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Basic Books
  • Hardcover
  • $27.99 / $31.00 CAN
  • ISBN 13: 978-0-465-05097-0
"The Great Debate's architecture is clever and intellectually persuasive- a thoughtful introduction to this famous paradigmatic opposition."
-Washington Post

"The Great Debate is a masterful and loving piece of work, the kind of solo performance that commands mute attention and makes even a crinkled cough-drop wrapper sound like an errant clang of the gong. It does more than announce Levin's arrival; it is, in itself, a refutation—this time with an inerrant clang—of the factitious notion that intellectual conservatism is a bygone thing."
-Commentary

"Levin enters into another great debate that riles academia: between historians insisting upon the uniqueness and specificity of events, which defy abstractions and generalizations, and philosophers impatient with the ephemera and contingency of events, which do not rise to the level of truth and certainty. Here too he rises to the occasion, satisfying the scruples of historians and philosophers alike. From a debate raged about an event centuries ago, he deduces truths that illuminate some of our most vexing political and social problems today."
-Weekly Standard

"In a Burkean manner, Mr. Levin enriches through wisdom rather than prescription. He gives us something more than a manual of past lessons—namely, the historical framework to achieve greater understanding."
-Wall Street Journal

The Great Debate

Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left

By Yuval Levin

A noted conservative intellectual and commentator looks to the late 18th century debate between two legendary thinkers, Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine, for the roots of America's contemporary political divide.

For more than two centuries, our 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. In a groundbreaking exploration of the roots of our political order, Levin shows that American partisanship originated in the debates over the French Revolution, fueled by the fiery rhetoric of these ideological titans.

Levin masterfully shows how Burke's and Paine's differing views, a reforming conservatism and a restoring progressivism, continue to shape our current political discourse—on issues ranging from abortion to welfare, education, economics, and beyond. Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand Washington's often acrimonious rifts, The Great Debate offers a profound examination of what conservatism, liberalism, and the debate between them truly amount to.

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