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Order, Order! Edmund Burke, the Body Politic and Arbitrary Power.

WARD, FRANCES,ELIZABETH,FEARN (2024) Order, Order! Edmund Burke, the Body Politic and Arbitrary Power. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



In his early work A Vindication of Natural Society (1756), Burke wrote of the political imaginings of ‘old Hobbes’ that ‘War was the State of Nature’ and that the ‘artificial Division of Mankind, into separate Societies, is a perpetual Source in itself of Hatred and Dissension among them’. This thesis, with extensive reference to his Writings and Speeches, argues that Burke offers a comprehensive refutation of Hobbesian modernity and ‘sovereignty’ located with the independent state and ‘sovereign’ individual. Instead, Burke is understood as a Christian Platonist thinker who drew on traditions of classical and mediaeval thought, including Cicero, Paul, Augustine, Aquinas and Hooker, to champion liberal constitutionalism as the best defence against manifestations of autocratic and arbitrary power in civil, social, political and international spheres.
‘I love order, for the universe is order’, he wrote, and this thesis takes ‘order’ as a key concept, understood analogically, to explore the relevance of Burke’s understanding of constitutional power today, in the face of the challenges of climate catastrophe, the emergence of the sovereign individual and autocrat, conflicting notions of civil rights and the populism, post-truth and polarizations that threaten modern ‘democracy’.
The argument is that Burke offers an alternative modernity upon which a constructive theo-political imaginary can be based, characterized not by the assumption of atheism, but rather an openness to a sense of divine providence that orders the ends of human affairs towards the common good, or commonwealth. Burke’s refusal of the ‘abstractions’ of ideology in preference for a circumstantial wisdom and a philosophic spirit of analogy commends a political imagination for contemporary times that stretches towards the whole, rather than the part, the prescriptions of tradition rather than the ideologies of utopianism, and the duties of public service rather than the will to arbitrary power.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Edmund Burke, Constitution, Liberalism, Power, Body Politic, Christian Platonism, Order
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:05 Mar 2024 10:55

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