Coffee on Catharine Macaulay and Edmund Burke @OxUniPress

Alan Coffee, King’s College London School of Law, is publishing Catharine Macaulay and Edmund Burke in Reconsidering Political Thinkers (Manjeet Ramgotra and Simon Choat, eds., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023). Here is the abstract.

This chapter examines the rival and contrasting political philosophies of Catharine Macaulay and Edmund Burke. The two were almost exact contemporaries in the eighteenth centuries and clashed on their understandings of the fundamental nature of political society and the correct the approach to take on reform. Macaulay and Burke were opposites in many ways. As a woman, Macaulay was a political outsider while Burke was a successful politician. Macaulay was a radical and revolutionary republican who based her ideas on a few clear, immutable philosophical truths, while Burke was a cautious and conservative thinker who valued stability and continuity, appealing to tradition rather than speculative principle. In the first section, I introduce Macaulay’s philosophy based around the core ideal of freedom as independence from arbitrary control. In the second, I present Burke’s contrasting organic, contextual and pragmatic approach. Finally, I consider some of the weaknesses in each philosopher’s work, particularly from the perspective of securing the equal citizenship rights of women and the members of minority social groups.

Download the chapter from SSRN at the link.