Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man": A Biography - A Book That Shook the WorldPaperback
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- Publisher: ATLANTIC BOOKS
- Format: Paperback | 176 pages
- Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 14mm | 181g
- Publication date: 9 August 2007
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 1843546280
- ISBN 13: 9781843546283
- Sales rank: 78,344
Thomas Paine is one of the greatest political advocates in history. "Declaration of the Rights of Man", first published in 1791, is the key to his reputation. Inspired by his outrage at Edmund Burke's attack on the uprising of the French people, Paine's text is a passionate defence of man's inalienable rights. In "Rights of Man", Paine argues against monarchy and outlines the elements of a successful republic, including public education, pensions and relief of the poor and unemployed, all financed by income tax. Since its publication, "Rights of Man" has been celebrated, criticized, maligned and suppressed but here the polemicist and commentator Christopher Hitchens marvels at its forethought and revels in its contentiousness. Above all, Hitchens demonstrates how Thomas Paine's book forms the philosophical cornerstone of the first democratic republic, whose revolution is the only example that still speaks to us: the United States of America.
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Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and Visiting Professor in liberal studies at the New School in New York. He was the author of numerous books, including works on Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, George Orwell, Mother Theresa, Henry Kissinger and Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as the international bestseller and National Book Award nominee, god Is Not Great.
"'Christopher Hitchens... at his characteristically incisive best.' A. C. Grayling, The Times * 'Hitchens makes [his case for Thomas Paine's Rights of Man] with characteristic verve and style... engaging and well worth reading.' John Gray, New Statesman * 'A timely book.' Billy Bragg, Books of the Year, Guardian * 'Compendious, clear and engaged accounts... this series is a big success.' A. C. Grayling, The Times"
O rare Tom Paine! Prolific political pundit Hitchens (God Is Not Great, 2007, etc.) sizes up the "self-taught corset-maker and bridge-designer" who fomented rebellion across the world two centuries ago.Paine's Rights of Man - the ostensible center of this entry in Atlantic's Books That Changed the World series - was, writes Hitchens, "both a trumpet of inspiration and a carefully wrought blueprint for a more rational and decent ordering of society," as well as "an attempt to marry the ideas of the American and French Revolutions" with the aim of introducing them to Britain. Of course, America and France found manifold ways to shake off revolutionary rationality, and Paine quickly found himself a prophet without honor, even if William Pitt allowed that Paine was of course right. (Pitt added, though, that to encourage Paine's opinions would be to invite revolution indeed.) Antimonarchical but at once radical and conservative - for instance, Paine "often wrote of economic inequalities as if they were natural or inevitable," and he resisted the atheism of the French Revolution - Rights of Man asserted a few contradictions and foreshadowed, in some ways, the notion of a dictatorship of the proletariat, but it also pressed for a certain wide-ranging species of liberty, against which Hitchens contrasts Edmund Burke, whose own ideas of equality and liberty turned on the presence of a hereditary king. Paine's vigorous and plain prose, Hitchens observes, has been taken as evidence of an uncouth nature, but Paine's ideas were elevated, and of course widely influential - reverberating, in time, in the labor movement, women's suffrage and Franklin Roosevelt's famous speech after Pearl Harbor. Paine, as Hitchens notes in this lucid and fast-moving appreciation, has no proper memorial anywhere; this slender book makes a good start.Less exuberant than Tom Collins's essential book The Trouble with Tom (2005). Still, as with all Hitchens, well worth reading and arguing with. (Kirkus Reviews)