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Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  169 Ratings  ·  15 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
Paperback, 582 pages
Published March 31st 2010 by Liberty Fund Inc. (first published 1968)
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John Doe
Feb 03, 2013 John Doe rated it really liked it
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
Aug 03, 2007 Paul rated it really liked it
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.
May 21, 2012 Bookshark rated it liked it
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.
Ashley Cale
Mar 09, 2012 Ashley Cale rated it really liked it
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.
Chris Cangiano
Aug 31, 2015 Chris Cangiano rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, politics
Oakeshott's most famous work is a critique of the modern "rationalist" approach to political discourse, and while not an easy read can be worthwhile for a person of any political perspective. While nominally labelled a "conservative" Oakeshott's conservatism isn't really of the traditional American doctrinaire model but rather based on a plea that tradition has a key place in shaping a free society and that change to tradition should proceed at a slow and deliberate pace and that we should esche ...more
Aaron Crofut
Any collection of essays is bound to have some good and some bad; some essays are brilliant, others are skimmers. In this book, the preponderance are worth the time, and a few rank up there among the best I have ever worked through, and it is for that reason I would recommend picking up Oakeshott's collection. His overall theme might best be described as Pragmatic; schemes of morality or ideology written in out authoritative books might have some value in explaining some actions, but will always ...more
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
Colm Gillis
Sep 18, 2015 Colm Gillis rated it really liked it
Oakeshott is a careful, erudite scholar who always maintains an academic aloofness about what he writes on. He has a placid, timid, style but as essayists goes he is a master of the craft. He converses ... that is what an essay should always aim to do. He uses sources sparingly but effectively. His insights are delivered a little slowly & he lacks a little bite, which suits his style to a degree but does make you wonder where his politics lie. He doesnt take a whole lot of chances but he doe ...more
Tony Gualtieri
Jan 17, 2015 Tony Gualtieri rated it it was amazing
Oakeshott is an honest writer and presents his ideas in direct if somewhat turgid prose. He advocates for tradition and experience in making political decisions rather than what he sees as dangerously proscriptive rationalism. It's an attractive position, but I think Oakeshott underestimates the duplicitousness of most politicians. They are nothing like a collection of disinterested Oxford dons! Even so, I think Oakeshott's ideas are important and these essays give a unique and appealing philoso ...more
Laura Falé
Dec 09, 2015 Laura Falé rated it liked it
Shelves: faculdade
It's a very conservative (lol) book. The Rationalism in Politics' essay is wrong in so many ways. I get it was written in the 40's, but it doesn't excuse the bad interpretation of what rationalism and rationalists are. The arguments are weak.
Aug 10, 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.
Heba Abdel hamid elsaman
Oct 11, 2013 Heba Abdel hamid elsaman rated it did not like it
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Jan 09, 2009 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Both the title essay and "On being conservative" from part four are not to be missed.
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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
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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.” 40 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.” 11 likes
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