Michael Oakeshott on the History of Political Thought

Martyn Thompson’s contribution to the Companion:

My concern is twofold. First, I shall outline what I take Oakeshott to have meant by the phrase “the history of political thought” and then I shall consider some criticisms from Oakeshott’s perspective of the theory and practice of Quentin Skinner, the leading figure in the so-called Cambridge School of historians of political thought. Oakeshott was impressed by his work. But there are significant points of disagreement. I shall focus on two: first, Oakeshott’s disagreement with Skinner about the historical interpretation of Hobbes’s Leviathan; and second, more generally, Oakeshott’s objections to Skinner’s reduction of the history of political thought to “the history of ideologies.” The two points are closely connected.