The Rights of Man, Paperback

The Rights of Man Paperback

Part of the Dover Thrift Editions series

3 out of 5 (2 ratings)


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc.
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Social & political philosophy
  • ISBN: 9780486408934


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Review by

Written during the era of the French Revolution, this book was one of the first to introduce the concept of human rights from the standpoint of democracy. The Rights of Man was actually published as a direct response to a piece written by Edmund Burke attacking the French Revolution. Paine’s book focuses on the positives of that revolution and why it was necessary. I think it’s important to learn more about the conversation that was happening when our nation was being developed. We were building something from scratch, but we were being influenced by everything that was happening in the countries around us. “If there is a country in the world where concord, according to common calculation, would be least expected, it is America. Made up as it is of people from different nations, accustomed to different forms and habits of government, speaking different languages, and more different in their modes of worship, it would appear that the union of such a people was impracticable; but by the simple operation of constructing government on the principles of society and the rights of man, every difficulty retires, and all the parts are brought into cordial unison. There the poor are not oppressed, the rich are not privileged. Industry is not mortified by the splendid extravagance of a court rioting at its expense. Their taxes are few, because their government is just: and as there is nothing to render them wretched, there is nothing to engender riots and tumults.”The core argument in the book rings true. A government’s job should be to protect the rights of its people. It’s not the government’s job to create those rights, only to protect them. Paine argues that the more power a government has the more it takes away the rights of its people, the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. He argues that because man is inherently evil, he will default to evil when given too much power. BOTTOM LINE: Not a book I’d reread for fun, but one that I think it is important to read. Understanding the decisions that were made when your nation was created helps you understand many of the conversations currently happening in our country. “Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” 

Review by

I know that this is a classic, and I should be waxing lyrical about it, particularly as my politics tend to the socialist, BUT, the thing that strikes me most with this book is the naivety. We twenty-first century beings are too World weary to accept that ANY system of government is going to lead to the promised land, let alone this dated set of pie in the sky doctrines. Paine's main tenet is that less is best on the government front and, whilst I do anguish about some of the nanny knows best mentality of the UK at the moment, it is also painfully true that a sort yourselves out approach only leads to the fittest crushing the minnows.I also found the constant sniping at Mr. Burke tedious: Paine does not need to decry an alternative viewpoint, just give us his own. I really expected to be uplifted by this work but failed to learn much of anything from its pages (I leave others to decide if this was due to my stupidity or the more streetwise attitudes of the present day).