Oakeshott as Conservative

The topic of Oakeshott’s conservatism is a contentious one, as Robert Devigne shows in his essay “Oakeshott as Conservative.” Using Burke as a touchstone, Devigne demonstrates that Oakeshott’s conservatism is complex and shifts over time. In his essays from the late 1940s and early 1950s, Oakeshott displays a Burkean antipathy toward rationalism and appreciation for tradition, though he also dissents from Burke on the value of philosophy and the rationality of history. Beginning in the mid-1950s, however, Oakeshott’s differences with Burke become more pronounced, as he moves in a more liberal and legalistic direction. Despite this, Oakeshott’s justification of the “salutary stalemate” between societas and universitas in the European political tradition seems to bring him closer to Burke’s identification of the “is” and the “ought.” Devigne concludes his essay by contrasting Oakeshott with the other seminal conservative thinker of the second half of the twentieth century, Leo Strauss, bringing out their very different assessments of modernity, Burke, and history.

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