Review of International Studies

Research Article

Edmund Burke and the theory of international relations*

R. J. Vincent

Burke did not count himself a theorist. Metaphysics, abstraction, was stuff for professor So If the speculation of the classroom was brought too close to the life of politics the result was unsettling, dangerous, revolutionary. Politicians should be people of practice not theory, attending to circumstance before principle, working within a tradition not innovating, reforming before countenancing revolution. They should be concerned with the whole of human nature and not just with human reason, with feeling as well as with thought.

A senior lecturer in international relations at Keele University, will be visiting professor of the world politics of peace and war at Princeton University during 1984–5. He is author of Nonintervention and international order and is currently completing a study on Human rights in foreign policy.


* An earlier version of this paper was written for a series of seminars on ‘Neglected thinkers on international relations’ held at the Australian National University during 1983.