Harry Potter and the Order of the Burkean Politics
Many Harry Potter fanatics, like myself, have been raging about the first part of the final book, “The Deathly Hallows” by JK Rowling, finally becoming a movie just a few weeks ago. Because of the new release, a Harry Potter marathon was, of course, necessary for a refresher course of the many adventures Harry has had throughout his years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
When I reached the film of 5th book of the series, “The Order of the Pheonix,” I realized how Edmond Burke’s views of political theory were nearly directly represented through the character of Professor Umbridge. Those unfamiliar with the movies should know that she was sent from the Ministry of Magic (government of the wizarding world) to be sure Hogwarts was following the guidelines set by the Ministry for ways of teaching and learning.
Burke’s anti-democratic ideologies focus on order. He believes order is absolutely necessary, and that a monarchy is the best way to do so efficiently . Umbridge uses those ideas to take over the ways of Hogwarts as if a dictator (not quite a monarchy), but as a totalitarian system.
In this clip Umbridge is explaining to the students that she must now be in control, instead of the headmaster, Dumbledore, to keep the school following rules set by the wizarding world’s government from years ago. These actions reflect Burke’s ideas of tradition. He believes that tradition is the most reliable source of political knowledge because of what we can learn from it; it is far too important to disregard just for the sake of progress.
“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 venerable 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 nearly as good as could be wished.” Burke(503)
Throughout the film Umbridge adds to the school rules and regulations she thinks would improve the school’s ways of teaching by implementing the thoughts of the Ministry and their traditional ways, saying it is for the best interest of the school and society as a whole. The Ministry does not agree with the school’s ways of allowing children to perform magic and does not appreciate the school’s rebellion against the ministries ideas. This goes right along with Burke in that, the Ministry already set a good, safe way of learning; there’s no point in starting new practices because it won’t result in the best witches and wizards as in the past.
For example, Umbridge changes the curriculum in the Defense Against the Dark Arts course to stop the use of defensive spells. The ministry believes that it would be best for witches and wizards to not know how to defend themselves, but to solely understand the history of the spells. This another way for the Ministry to possess control and order of the community, even in times of panic.
Umbridge along with the Ministry both portray a Burkean view on ways to run the school and focus on the same ideas and opinions. In this case, Umbridge gets overturned by a rebellion of Centaurs as well as the British crown, held to be so strong throughout history, was also resisted and defeated in the American Revolution. Where should our loyalties lie? With tradition or innovation?