The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left

The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left

by Yuval Levin


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For more than two centuries, our political life has been divided between a party of progress and a party of conservation. In The Great Debate, Yuval Levin explores the origins of the left/right divide by examining the views of the men who best represented each side of that debate at its outset: Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. In a groundbreaking exploration of the roots of our political order, Levin shows that American partisanship originated in the debates over the French Revolution, fueled by the fiery rhetoric of these ideological titans.

Levin masterfully shows how Burke's and Paine’s differing views, a reforming conservatism and a restoring progressivism, continue to shape our current political discourse—on issues ranging from abortion to welfare, education, economics, and beyond. Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand Washington’s often acrimonious rifts, The Great Debate offers a profound examination of what conservatism, liberalism, and the debate between them truly amount to.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465050970
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 12/03/2013
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 516,132
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Yuval Levin is a Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the founder and editor of National Affairs. A contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and National Review, he lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Table of Contents

One. Two Lives in the Arena
Two. Nature and History
Three. Justice and Order
Four. Choice and Obligation
Five. Reason and Prescription
Six. Revolution and Reform
Seven. Generations and the Living

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The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
RS416 More than 1 year ago
This "debate" was between a reformer and a revolutionary. One believed a better government was formed by tearing down the old and depending on mankind's better nature to build a new one. The other believed on using the existing structure of a civil society to build a better government. This is not a long book but I found myself rereading several sections to better understand what each was saying.
AER More than 1 year ago
Mr Levin wrote an excellent analysis of the philosophy of Tom Paine and Edmund Burke. He made complex issues understandable and wove in well the times in which they lived and their backgrounds. I am not sure that he fully completes the circle in trying to link Burke and Paine to the right left split in contemporary America. The right no does not want to build on instittutions that have flourished but need tweaking. They are desirous of striking everything down. The left is unwilling to modify what works but desires to expand government power. Neither party would fully support a single payer health care system. The Republicans eschew immigration reform. Levin neglects foreign policy entirely which is central to politcits today. Eric Rosen