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Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays

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4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  92 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Rationalism in Politics, first published in 1962, has established the late Michael Oakeshott as the leading conservative political theorist in modern Britain. This expanded collection of essays astutely points out the limits of "reason" in rationalist politics.

Oakeshott criticizes ideological schemes to reform society according to supposedly "scientific" or rationalistic...more
Paperback, 582 pages
Published March 31st 2010 by Liberty Fund Inc. (first published 1968)
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John Doe
I have a problem with authority, and I don't have a lot or respect for tradition. I think we should question everything, and have good reasons for what we do.

But, I don't live like that. Many things I do, like driving a car, are the result of teaching my body how to do things. This comes from practice and trial and error, and it is not a conclusion of a rational argument or something you can learn in a book. It's life.

Oakeshott's thinks that tradition is the life of the community that you can't...more
Paul
Oakeshott is as careful and painstaking a writer as you will find; and he makes considerable demands of the reader; but the effort will be rewarded. His examinations of what he calls Rationalism, "the conservative disposition" and "abridgments" of traditions, and other matters are innovative and thought-provoking. Some essays will require multiple readings, but I have yet to wrestle with one that did not yield considerable insights.
Ashley Cale
This is based purely on the essays "Rationalism in Politics" and "On Being Conservative." I would really give him a 4 1/2 stars; I find his essay striking. Beautiful metaphors and analogies woven throughout. Even if you aren't conservative, I think he can convince you of the subtle instances where you are. It's an interesting question whether or not people really do like change as much as they say they do.
Jonathan
I find this collection puzzling. It presents the beginnings of a remarkably solid case for epistemological and political conservatism (understood in the English sense, in which "conservatism" is a form of cranky Whiggism). Yet I think the essays in this book contradict each other in spirit if not in letter. The view of knowledge articulated in the title essay is at odds with the view developed in "The Activity of Being an Historian" and "The Study of 'Politics' in a University." Oakeshott argues...more
Brittany
The meandering prose makes the book longer than it needs to be and sacrifices some clarity. Rationalism in Politics is the best essay, presenting a solid conservative case against the rationalist turn in modern politics that oddly coincides with similar critiques on the far left. The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind, a tedious meditation on art in which Oakeshott's prose is at its most florid and overwrought, is the worst of the collection.
Mike
The title essay in this collection does a better job of demolishing the very notion of benefical, systematic political ideologies better than anything else I've ever read.
Heba Abdel hamid elsaman
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Anittah
Dec 08, 2008 Anittah marked it as to-read
I read selections in college but I don't remember a thing (who was this person who made these underlines and margin commentary?!) so am re-reading.
manwithoutqualities
One of the most elegantly written works around in either fiction or non-fiction: the best articulation of HIGH liberality.
Jeff
Both the title essay and "On being conservative" from part four are not to be missed.
Craig J.
Rationalism in Politics and other essays by Michael Oakeshott (1991)
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English philosopher and political theorist who wrote about philosophy of history, philosophy of religion, aesthetics, and philosophy of law. He is widely regarded as one of the most important conservative thinkers of the 20th century, although he has sometimes been characterized as a liberal thinker.
Oakeshott was dismayed by the descent into political extremism that took place in Europe in the 193...more
More about Michael Oakeshott...
On Human Conduct Experience and Its Modes The Voice of Liberal Learning The Politics of Faith and the Politics of Scepticism On History and Other Essays

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“To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.” 21 likes
“Like Midas, the Rationalist is always in the unfortunate position of not being able to touch anything, without transforming it into an abstraction; he can never get a square meal of experience.” 8 likes
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