Oakeshott on Law

STEVEN GERENCSER trailer from A Companion to Michael Oakeshott

To write about law in relationship to Michael Oakeshott’s ideas generally, or his thoughts on politics in particular, presents a complicated task, not because law is an obscure concept in Oakeshott, and not because it is a topic about which he has written little. In fact, Oakeshott wrote about law and jurisprudence at the beginning of his life as a publishing scholar and was still writing essays on law more than half a century later. Rather it is a challenge to write about Oakeshott and law because his ideas about law are so closely nested with related and interlocking concepts that it is very easy to start by thinking about law and find oneself considering authority or politics, or his distinction between civil association and enterprise association. These concepts are woven together so tightly for Oakeshott that to pull one out and consider it on its own without attention to the others would badly misconstrue the idea.  To express this idea in the terms that Oakeshott employs regarding Hegel and Hobbes, these ideas are related as in a system, and to attempt to understand any element of the system in isolation can only generate a limited and incomplete view, that is, a misunderstanding.