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Engaging NatureEnvironmentalism and the Political Theory Canon$
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Peter F. Cannavò and Joseph H. Lane Jr.

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780262028059

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262028059.001.0001

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Edmund Burke: The Nature of Politics

Edmund Burke: The Nature of Politics

Chapter:
(p.153) 8 Edmund Burke: The Nature of Politics
Source:
Engaging Nature
Author(s):

Harlan Wilson

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262028059.003.0009

Harlan Wilson’s essay on Edmund Burke brings out affinities and tensions between green and conservative thought. Burke’s aesthetics, especially his writings about gardens, favor a cooperative relationship between nature and art. More significant, though, is Burke’s emphasis on complexity in both nature and society, which feeds into a focus on intergenerational obligation and caution about risks and innovation. Thus Burke anticipates many green values, such as an intergenerational time horizon, sustainability, stewardship, and the precautionary principle. On the other hand, Burke’s emphasis on prejudice and tradition might serve to uphold long-standing crude anthropocentric values that sanction the exploitation and unrestrained development of nature, and Burke’s defense of private property and his later writings extolling the free market as a source of inequality and lower-class deference also present obvious tensions with environmentalism. These tensions are not unlike those separating greens and conservatives today.

Keywords:   Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (Burke), Reflections on the Revolution in France (Burke), environmental political theory, conservatism, aesthetics, intergenerational ethics, sustainability, the precautionary principle, private property

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