Tag: Oakeshott

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  Some days, when my own academic self-expectations seem crushing and even a six mile run can’t seem to exhaust my endless, bouncing anxiety, I can feel my fingers itch to play the harp. I’ve played for more than half of my life, and having to leave it so suddenly behind (when I could continue […]

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Conservative Classics: Oakeshott’s ‘Rationalism in Politics’


OakeshottMichael Oakeshott (1901-90) was one of the great conservative thinkers of the last century. After serving in World War II, Oakeshott was appointed Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics (LSE), where he replaced Harold Laski. The two men could not have been more different: Laski was a Marxist thinker and a life-long apologist for socialism; Oakeshott was an important conservative political philosopher.

The year he joined the faculty of the LSE (1947), Oakeshott published an essay, “Rationalism in Politics,” which has become one of the classics of conservative thought. In this age of Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, an unfettered EPA, Common Core, the exponential growth of government regulations, ad nauseum, this essay deserves to be read widely (a pdf copy of the essay is available here).

It is a short, brilliant critique of the mode of thought that now dominates leftist thinking in America (and, sadly, the kind of thinking that animates far too many politicians who call themselves conservatives).