolutism in France, the stubborn resistance to change of the French authorities caused the tension to be released as the revolution. In contrast, Britain's authorities absorbed such pressures by acceptance to change, for example the glorious revolution of 1688, which prevented revolution. traditional hierarchy Modern day conservatives hold traditional hierarchical institutions in high regard. Traditional institutes, whether they are the monarchy, aristocracy or even private property right, as a dependable wealth of experience, providing continuity and encouraging diversity. ...read more.


Conservatives see that crime is not due to social conditions, but the natural greed and selfishness that is born into every human being. Therefore crime cannot be tackled by appealing to the morals of society, but by installing fear of punishment. This displays why conservatives feel that law is not implemented to safeguard liberty, but to protect order. Burke also saw the need for law to protect order rather than liberty, since liberty is based upon rights. In this age of enlightenment many were calling for revolution based upon new-found rights, which Burke believed were constructed in a pub by men who had drank too much. And in this Burke thought, as do conservatives, that rights can be made up for every-thing, and so rather than law protect some-thing that is constantly changing it should serve to protect that can be said to be fixed, social order. In this Burke believed that law would be able to maintain the stability that every individual desired. property organic society 1 Lord Hugh Cecil 2 Liberal Democracies, P77 3 de moistre 4 Sir Robert Inglis H.O Commons 1831 5 1Andrew Heywood, "Political Ideologies", 1992, Basingstoke. 6 Liberal Democracies p 91 7 ibid 8 2 Edmund Burke, "Reflections On The French Revolution", ed. JGA Pocock. 9 ibid ...read more.

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