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The Great Debate

Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left
Narrated by: Mike Chamberlain
Length: 10 hrs and 30 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2013 Yuval Levin (P)2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • David Olson
  • 10-06-2016

Makes one rethink contemporary Right and Left

Amazing book! I did not truly understand Burkean conservatism before this. To have it contrasted with Paine's radical enlightens theory was very illuminating. This book has affected my considered opinions on right, left, and the proper approach to politics. Highly recommended to anyone thinking seriously about these issues.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Justin
  • 19-04-2017

Repetitive

Overall an interesting topic and worth the listen, but the book does tend to repeat itself many times.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Samuel K Osborne
  • 25-11-2016

The perfect post-election read

After this ugly and contentious election which was largely about which Presidential candidate was most loathsome, it would behoove an ascendent Republican right and a disillusioned Democrat left to take a collective deep breath and seek to reconnect and reengage each other at a deeper, less personal, and more edifying level: the level of ideas. And Levin's primer on the two intellectual antipodes of the classically liberal order in the Anglo-American tradition is a fitting and commendable start. The book's title indicates the true nature of liberal politics: party, partisanship, and principled disagreement as the best means yet known in a fallen world for establishing or affecting a felicitous polis.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Kevin Holtsberry
  • 30-04-2016

an argument within liberalism?

A fascinating and thought-provoking exploration of two giants of the modern age. a book with much more relevance for the politics of today than you might think. Burke and Payne may be the for bearers of left and right but they are also arguing about what type of liberalism is best. Levin basically argues that the right needs more Burke and the left could use more Payne.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark S.
  • 25-06-2019

Dry, but well researched

The text and content of this book are quite dry, though well researched. It is not a comprehensive exploration of Burke and Paine’s work, but is well referenced to get a feel for their various world views. The narrative could be improved by layering in more historical context, particularly around the French Revolution, to add a more robust dramatic arc to the storyline. Overall, the book does well in answering its main thesis.

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  • Martin C.
  • 09-12-2018

interesting to learn the roots of politics

This book shows the history of the political left as represented by Thomas Paine, and the right or conservative view as explained by Edmund Burke who was a contemporary to Paine. This analysis is well researched and clearly explained as this complex issue is not easily understood.

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  • Kat. N.
  • 01-08-2018

A must read for intro civics courses

The book is excellent and makes somewhat arcane political philosophy tractable and immediate. I am going to include this book in my highschool government and economics course.

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  • AC Gleason
  • 12-06-2018

Levin’s work is essential

This book isn’t just distilled information about Burke and Pain. In many ways it’s a way to think about America herself. Essential reading for everyone.

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  • Robert Caldwell
  • 08-03-2018

Outstanding History of Political Theory

Highly enjoyed this book. It illuminated the undercurrents if current political discourse. I learned a lot. Narration was clear and easy to listen to.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Buffalo Bill
  • 15-01-2014

Not really relevant to our problems.

Would you try another book from Yuval Levin and/or Mike Chamberlain?

I would not. There are so many good authors that I really can't give them a second chance.

Has The Great Debate turned you off from other books in this genre?

The idea that it can show us the way today is false. Neither Edmund Burke or Thomas Paine had any idea of what society would be like in the 21st century.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator was ok it was the content that I objected to.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Great Debate?

The entire book would be cut.

1 of 55 people found this review helpful

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  • jhag
  • 15-10-2019

The debate still goes on

Fascinating debate but, it can be hard to follow as he bounces back and forth between them through out the book.

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  • Gareth
  • 02-02-2017

interesting and informative

a little repetitive, but very interesting. narrator not brilliant, but passable. latter chapters could have been longer

1 of 2 people found this review helpful