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The Great Debate

The Great Debate Cover

The Great Debate

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

By Yuval Levin

Basic Books (AZ), Hardcover, 9780465050970, 275pp.

Publication Date: December 3, 2013

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 discourseon 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.

About the Author
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.

Tuesday, Dec 3, 2013

Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep talks to writer Yuval Levin about the origins of the American political right and left. In his new book The Great Debate, Levin traces the birth of the left/right divide to the views of two men: Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. More at

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