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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

on 15 February 2015
I downloaded this book out of curiosity, but I'm glad I did: it was an eye-opener. It was a vigorous response to Edmond Burke's attack on the French revolution.

Paine tears apart monarchies and traditional social institutions. His arguments are cogent. Selling around a million copies it had a sensational impact: Paine was chased out of Britain. England, Paine says, missed an opportunity at the restoration of the monarchy in 1688. He is particularly critical of our lack of a constitution, which he says plays into the hands of traditional hierarchies.

Interestingly, Paine says little about women. Also, his commitment to individual freedom and moral equality may lean towards utopianism. That said, he influenced both the French and American revolutions where his values found important practical outcomes.

One feels that a voice as clear as Paine's might be welcome today, not least because our politicians are currently in very low public esteem. You don't have to sympathise with Paine's ideas to get something out of this book: in fact the opposite may be the case.
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on 3 January 2016
A world renown classic is what this book is. It is a must read for everyone who considers the welfare of their fellow man. Some countries have tried to build freedom and justice around its ideas. Also see The Age of Reason by the same author.
Brilliant author Thomas Paine.
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on 21 August 2017
One of the best books ever written hands down. By one of my true hero's in life!
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on 20 January 2017
The front of this book has the words "THE RIGHTS OF MAN".
There is a picture of Thomas Paine and the words "THOMAS PAINE".
There are also the words "RASTRO DIGITAL".

Inside the book, the first 20 pages are devoted to a biography of Thomas Paine.

Then there is a page which says "THE RIGHTS OF MAN".

Then follows a page headed "PREFATORY NOTE".

I was puzzled that this Prefatory Note makes a reference to Mr. H.G. Wells.

A small amount of research revealed that the entire remainder of the book, some 340 pages, is the complete text of "The Everlasting Man" by G.K. Chesterton.

On the very last page it says "Printed in Great Britain by Amazon".
Nice one Amazon.
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on 7 April 2015
Democracy, independence, economic growth, people's revolution and taxation as a means of redistributing wealth — all these are commonly accepted by 'the left' and it is interesting to read the thoughts of an Cl8th radical and see how these ideas were being thought afresh.

The Quaker belief in egalitarianism, in man who does not need priests to mediate and who has the inner light of conscience contribute to his thought.

That he wasn't formerly educated means he can think freely without the crippling weight of tradition behind him. His writings are original and do not cite large bibliographies and think the thoughts of other men after them. ‘I scarcely ever quote; the reason is I always think.'

His analytical treatment of political affairs shows indebtedness to an Enlightenment view of the natural order of the world. It anticipates a Hegelian view of history and Marx's class—war idea.

It is encouraging that he accepts, unlike most socialists, the right to have private property, provided that it has been gained by one's own labour and not inherited.

His acceptance of war as a means to gain justice for the poor but not as a means of dynastic extension anticipates much later thinking; he is strongly influenced by the French and American Revolutions.

Marx is clearly anticipated when Paine regards work as the one thing that the peasant is able to sell as a commodity.

Interestingly, those who oppose Paine are from the same classes as those who vote Tory today — the merchants and manufacturers whose rights are threatened, rind those who believe in a mystical church—state relationship.

Parliament must represent taxpayers and not be hereditary; a man does not inherit ability from his father. Hereditary government is an extension of the Norman Conquest.

Where laws are bad, it is better to obey them and struggle to have them changed than to flagrantly break them.

He reckons than the monarchy will disappear within seven years because the American constitution is abundantly, obviously better. He regards America as an example, as was Athens, of the ideal polis. Sadly we still have a House of Lords and an emasculated but expensive monarchy and America is probably a bad example of democracy in that large interests such as multinational companies manipulate the politics of that country so that it does not represent the interests of ordinary people and its world dominance is a theat to peace and to life itself.

He saw state intervention as something that should be kept to a minimum - men are able to organise their affairs by themselves. In this he anticipates the 'withering away of the state' idea and is opposed to the increasing intervention by the state which has become a feature of both socialism and capitalism. Maybe his view of man, based on Genesis, was too optimistic.
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on 4 December 2011
Tom Paine's Rights of Man, written in two parts (1791 & 1792), was a response to Edmund Burke's criticisms of the French Revolution. It's an optimistic work, looking forward to the ongoing development, both moral and political, of mankind, and the eradication of 'ignorance'. A combination of idealism and something more prosaic, it calls for democratic government by and for the people, for the greater good, one which limits itself to the support and defence of man's natural rights of liberty, equality, freedom of conscience and freedom of speech.

More or less self-educated, Paine's writing is powerful, passionate and accessible, making it no surprise that he was a best-selling pamphlet author in his time. Today, he is hailed as the originator of the idea of human rights - but his understanding of what this means is a far cry from our contemporary usage where, seemingly, everything is a 'right' from decent school dinners to designer shoes and handbags. Paine, importantly, explores not just rights, but also the duties and responsibilities of the citizen.

It is noticeable that Paine is completely uninterested in the idea of women's suffrage and the gendering of rights, a marked absence in his texts which serves to slightly delimit his democratic ideal.

The Penguin edition has a good introduction by Eric Foner, one of the great Paine scholars.
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on 5 July 1999
The Rights of Man is a riposte to Edmund Burke's criticism of the French Revolution. Its message is the superiority of reason, in the form of Republican government armed with the Declaration of the Rights of Man, over despotism which holds populations in ignorance. With the American and French revolutions fresh in his mind, Paine was writing in a world on the threshold of freedom and that comes through in his forceful and forthright style. That said, and most important for the reader to appreciate, much of what he has to say still applies today. Paine in scathing in his critique of hereditary monarchy and privilege. He says "the idea of hereditary legislation is.......as absurd as an hereditary mathematician, or an hereditary wise man." He rejects the notion of government laws being justified by tradition and therefore irrevocable. His argument against Burke's defence of the 1688 revolution in England is perhaps the best in the book. Paine argues that the only thing that is truly hereditary is the Rights of Man : "The Rights of men in society, are neither devisable, nor transferrable, nor annihilable, but descendable only." The book is a superb polemic when both understood in its historical context and applied to world politics today. His arguments for reform of the House of Lords strike a particularly pertinent note. He expresses liberal doctrines that many people take for granted but in our own genocidal times Paine reminds us that many of the topics that impassioned him should continue to impassion everyone with an interest in humanity. The style of the writing may put off a few as many themes disappear and reappear throughout the book instead of being dealt with in a coherant whole. The fact that it was written in two parts and that he is one of the greatest pamphleteers of modern times should compensate for this minor irritation.
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on 9 July 2016
Here in UK we still have not brought our government or national institutions up to the rights as detailed by Thomas Paine; An unelected head of state; an unelected House of Lords, able to legislate.
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on 23 January 2001
I bought this book over a year ago and it is a joy to read. The introduction by Michael Foot is informative and concise and helps set up the book in the correct historical context. Common Sense is one of the most important and under-rated tracts in history, influencing as it did the American revolution and therefore the French revolution and The Rights of Man is an eloquent argument against authoritarian rule and a call for democracy which was way ahead of its time and still extremely relevent. I urge you to buy it.
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on 3 October 2015
I never ever received this book I wanted to know the history of this man.
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