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Michael Oakeshott (1901–1990)

Forfatter af Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays

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Omfatter også følgende navne: Michael Oakshott, Michael Joseph Oakeshott

Image credit: By Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science - Professor Michael Oakeshott, c1960sUploaded by calliopejen1, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15987493

Værker af Michael Oakeshott

The Voice of Liberal Learning (1989) 105 eksemplarer
On History and Other Essays (1983) 104 eksemplarer
On Human Conduct (1975) 90 eksemplarer
Hobbes on Civil Association (1975) 54 eksemplarer
Conservadorismo (2012) 15 eksemplarer

Associated Works

Leviathan eller Materie, form & magt i et almenvel civilt og kirkeligt (1651) — Redaktør, nogle udgaver8,218 eksemplarer
The Portable Conservative Reader (1982) — Bidragyder — 210 eksemplarer
Writing Politics: An Anthology (2020) — Bidragyder — 35 eksemplarer
Conservative Texts: An Anthology (1991) — Bidragyder — 8 eksemplarer

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Juridisk navn
Oakeshott, Michael Joseph
political philosopher
London School of Economics



Michael Oakeshott was selected in 1951 to replace Harold Lasky in the LSE chair in political science. At the time the political pendulum had begun to swing against radicalism. (The conservatives under Winston Churchill were taking power from the Labor Party under Clement Attlee). In these essays published in 1963, Oakeshott propounds a Whiggish conservativism in the tradition of Edmund Burke and David Hume. The foremost principle of statesmanship is the duty not to rock the boat, a case put forth before notably by Burke. The conservative argument never alters, although its formulation does. The purpose of sound politics is to keep things as they are, with the minimum of concessions to such change as can be shown to be absolutely necessary. History is continuous, and even revolutions take place in a traditional continuum. Statesmanship is the art of the possible. Abstract liberty, equality and fraternity are illusions, and private property is the basis of society. All genuine change is slow and imperceptible, and rapid change is a sign that doctrinaire rationalists have seized power for the glory of their silly selves. All revolutions are hostile to liberty. Freedom is preserved by avoiding accumulations of power. Small property ownership is the safest social model for freedom. That government is best that governs least.

Oakeshott does not present the doctrine of traditional Tory conservativism: He is silent on social hierarchy, traditional morality and the divine right of kings. Oakeshott is indifferent to monarchy and vaguely critical of Christian morality. He sees religious idealism as too abstract. Moral life has come to be dominated by ideals that are ruinous to “a settled habit of behavior.” Oakeshott’s skepticism concerning ideals echoes David Hume, another conservative skeptic with a great respect for a settled habit of behavior. (English Whiggery descends from Hume and Gibbon even more than Burke.)

Oakeshott is suspicious of Hayek, a Whiggish liberal, because of his rationalism: a plan to resist planning is still rationalist. Nor is Oakeshott’s thinking compatible with modern welfare state liberalism. American admirers can’t be too happy with Oakeshott’s treatment of the Declaration of Independence as a prime source of rationalist fallacy, representing the politics of the felt need. American conservatives may agree with this assessment but they can hardly say so. For Oakeshott, the English Revolution is good, the American Revolution is bad. Jefferson was inspired by Locke. The Americans and the French drew radical conclusions from natural law which for Oakeshott were bad because they were subversive of the existing order, but then Burke also relied on natural law to draw conservative deductions, which were good because they supported the existing order (and which were also appealing to slaveowners threatened by the emancipation of their human property). In this regard, Oakeshott argues that there are limits to the rights of ownership: for example, slavery is proscribed “because the right to own another man could never be a right enjoyed equally by every member of the society.” Of course, slavery was pretty much universal in antiquity given the tacit understanding (part of the ‘traditional manner of behavior’ that only free citizens counted as members of society.

Oakeshott’s elegant essays published in 1963 are not enough to stop the shift of the pendulum back to the left. [At the time, the reviewer was hopeful that the pendulum would shift to a middle ground that borrows from both left and right, in particular a non-totalitarian socialism. He cites the example of the nineteenth century compromise of Jacobinism and non-Jacobinism in liberal thought.] However, the intellectual expression of a shift to the left will be affected by the need to take account of these well-written pieces. No reaction is ever completely lost, any more than a revolution can be erased. We can only hope that with the next turn of the screw the direction of politics will be upwards conserving the lessons of the past. Oakeshott’s work should force radicals to examine their own beliefs and where necessary restate them. These essays serve the essential function of seeing to it that the unending dialectic of left and right stays as close as possible to the political facts. (1963)
… (mere)
GLArnold | 7 andre anmeldelser | Aug 11, 2023 |
This was a much more philosophical book than I had expected. Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990) is not a well-known name, but it appears that connoisseurs still place him in the top of 20th century philosophy and political theory. In this late work (1983) he deals in a very abstract way with the possibility of historical research. So, this book is essentially about epistemology (what are the conditions to come to real knowledge?), and that makes this into a tough read. Oakeshott mainly focuses on how things should NOT be done in historical research, and what the pitfalls are in which historians keep on falling. That means that in the end, you will be left with the question whether sound historical research indeed is possible. Oakeshott is convinced it is, but does not offer clear answers. See also my review in my History account on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1935848277… (mere)
bookomaniac | 1 anden anmeldelse | Nov 30, 2018 |
Philosophical reflections undertaken for enjoyment, in order to understand in other terms what is already, to some extent, already understood. Oakeshott prefaces this text by calling this a "well-considered intellectual adventure recollected in tranquility." In an age where so much philosophical talk, and intellectual writing, is mere activist dogma lined up for political advantage, and not real thinking at all, this is refreshing. Oakeshoot considers questions of human practice, civil association, and the modern state. Enlightening indeed.… (mere)
PastorBob | 1 anden anmeldelse | Jan 3, 2017 |
The meandering prose makes the book longer than it needs to be and sacrifices some clarity. Rationalism in Politics is the best essay, presenting a solid conservative case against the rationalist turn in modern politics that oddly coincides with similar critiques on the far left. The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind, a tedious meditation on art in which Oakeshott's prose is at its most florid and overwrought, is the worst of the collection.
brleach | 7 andre anmeldelser | Jan 26, 2015 |


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