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Quick Thoughts On Regarding Tradition

November 8, 2010

In lecture it was discussed that Burke suggests that tradition is the most reliable source of political knowledge. I am in agreement with this in the sense that is the most reliable. However, it seems very unproductive at times to use only this theory. It seems that it would be much more beneficial to use tradition only as a small model. Where would any government be without innovation, no matter the risk, anyway? We have tradition because some were willing to innovate originally.

It is obvious that innovation can often have consequences. A known fact is that everything looks better on paper, yet is always harder to put into effective practice. Thus, I can see where the advice that tradition is the most reliable source of knowledge works. However, times do change, so in the end that tradition needs to be innovated in my opinion. Social, political, and economic spectrums change greatly over time, and therefore innovation is needed to adapt to these. Tradition can be used to see possible consequences of decisions, however it is more important I think, to innovate old traditions and produce new ones.

  1. Jorge Rodriguez-Larrain permalink
    November 8, 2010 3:33 PM

    I agree with the view presented in this article, innovation is a crucial aspect in politics, but tradition must still be taken into consideration. Tradition has been built over years, it takes into consideration what has worked in the past. This may not always be the best way, therefore innovation still remains a more decisive factor.

  2. arichnerjr permalink
    November 8, 2010 3:39 PM

    Burke simply advocates evolution rather than revolution. For example, the Constitution still serves as the framework for American politics, despite being over 200 years old. The framers of the Constitution knew that it could be kept relevant across generations by allowing constitutional amendments; a sort of innovation within government structure that Burke fully endorsed.

  3. britneyrupley permalink
    November 8, 2010 3:43 PM

    I do agree that there needs to be innovation involved, but I believe that Burke feels this way as well. As the person who previously commented on this said, Burke wanted evolution not revolution. He wants their to be innovation, he just doesn’t want it to come in such a radical form that is causes an upheaval.

    • dmalks permalink
      November 8, 2010 6:07 PM

      As said in the comment above, I agree that burke wanted evolution not revolution. And that innovation should be moderate. But, where does innovation cross the line to where it “causes an upheaval”? as said in the comment above. Therefore, I do not believe Burke feels there needs to be innovation because he doesn’t not want to cause an “upheaval”.

  4. Melissa Glassman permalink
    November 8, 2010 4:16 PM

    I understand your statement that we must always create new ideas as opposed to just relying on tradition; however, I am a firm believer in tradition and all it has to offer to modern day society. Tradition shows us what was necessary in the past as well as how we have evolved since the initial usage of said tradition. I believe it is more productive to modernize old traditions as opposed to just creating new ones because the traditions are the common ground upon which to further build. It is more efficient to build upon a foundation rather than to start from scratch and build upon nothing. I very much enjoyed my peers previous comment that “Burke advocates evolution rather than revolution.” This is a great concise statement to which I greatly agree. Let’s evolve our traditions before deciding to revolt.

  5. Kelsie Breit permalink
    November 8, 2010 4:19 PM

    Too add textual support to the previous comments regarding Burke’s view of tradition, which i agree with, page 501 an 502 explains how he believes in tradition to be the basis and the foundation of political knowledge and actions, while still leaving some room for improvement and innovation:
    “Your constitution, it is true, whilst you were out of possession, suffered waste and dilapidation; but you possessed in some parts the walls and in all the foundation of a noble and vulnerable castle. You might have repaired those walls; you might have built on those old foundations. Your constitution was suspended before it was perfected, but you had the elements of a constitution very early as good as as could be wished.”
    He does believe in tradition in a sense of learning from their strengths and from their weaknesses. It would, naturally, be far easier and most likely more virtuous to build off of an idea rather than to start from scratch (hence why comments and substantial posts are worth different amounts of points on this blog).

  6. eghat2 permalink
    November 8, 2010 7:31 PM

    According to lecture, the belief of conservatives, Burke included, is that “radical change from the past is always problematic and that tradition is valuable”. However, after my discussion section today, and reading this blog post, I would like to pose the idea that innovation can be tradition.
    Today, it was discussed whether or not Burke would have been an advocate of Michigan’s Proposition One, that being a Proposition to call a Michigan Constitutional Convention to rewrite the State Constitution. The first response to this question is that Burke would have hated the idea because a new constitution means breaking the tradition of the past constitution. However, a valid point was made that the Constitution is rewritten ever 30 or so years. Therefore, the rewriting of the state constitution is in fact tradition.
    In summary, I think that innovation would not necessarily break tradition, as long as their was a tradition of active innovative thinkers.

  7. Meredith Ambinder permalink
    November 8, 2010 7:56 PM

    I think this post and the comments that have followed it raise an interesting argument. In my opinion, tradition is useful but only to a certain extent. I completely agree that because our world is ever-changing, so should our practices. There comes a point at which the world has changed so much that tradition becomes irrelevant and ineffective. How can we rely on practices from hundreds of years ago when there are now new standards, values, and, ultimately, newly shaped societies?

    This is where the element of evolution comes into play. However, I believe a conflict arises when one must decide on the extent to which we can evolve these practices. Again, I believe that tradition should certainly be acknowledged in today’s government. It is an efficient way to keep our government as consistent yet effective as possible in an ever-changing world. So when do we go too far in evolving our practices to the point at which tradition no longer exists? Is it possible to continue to evolve tradition over all these years and still call it tradition?

    I think the idea of the constitution is a very interesting example of tradition, as it has, for the most part, been an extremely consistent part of our society. I think that because these are rights, they should be protected from evolution. However, another “tradition” that came to mind when reading this post was the tradition of religion and the bible. I, personally, find it absurd that our country refuses to allow two people of the same sex to marry “because the bible says so”. I am aware that there are other reasons floating around for this argument, but this theme of tradition of marriage between a man and a woman seems to be the most prominent one. In this case, I feel that tradition should be dropped in total. People must accept that the world is different, there are different sexual orientations that people were not aware of in the past, and we must adjust in order to create equal rights for all.

    All in all, tradition is certainly helpful in some aspects. It helps us to avoid repeating mistakes, and to continue to do what works. Yet with this responsibility to continue effective traditions, we must also be able to break from (if evolving does not work) certain traditions that are outdated in today’s society.

  8. aaronyan1123 permalink
    November 8, 2010 9:56 PM

    I would say innovation of traditions is different from evolution. From personal aspect, evolution is kind of totally change everything from the past and innovation of traditions is simply a change of the form or the pratical way of traditions. Taking the thinksgiving dinner tradition as an example, we usually have turkey and mashed potatoes as entrees in thanksgiving dinner, however; some of us may have other kind of entrees beside these two traditional entrees. This is a innovation of traditions. If we are going to do it in evolution way, we could replace turkey and mashed potatoes by sweet and sour chicken and rice. Do you think this is an good change for most of us, who lives in the States for years and experienced many times of turkey and mashed potatoes thanksgiving dinner?

  9. November 8, 2010 11:02 PM

    I am not so certain that tradition is the most reliable source. There are many cases in which tradition is passed down from generation to generation, without knowing the purpose behind it. If one does not know the origin that a tradition was founded upon, how can that tradition be credible? It is a possibility that tradition is based on lies, and is just being followed because it was already set in place. Just think, if no one challenged tradition, African Americans would still be enslaved. Who says change and innovation is a bad thing when it yeilds more benefits than disadvantages. Even traditions get altered through the years because people realize they no longer fit the time period or they were flawed from the beginning. Just because something has been done for a long time, does not make it right or true!

  10. Andrew Berman permalink
    November 9, 2010 11:26 PM

    I agree with you in that times do change .However, I disagree with you saying that tradition should only be a small model. Tradition needs to be a big part in political theory because that is the only reference point that we have. From this tradition we then can innovate and evolve. As many previous posters stated, innovation is different than evolution. I think there are three different types of change. The smallest is evolution, medium being innovation, and finally the most being revolution. I think Burke would be fine with innovation, as long as tradition stays in the mind of the innovators.

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