Perspectives on Political Science: Edmund Burke, Strauss, and the Straussians
By Gregory Collins
In Natural Right and History, Leo Strauss accused Edmund Burke of being ignorant of the nobility of last-ditch resistance; defending a conception of history that set the path for historicism; and discarding a vision of politics as it ought to be. By separating philosophy from politics, Burke, according to Strauss, helped lay the intellectual foundation for modern political ideologies. While a number of scholars have attempted to vindicate or refute Strauss’ criticisms through textual exegesis, Gregory Collins’ article aims to lay a sharper emphasis on particular historical episodes of Burke’s political life in which his political thought and statesmanship calls into question Strauss’ interpretations. Collins argues, moreover, that Burke’s legislative activities retain a closer resemblance to Strauss’ conception of classical statesmanship than Strauss suggests in Natural Right and History. He concludes by maintaining that Straussian scholars could enrich their framework of the Western canon by giving greater attention to Burke’s political thought.
Gregory Collins is a Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Program on Ethics, Politics, and Economics at Yale University. His scholarly and teaching interests include the history of political thought, the philosophical and ethical implications of political economy, American political development, constitutional theory and practice, and the political theory of abolition. He has published articles on Burke’s economic thought in Review of Politics; Frederick Douglass’ constitutional theory in American Political Thought; Burke’s and Adam Smith’s views on Britain’s East India Company in Journal of the History of Economic Thought; and Burke’s plan for the abolition of the slave trade in Slavery & Abolition. Collins’ current book project is a comparative study of the political thought of Scottish Enlightenment thinkers and Burke that addresses questions regarding empire, commerce, morality, and historiography.
Collins is a Jack Miller Center fellow.
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