Puzzling through Burke

Don Herzog, "Puzzling through Burke," Political Theory, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Aug., 1991), pp. 336-363


There are, I suggest, three major lines of argument in Burke. One is a series of dead ends impossible to spell out coherently; another is sometimes incomplete, sometimes pernicious; the last and best offers a striking political sociology but is doomed to arriving too early or too late on the scene. I will repeatedly press the claim that Burke’s work is contradictory, so I want to be clear on what sort of contradiction is at stake and why it matters. That Burke offers three contradictory major lines of argument, not one, is not a problem: Only readers in the clutches of mischievous categories like “teaching” and “view” will worry about that. (We have better games to play in this business than “will the real Edmund Burke please stand up?” -better strategies of exegesis than showing that one line is the serious or real one and the others mere distractions.) The contradictions I want to exploit are those internal to each line.