Edmund Burke and the Politics of Empire


Edmund Burke was one of those rare figures who combinedprofound political-philosophical observation with a highlyactive political career. After he entered Parliament, almost all ofhis writings and speeches addressed some sort of pressing publicpolicy concern, yet these works also form the major part of thebasis for most interpretations of his philosophic thought. AlthoughBurke's policy focus provides a great deal of material forpolitical historians and biographers, it poses challenges for politicaltheorists, who must tease political philosophy out of workswhich were not explicitly written as such. But, it also offersimportant advantages. For one thing, one might argue thatBurke's public career helps keep his thought attuned to "realworld""issues in all their messiness and complexity, and forces himto consider information which more speculative thinkers mightdisregard. More significant for our immediate purpose is the factthat Burke's writings and speeches clearly demonstrate the applicationof particular political-philosophical perspectives to publicpolicy questions.
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