Written in part as a theoretical reply to the stodgy conservatism of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution (1790), Paine's Rights of Man (1791-92) sets forth a manifesto of popular democratic rule in the established tradition of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In it Paine offers a discussion of the nature of political man and proceeds to encourage the grass-roots revolutionary movements that seek to analyze critically and, where necessary, reform or replace social and political institutions, many of which tend only to repress those whom they were initially designed to serve.
Paine's enthusiasm, courage, and boundless commitment to reason are the intellectual rapiers that strike impressive blows for the defense of freedom and for the self-determination of all persons. His dedication to liberty is not so blind as to endorse reform uncritically.
In Part II of Rights of Man Paine does set himself against those who would rebel for the mere sake of rebellion. Revolution must contain within its being not only the displacement of the previous regime but also a rationally formulated alternative that will meet the needs of the people.