In Search of Icons
This introductory chapter discusses how American commentary on Edmund Burke (1729–1797) has always revealed more about the intermittent traumas of American life than it has about the historical Edmund Burke. It shows how, while liberals have often enjoyed a considerable “family tree” of historical icons to support their ideals, conservatives find themselves lacking in great old names to help them defend traditional orthodoxies—having found few effective matches for Locke, Jefferson, Mill, Dewey, and other tradition-shattering icons. Consequently, they have been forced to stretch Edmund Burke beyond measure: since the Second World War, Burke has been employed to counter virtually all left-of-center thought. Yet, as the chapter shows, the current conservative appropriation of Burke's legacy in America is only the latest chapter in a long, symbolic enterprise.
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