A Skeptical Conservative

Rationalism and politics is a combustible mixture. We know this from history. Oakeshott knew it all along.

Issue: Fall 2000

It is now ten years since Michael Oakeshott died, in his ninetieth year and long after retiring from the chair of political science at the London School of Economics (LSE). So it is not surprising that some people should think that the time has come to rescue him from the limbo that claims celebrated writers after death and celebrated academics after retirement. It has been a long, quiet limbo, marked only by the publication of two small books he left in his desk drawers and not by the rise of any Oakeshottian school that might have applied or developed his teachings. Indeed, the only attention he has received in recent years has taken the form of musings about what possible relevance his metaphysical doctrines could have to political theory, not practical politics. As his most sympathetic expositor, Paul Franco, concluded, "To begin to work out what this political philosophy means for political life as we know it is the next step in understanding . . .

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