[Book Review] Parliamentarism: From Burke to Weber

Plassart, Anna (2021). [Book Review] Parliamentarism: From Burke to Weber. European Journal of Political Theory, 21(4) pp. 836–846.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1474885120937574


William Selinger’s Parliamentarism: from Burke to Weber aims to redefine our understanding of what it means to live in a free state. It displaces the concept of “democracy” as a (supposedly) central concern for a range of canonical nineteenth-century authors, and demonstrates that another concept, that of “parliamentarism”, stood at the core of many European liberal writers’ quest for liberty. Selinger shows that Montesquieu’s description of a “balanced” English constitution protected by a system of checks and balances was challenged by a number of contemporary observers of British politics (including Jean-Louis de Lolme and Edmund Burke), who elaborated rival accounts emphasizing instead the dominant position of a powerful representative assembly which mirrored the nation it represented. The resulting doctrine of “parliamentarism”, the book demonstrates through a series of case studies that include Tocqueville, Mill and Weber, subsequently became the “dominant paradigm of a free state across Europe” (p. 9) in the nineteenth century.

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