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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 '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 experiences. Conservatism is a 'common - sensical' philosophy, as Lord Hugh Cecil stated, "a Natural disposition of mind" 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. This essay proposes that Burkes political creed is in all essential respects the doctrines articulated in modern British conservative thought. The major brunt of Burkes writings consists of speeches and political tracts written for some particular occasion. ...read more.


Reform of traditional institutions would aid future generations, creating a common ground for all society to build upon. The contemptuous dismissal of 'irrational' tradition as had happened in France, the desire to 'wipe the slate clean' and design society anew, merely testifies to a profound ignorance regarding the nature of social reality. Burke saw the main characteristic of the new enlightenment period as the cavalier dismissal of 'irrational' tradition as mere superstition and prejudice. Through enlightened eyes, inherited values, institutions and customs seem the very embodiment of ignorance, 'reason' as the tool that would liberate man. "It 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 upon it again, without having the models and patterns of approved utility before his eves" 7 Conservative thought is based upon the fallibility of the individual; often described as the "philosophy of human imperfection" conservatism believes that the individual is dependant and fear instability and therefore needs society. Conservatives believe that Government is instituted to serve man's wants and needs, but often we are unaware of our true wants and needs. Burke advocated, "the individual is foolish . . . but the species is wise." The individual often fails to recognize what is in his best interest or on the other occasion is the victim of our own passions and drives. ...read more.


Burke believed that, "Political equality is against nature. Social equality is against nature. Economic equality is against nature. The idea of equality is subversive of order". 10 He believed that defying nature was untenable and thus equality as a fiction. Equality he saw as an abstract principle, which those who advocated it were unready to accept, lest endangering their own privileges and therefore he believed it could not be applied to directly solve practical problems. This essay has clearly identified the considerable influence Burke has had on British Conservatism. Although there are many different individual stances within conservatism, the five pillars of British central conservative thought have been founded from the political creed of Burke. In reflections of the French revolution, burke outlined many of his political viewpoints. The necessity of stability and experience was paramount throughout his work. He thought, as many modern conservatives that tradition and an organic society are fundamental principles, this can be illustrated by Burkes condemnation of what the legislative assembly had done and how modern day conservatives support traditional institutes and the monarch. Similarities are also obvious concerning the fallibility of humans and the need for authority in society. Both Burke and Conservatives advocate for the need to change in order to conserve, that power is never absolute however there is a need for authoritarian intervention ensuring the common good for society. In each aspect of modern conservatism a direct comparison may be made to the dogma of Burke and therefore it is credible to consider Burke the 'father of modern conservatism. ...read more.

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