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Cover Political Thinkers

30. Oakeshott  

David Boucher

This chapter examines Michael Oakeshott's political thought, beginning with a discussion of his scepticism and its relation to the background theory of British idealism that informs all aspects of his philosophy. It then considers Oakeshott's belief that philosophy is the uncovering and questioning of the postulates upon which all our forms of understanding rest. Oakeshott has been characterized as a conservative, a liberal, and an ideologist, but this chapter argues that he was neither conservative nor liberal in any party-political sense. It goes on to analyse Oakeshott's views on the rationalist in politics, civil association and the rule of law, and politics and law as well as his characterization of the modern European state. The chapter concludes by assessing the importance Oakeshott attached to myth and legend in the self-consciousness of a society.