May 16, 2014 6:35 pm

‘Edmund Burke’, by Jesse Norman

Edmund Burke: The Visionary who Invented Modern Politics, by Jesse Norman, William Collins, RRP£9.99, 320 pages

 

“Edmund Burke is both the greatest and most underrated political thinker of the past 300 years,” writes Conservative MP Jesse Norman in this superb biography. Norman aims to place Burke above Hume, Smith, Mill, Marx and Rawls in the pantheon.

For Norman, Burke is the first conservative because, in contrast to liberals, he “sees freedom as ordered liberty”, believes in “tradition, habit and ‘prejudice’ ”, detests radical change and embraces duty’s primacy over will. Though Norman occasionally oversimplifies liberalism to make his point, he succeeds in elevating his subject and showing why he matters today.

Ironically, the case is made so well that it would seem perverse if Tories alone took something from Burke’s legacy. Burke may be a conservative but, as he would have explained better than anyone, his is an inheritance for all of society.

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