The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Commonwealth Honors Alum Releases New Book on Economist Edmund Burke

prof collins

Gregory Collins 09, a postdoctoral associate and lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Yale University, recently released a book on Edmund Burke’s economic thought, titled Commerce and Manners in Edmund Burke’s Political Economy. In his book, Collins explores Burke’s understanding of commerce and virtue as it relates to economic thought.

Burke was British statesman and philosopher during the 18th century, a time period of increased industrialization. Collins' book analyzes Burke’s thoughts on the interaction between this commercial activity and moral, social, and religious values of civilization.

“[Burke] was suspicious of attempts to coordinate commercial activities based on a rationalized conception of order,” Collins said of his major takeaways. “He argued a modern commercial economy required moral, social, and religious preconditions, and without these preconditions, a commercialized economy can devolve into a crass modification of individual human beings, unable to be sustained over time. He tried to integrate this new idea of a commercial economy within a preexisting social and religious order.” 

Collins chose to attend Commonwealth Honors College for the small liberal arts experience within the larger university. The diversity of campus also allowed him to consider and learn from a variety of perspectives. 

“The learning communities in which you can interact with different people of similar intellectual interests,” Collins said of what defined his time at Commonwealth Honors. “[In] my first-year I [lived] on the political science floor, so we all had some interest in politics. That experience generated a lot of meaningful conversations in the hallways, even on random weeknights.”

One of his favorite professors from his time at UMass, and still connects with today, is Professor Roberto Alejandro of the Political Science Department. Collins also enjoyed taking Arabic classes, which extended his studies of Middle Eastern politics and provided him with an enriching viewpoint on various cultures.

During his time at UMass, Collins also studied abroad in Cairo, Egypt, where he conducted research for his Honors Thesis project, focusing on Arab public opinion in Egypt. Though he was unsure of exactly what he wanted to do after graduating, his time at UMass helped him find his way.

“I realized, ultimately, that my passion for ideas really motivated me,” Collins said. “My UMass experience strengthened my interest in pursuing a career in academia.”

In his next project, Collins is studying the antebellum debate on abolitionism and how it ties into the foundations of the U.S. Constitution. In his free time, he enjoys rooting for Boston sports teams. More information about Collins and his research can be found on his website. 

“I’m grateful for the experience that UMass provided me,” said Collins. “I’m fortunate for the relationships I made with faculty, and I’m still close friends with many people I met at UMass. I’m appreciative of the cultural, geographic, religious, and socioeconomic diversity at UMass. I met my wife at UMass, so I’m very grateful.”