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June 23, 2005



Your point about the British people being so far from him seems the truest. Oakeshott's a curious figure, of course, in that he was pretty much the last of the British Idealists, carrying on long after that school became deeply unfashionable (after G. E. Moore dumped on them).

Personally, though, I'm with Paul Franco (his first book on Oakeshott is very good if you haven't tried it - I haven't seen the more recent "An Introduction") that Oakeshott is fundamentally a liberal, if a very unorthodox sort. In the end, he seeks a model of society - see "On Human Conduct" - which is about finding means through which politics is ultimately unimportant. His concern with securing a social order that allows for complete subjectivism over ends is a liberal one.

His liberalism is of a Hobbesian sort, although much more constructive (and truly liberal) than some other 20th century Hobbesians (Carl Schmitt, maybe). It's also a little odd, at times. On the one hand, he criticised rationalism to such an extent that a conservative ally (Kolnai) was ultimately repelled by "Rationalism in Politics," on the other hand, "On Human Conduct" is in itself quite abstract and rational. You can also contrast the gentle conservatism you talk of with his more directive talk about authority elsewhere.

Am wittering. Not many people know who Oakeshott is, so given half a chance...


"If the present is arid": that's pretty much my suspicion as to why many teenagers from educated, atheist homes have started taking an interest in Christianity. Anyway, what's to be done? Let's start by raising the voting age to 35.


You're with Oakeshott on that one, Dearieme. Later in the essay, he writes:"politics is an activity unsuited to the young." But read the whole thing - personally, I think it's the most sympathetic account of conservatism I've read.




... and from there, read the "Tower of Babel" - but the one in "On History," not on "Rationalism in Politics."


Steady on!


Without having read any Oakeshott, I find it rather hard to understand how he gets from the kind of preference for the tried and tested to the quasi-Millian liberal valorisation of space empty of government interference in which people can exercise free choice. Conservatives don't like free choice: crudely, people shouldn't choose, they should do what their parents did.

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