Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke ( pronunciation: [ bə: k]) (. . * 1 Januarjul / January 12 1729greg in Dublin, † July 9, 1797 in Beaconsfield ) was an Irish- British writer, political philosopher and politician in the Age of Enlightenment. He is regarded as the spiritual father of conservatism.

The writer

Burke studied from 1743 to 1750 classical literature and history at Trinity College in Dublin. An begun studying law he did not complete. His literary work began in 1756 with the work A Vindication of Natural Society, which is read by some as a satire, by others as " an anarchist critique of the existing social order ."

The politician

Burke worked from 1765-1766 as a private secretary to Lord Rockingham, the first treasure holder. Throughout his political career, Burke was a member of the Federation of Masons in London. His lodge was the Jerusalem Lodge No. 44 since 1765 Burke was for various constituencies member of the British House of Commons. He distinguished himself as an astute thinker and brilliant rhetorician. A coherently written political work there are not from him. His political writings consist of pamphlets and talk:

  • "Thoughts on the case of the present discontent" of 1770, a program of the opposition Whigs Group against alleged constitutional violations of the King
  • Several writings against the control and colonial policy of the British Government in America
  • His most important work: " Reflections on the Revolution in France", "Reflections on the Revolutions in France " from 1790
  • Other writings directed against the policy of the Governor General in India.

In his major work, the "Reflections " from 1790, Burke formulated a sharp criticism of the then prevailing in France after the Revolution of 1789 states and developments that eventually resulted in the reign of terror of the Jacobins 1793/94.

Burke considered it inconceivable that a government of " 500 advocates and village pastors " - the will of a mass of 24 million, and their very different kind concerns can meet. The former leader, he regarded with contempt, and described it as unacceptable, but at least as upgraded designated by the fallen members of the upper classes, who now stand at the top of this circle. The inherent relationships, and thus law and order have fallen for him a ochlokratischen order to sacrifice, and ultimately stay the destruction of property is inevitable.

In the attempt of the victorious thinkers of the Enlightenment, to force France into a democratic form, it had been dismembered. For highly questionable Burke holds the division into 83 départements, which he wants to know construed as republics, which in turn foster autonomous aspirations and are hardly subject of a central rule and wanted to take not prescribed for the Republic of Paris purchase restrictions. The Republic of Paris would leave no stone unturned to make her grow strong despotism.

Burke stood with his skeptical, Rationalism in Politics negative attitude in sharp Gegegensatz to Jean -Jacques Rousseau, to which the architects of the French Revolution appealed. The attempt to establish the principles of social coexistence, a priori must fail because of the objective reality and of human nature, so Burke.

The political philosopher

People image

Burke sees man as imperfect beings, which only acquired in the community, in the state, his full humanity. The man is shaped by his Sanity and emotional nature. His reason is, however, limited and pronounced differently even within humanity. The men are not created equal. Only in the structured state it was possible to perfect the reason. Burke rejects the unlimited confidence of the Enlightenment in the reason of the individual. His conception of human rights was sharply criticized in the aftermath of Thomas Paine.

State Presentation

Burke's image of man puts the social contract theories of the Enlightenment. The hierarchy of a state is natural and God-given. The origin of the state thus lies behind a "holy veil ". Thrive The state with its form and structure and grow with the company structure. Burke sees the government members as representatives of the whole people, but only to their conscience subject ( Trustees ) and thus hold a free mandate. Instead of revolutionary upheaval Burke prefers the permanent change of the Constitution, which is why he decided to reject the French Revolution.

Important Burke is a historically slow growth and change, which shall not be impeded by politics - that's why he supported the emancipation efforts in North America. In the threefold division of the crown, upper and lower house, he sees the best protection against despotism but also against the rule of the mob. The independent mandate of the deputy serves as protection from any further democratization. In political parties (here only in fraction form) he sees an effective containment of the monarchy.

Father of Conservatism

Since Burke first outlined the principles of the conservatives in all its facets, he is also referred to as the father of conservatism. For conservatives who join Burke, there is a divine or natural world order, which is also reflected in society. In his ideas of man is imperfect and sinful. There is a physical and mental inequality among people. Property, even unequally distributed, and the right to it, within the meaning of the Conservatives is a cornerstone of a functioning form of society. The Conservatives recognize the downsides of progress and white people in tradition, myth and constitution bound. For Burke, the bond proceeds to a tradition about the idea of ​​an intergenerational community. It was important to use the experience and knowledge, which are stored in the traditional institutions and practices, and develop, rather than implement potentially devastating radical innovations:

" Anger and delusion can tear down more to build than prudence, deliberation and wise precaution in a hundred years are capable of in half an hour. "

Therefore it can not get the Democratic majority, which represents only the present, the right to a radically innovative after Burke's view.


  • Philosophical Investigations on the origin of our ideas of the sublime and the beautiful. Edited by Werner Strube. Philosophical Library, Volume 324 Meiner, Hamburg 1989. ISBN 978-3-7873-0944-3
  • Edmund Burke: About the French Revolution. Considerations and treatises. Manesseplatz, Zurich 1987 ISBN 3717580884; Academy, Berlin 1991 ISBN 3-05-001755-4. Frequent reprints. First, 1790 Reflections on the Revolution in France, And on the Proceedings in Certain Societies in London Relative to did event in London. The up to now classic translation of Friedrich Gentz ​​dates back to 1793 ( digitized version of the 2nd edition )