[The following book review by Dr. James B. Whisker appeared in the April 1982 issue of Universitas, the national publication of University Professors for Academic Order.] 

 

Book Review 

 

Modern Social and Political Philosophies: Burkean Conservatism and Classical Liberalism

Dwight D. Murphey

University Press of America, 1982

 

Reviewed by Dr. James B. Whisker

 

            The present book is Professor Murphey’s second in a projected four-volume series on man in the modern world.  There is much to recommend the series based on the first half of it.  It is a mandatory purchase not only for college/university and research libraries, but for the personal collections of scholars whose interests lie in modern social-political theory, social science, and the humanities.

            Although many today call themselves conservatives it is not always clear to them or to others if they are Burkean-Hamiltonian 19th century conservatives or classical liberals of the Adam Smith-Locke-Jefferson category.  Distinctions which were of immense importance to these two groups in the late 18th and early 19th centuries are obscured today as both ideologically differ from establishment modern interventionist liberalism.

            Professor Murphey at Wichita State University has done an unusually fine job in presenting the major and most minor points of contrast between the two great traditions which today influence 20th century conservatism.  He defines each concept and offers supporting data mostly by way of quotations from statesmen and philosophers representing each point of view within these two general camps.  These quotations are themselves quite significant in establishing precisely the essence of the ideas as conceived by the significant, type-forming thinkers.

            I can easily see a modern political philosophy class using this volume as its primary text on the foundations of the 20th century.  While there is a great depth of understanding there is equal clarity in presenting ideas and defining them.  I asked one of my sophomore students to read through one section just to verify my suspicion.  Indeed, the student could comprehend readily from it and remarked that it was neither dry nor boring.  That is quite an accomplishment on Murphey’s part.

            The single reservation I have is: in formal writing is it not preferable to avoid contractions (isn’t, etc.)?  One might also say that despite the excellent bibliography some additional footnoting might please the more demanding scholars.  As I have used Murphey’s technique myself on occasion I cannot criticize too strongly.

            This volume (and the first which I also read) is among the best books I have read or reviewed in the last decade.   

 

Dr. James B. Whisker is a professor of political science at West Virginia University, Morgantown, and a UPAO director.