The Burke-Wollstonecraft Debate: Savagery, Civilization, and Democracy

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Penn State Press, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 291 pages

Many modern conservatives and feminists trace the roots of their ideologies, respectively, to Edmund Burke (1729&–1797) and Mary Wollstonecraft (1759&–1797), and a proper understanding of these two thinkers is therefore important as a framework for political debates today.

According to Daniel O&’Neill, Burke is misconstrued if viewed as mainly providing a warning about the dangers of attempting to turn utopian visions into political reality, while Wollstonecraft is far more than just a proponent of extending the public sphere rights of man to include women. Rather, at the heart of their differences lies a dispute over democracy as a force tending toward savagery (Burke) or toward civilization (Wollstonecraft). Their debate over the meaning of the French Revolution is the place where these differences are elucidated, but the real key to understanding what this debate is about is its relation to the intellectual tradition of the Scottish Enlightenment, whose language of politics provided the discursive framework within and against which Burke and Wollstonecraft developed their own unique ideas about what was involved in the civilizing process.

 

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Contents

1 The Scottish Enlightenment the Moral Sense and the Civilizing Process
21
2 Burke and the Scottish Enlightenment
51
3 Wollstonecraft and the Scottish Enlightenment
89
4 The Most Important of all Revolutions
125
5 Vindicating a Revolution in Morals and Manners
157
6 Burke on Democracy as the Death of Western Civilization
195
7 Wollstonecraft on Democracy as the Birth of Western Civilization
227
Conclusion
257
Bibliography
263
Index
277
Back Cover
293
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About the author (2010)

Daniel I. O'Neill is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida.

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