chapter  8
21 Pages

Innovation Transformed: From Word to Concept

Burke, an Irish statesman and political philosopher, deputy (Whig) in the English House of Commons and founder of the political review Annual Register , offers two arguments against innovation. First, custom or “inheritance derived to us from our forefathers” is “the result of profound refl ection; or rather the happy effect of following nature”. In contrast, “A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfi sh temper and confi ned views” (Burke, 1790: 31). Burke’s second argument is a preference for the middle ground-which amounts to what he calls reform. “As in most questions of state, there is a middle. There is something else than the mere alternative of

absolute destruction, or unreformed existence” (Burke, 1790: 158). According to Burke:

There is a manifest marked distinction, which ill men, with ill designs, or weak men incapable of any design, will constantly be confounding, that is, a marked distinction between Change and Reformation. The former alters the substance of the objects themselves . . . Reform is, not a change in the substance, or in the primary modifi cation of the object, but the direct application of a remedy . . . To innovate is not to reform. (Burke, 1796: 290)

Burke held similar views throughout his life. Whether in his speeches to Parliament or his diverse correspondence, Burke cried out against “[t]he greatest of all evil: a blind and furious spirit of innovation, under the name of reform” (Burke, 1795: 271).