Clouding Conservatism

Yet more Oakeshottiana. Here is a brief review by Elizabeth Corey of The Meanings of Michael Oakeshott’s Conservatism (table of contents). Corey summarizes why Oakeshott’s supposed conservatism equally frustrates self-avowed conservatives and liberal critics: in the second excerpt she neatly captures the appeal of Oakeshott for someone such as myself. (See also another recent posting).

In a certain sense, then, to call Oakeshott’s thought “conservative” is to court danger; for it implies that some sort of common understanding of conservatism might apply rather straightforwardly  to Oakeshott. It does not.

The heart of Oakeshott’s conservatism thus lay in both recognition and acceptance of the world’s imperfections. He hoped that we might see and appreciate the goods worthy of enjoyment, and that in addition we might know how to enjoy them. This was difficult, in his view, because it required that we put off or ignore our anxiety and aspirations for the future and engage fully in our present lives.