Reflections on the Revolution in France Questions and Answers
by Edmund Burke

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“A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.” How did Burke reconcile these seemingly contradictory approaches to politics and society?

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This quote is from Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke's famous critique of the early stages of the French Revolution and the liberal ideals that motivated it. As this statement makes clear, Burke indeed thought that change was essential to the preservation of a society. In the sentence that followed, he wrote, "[w]ithout such means [i.e., change] it might even risk the loss of that part of the constitution which it wished the most religiously to preserve." In other words, states had to be able to adapt to changing times, or they would perish.

How did Burke reconcile this statement with his broader critique of the revolution in France? Essentially, Burke's objection to the French Revolution was that its leaders sought to destroy the...

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