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Dec 05

The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left

For more than two centuries, American political life has been divided between a party of progress and a party of conservation. In The Great Debate, Yuval Levin explores the origins of the Left/Right divide by examining the views of the men who best represented each side of that debate at its outset: Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. Levin shows that American partisanship originated in these two ideological titans’ fiery debates over the French Revolution. 

Levin reflects upon Burke's and Paine’s differing views: One championed a reforming conservatism and the other a radical progressivism. Both views continue to shape our current political discourse on issues ranging from abortion to welfare, education, economics, and beyond. The Great Debate offers a fundamental examination of what conservatism, liberalism, and the debate between them truly amount to and provides an understanding of the roots of Washington’s often acrimonious rifts. 

Yuval Levin is the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the founder and editor of National Affairs, and a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and National Review.

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Yuval Levin
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David Azerrad David Azerrad

Director, Simon Center Read More