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Lecture 2

Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France (Week 2)

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Political Science
Margaret Kohn

POLC73 – Week 2 – 18/09/2012 The French Revolution - Pivotal in launching liberal democracy - Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France - King had to raise taxes for the war against Britain (in Canada) - Needed permission from the aristocracy (The Estates General) - Separated by clergy, aristocracy, and people. Each group has one vote. - People wanted to expand the number of votes given to the people (the 3rd estate). Aristocracy and clergy voted against it. - Political terms of left and right come from the Estates General, in which the people sat on the left and the aristocracy on the right (clergy in the middle). - Got rid of the king, enfranchised workers, redistributed land; also attempted to intentionally change culture (ie changing the calendar to 10 months and renaming the months) - Bloody executions of the king; counter-revolutionary movements against redistribution and atheistic ties of the revolutionaries. Total roughly 100.000 deaths. Edmund Burke (1729-1797) - From a modest background. - Scholarship student - House of commons, not house of lords. - Strong opposition to the exploitative nature of British colonialism in India. Reactions to Reflections... - When it was first published it was popular, but controversial; people were mostly excited about France having the opportunity to be more politically like Britain. - Later, though, after the horrors, people thought he was prescient and ahead of his time. Burke's Rhetoric - Manly liberty: both man versus beast and man versus woman - Liberty in the abstract as freeing criminals and madmen; rhetorically tying revolutionaries with criminals and the insane. -Also presents them as like slaves. - “Jew broker”; manipulating the people with ideas of liberty and equality in order to advance their own careers. - “Piercing with bayonets”: sexually violent imagery associating the revolutionaries with criminals. Freedom is a benefit, but not a universal right. It is a privilege earned through good judgement and balanced against the need for social order. Burke's Theory of Freedom/Rights - Not based on “metaphysical abstraction” - Rights are bas
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