The observation that conservatives and radicals share many philosophical and political premises is by no means revelatory. And Bevan's juxtapositioning of Burke, the 18th-century politician and fountainhead of modern conservative thought, and Karl Marx, the ""scientific socialist"" and polemicist for the proletariat revolution, is neither startling nor especially ""revisionist."" Au fond what these two seminal thinkers shared was an organic, evolutionary view of society and historical development. Unlike the philosophes of the Enlightenment and their offspring the 19th-century Liberals, both Marx and Burke mistrusted speculative rationalism -- the arrogance and naivete of those who believed that tinkering with constitutions and reshuffling the ""superstructure"" could fundamentally alter the progressive course of national development, or short circuit history. Both stood in opposition to the proponents of laissez-faire who saw man as an atomized particle; both implicitly or explicitly rejected the notion that each man is an island, society only the aggregate of so many discrete and competing individuals. Scholars as different as Robert Nisbet and Conor Cruise O'Brien have explored the affinities between early radicals and conservatives, both prescient enough to anticipate the alienation and social anomie lurking in the orthodox Liberal world view. Factually there is nothing wrong with Bevan's book. It is simply an industrious, at times laborious, restatement of a kinship which sophisticated students of political philosophy have long since acknowledged.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1973
Page Count: -
Publisher: Open Court (Box 599, La Salle, Illinois 61301)