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How did Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke improve democracy?

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hubbabubba989 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 23, 2012 at 6:25 PM via web

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How did Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke improve democracy?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 23, 2012 at 9:19 PM (Answer #1)

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I think that one way in which Burke's work helps to improve democracy is to bring out the failings in the French Revolution.  Burke was convinced that political theory in this case can have real world applications. After seeing the excessive zeal and lack of institutional control, he is convinced that in detailing the shortcomings of the French Revolution, he can help his political structure in England avoid some of the same mistakes.  This invariably helps democracy, as a political concept, because Burke recognizes that democratic forms of government does not work if so much emotion is evident in political expression.  Burke's idea of "constancy" in democratic expressions does bring to light how the democratic form of government only functions at its best when there is a sense of tranquility and stability in the social order.  It is for this reason that the French Revolution ended up alarming Burke.  While the Reign of Terror had not happened at the time of Burke's writing, one has to see its relevance given the death and carnage that resulted.  The disintegration of a "civil society" is what alarms Burke the most.  In this, one can see how Burke does believe that democracy is not advanced when all of society is immersed in chaos.  Given what we see in many parts of the Arab world struggling to understand the full implications of an Arab Spring move into an "Arab Autumn" of sorts, I think that this is where Burke's work is valuable to a study of democracy and the democratic government both at the time and in the modern setting.

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