Northern Illinois University Press


Edmund Burke for Our Time

Moral Imagination, Meaning, and Politics

William F.  Byrne

“There is much insight in this book regarding the role of history and habit in shaping individuals, groups, and societies, and especially the distinction between casuistry and character development in Burke's thought. These points make this study stand out from the ‘pragmatic’ readings of Burke, which make him seem un- or even anti-philosophical, as well as the more strict natural law reading.” - Bruce Frohnen, Associate Professor Law, Ohio Northern University College of Law

“This is a timely and provocative contribution, not only to Burke studies, but to contemporary political thought and recent intellectual history in the United States.” - Ian Crowe, Associate Professor of History at Brewton-Parker College, Georgia, and director of the Edmund Burke Society of America.

This highly readable book offers a new interpretation of the political thought of Edmund Burke, drawing on Burke’s experience to illuminate and address fundamental questions of politics and society that are of particular interest today. For Burke, one’s imaginative context provides meaning and is central to judgment. Many of Burke’s ideas can be brought together around his concept of the “moral imagination,” which has received little systematic treatment in the context’s of Burke’s own experience.

In Edmund Burke for Our Time, Byrne asserts that Burke’s politics is reflective of unique and sophisticated ideas about how people think and learn and about determinants of political behavior. Burke’s thought is shown to offer much of contemporary value regarding the sources of order and meaning and the potential for a modern crisis if those sources are weakened or obscured. In addition to providing a re-interpretation of Burke’s response to a number of historical situations—including problems of imperial policy with regard to India, Ireland, and America—Byrne looks at the relationship between emotion and reason, and the role of culture in shaping political, social, and personal behaviors.

To assist readers with limited knowledge of Burke, the book includes biographical and historical information that provides needed context. Byrne’s important study will appeal not just to scholars of politics, philosophy, and literature, but to all those interested in addressing problems of life in this late-modern age.

(2011) 246 pages ISBN: 978-0-87580-649-5 cloth $40.00

William F. Byrne is Assistant Professor of Government and Politics, St. John's University in New York.

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-649-5