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Michael Oakeshott’s conception of conservatism was not without its critics. Among them was the American intellectual and self-avowed conservative, Irving Kristol…

In 1956, the English philosopher Michael Oakeshott published “On Being Conservative,”[1] a statement of “the conservative disposition” as he conceived it. Although largely well received, Oakeshott’s conception of conservatism was not without its critics. Among their number was the American intellectual and self-avowed “conservative” Irving Kristol, who, while admitting to “loving every line” of Oakeshott’s essay, to admiring it “immensely,” claimed that its “irredeemably secular” character repelled him.[2] Oakeshott’s vision of conservatism, he charged, is insufficiently religious in two respects.

First, Kristol imputes to it an obsession with the present that can not but be anathema to Jewish and Christian sensibilities by reason of its concomitant neglect of the past and the future. Jews and Christians cannot but find “it is impossible…to have the kinds of attitudes toward the past and the future that Oakeshott’s conservative disposition celebrates,” for their traditions “link us to the past and to the future with an intensity lacking in Oakeshott’s vision.”[3] Second, the centrality of place Oakeshott allegedly assigns to the present not only renders his vision unpalatable to traditional religion but violates as well the spirit of the civic religion of America.

Americans, Kristol explains, have an “emphatic and explicit” commitment to their past that is “ideological”[4]; theirs is an “ideological patriotism” that is rooted in the United States’ identity as “a ‘creedal’ nation,” a nation to which anyone can belong irrespective of “ethnicity, or blood ties of any kind, or lineage, or length of residence even.” The uniquely “ideological” character of American patriotism and the foundational “creed” from which it springs, Kristol contends, are both “suffused with a kind of religious sensibility” that constitutes what can legitimately be called a “civic religion.”[5] Although there are indeed “tensions” between “American religiosity and the more secular ‘civic religion,’” “both are, in general, future-oriented and ‘progressive’ in their political vision.”[6]

Kristol’s two-pronged “religious critique” of Oakeshott’s characterization of “the conservative disposition” reflects a fundamental misconception of both classical Christianity and the classical conservatism to which Oakeshott gives expression. This misconception is, in turn, a function of the fact that the “neoconservatism” to which Kristol subscribes is not, in fact, a form of conservatism at all.

The Eternal Present

Oakeshott insists on a distinction between, on the one hand, a “conservative disposition” per se and, on the other, such a disposition in politics. So crucial to his analysis is this distinction that, without it, Oakeshott’s understanding of conservatism readily collapses into something else—another variety of conservatism, perhaps, but one of a comprehensive character that he expressly repudiates. Kristol, though, fails (at least explicitly) to address this distinction.

From the outset of his essay, Oakeshott is clear that his concern is not with “a creed or a doctrine, but a disposition.” He writes: “To be conservative is to be disposed to think and behave in certain manners,” and “to prefer certain kinds of conduct and certain conditions of human circumstances to others.” One who is conservative is “disposed to make certain kinds of choices.”[7] Oakeshott elaborates: “To be conservative…is to prefer the familiar to the unknown…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.” These “preferences” constitute “a propensity to use and enjoy what is available rather than to wish for or to look for something else,” “to delight in what is present rather than what was or what may be.”[8] The conservative temperament, then, is indissolubly linked to partiality in favor of the present.

It is this attachment to what is present that Kristol deems incompatible with Judaism and Christianity. But Oakeshott’s account of conservatism, with its present-mindedness, is in keeping with an enduring reading of the Christian tradition: It is motivated, first and foremost, by an aversion not just to change as such but to the rapid change characteristic of contemporary Western societies, a phenomenon simultaneously driven by and reflective of greed and the penchant to exploit. Westerners have a “lust for change” that renders all “pieties fleeting” and “loyalties” evanescent, as “the eye is ever on the new model.” The problem is that “we are acquisitive to the point of greed,” Oakeshott tells us, “ready to drop the bone we have for its reflection magnified in the mirror of the future.”[9]

This incessant restlessness with the present and the exclusive focus on the future that it entails stand in glaring contrast to the conservative’s preference “to use and enjoy what is available” here and now “rather than to wish for or to look for something else,” to opt for “present laughter” over “utopian bliss.”[10] Changes “are without effect only upon those who notice nothing,” and they “can be welcomed indiscriminately only by those…who are strangers to love and affection,” for change, inescapably involving as it does the loss of something to which familiarity has nurtured attachments, is “an emblem of extinction,” an unmistakable “threat to identity.”[11] It is not for nothing, Oakeshott reminds us, that “heaven is the dream of a changeless no less than a perfect world.”[12] The conservative disposition, though, “breeds attachment and affection”;[13] the conservative’s is “a disposition to enjoy rather than exploit.”[14]

Inasmuch as they value human relationships and activities for the substantive satisfactions they are expected to yield, those who are preoccupied with the future—who are enthralled to a “progressive” orientation—impose on such relationships and activities a “utilitarian” character.[15] Yet friendship, patriotism, conversation, among other aspects of human life, are resolutely not utilitarian, are “dramatic,” and for these a conservative disposition—and thus a present-mindedness—is singularly apt. For instance, while it is perfectly proper to change butchers continually until you find one that provides you with the service you want, “to discard friends because they do not behave as we expected and refuse to be educated to our requirements is the conduct of a man who has altogether mistaken the character of friendship.”[16] The value of friendship does not derive from any future benefits or rewards that it may produce, for the essence of friendship consists in “familiarity, not usefulness.”

Religion, at least as it is construed within the Jewish and Christian traditions, is not unlike friendship, patriotism, and conversation in that it too “demands a conservative disposition as a condition of its enjoyment.”[17] Contrary to Kristol’s contention, not only is the emphasis on the present upon which Oakeshott’s conception of conservatism pivots consonant with those modes of religious thought that have historically informed the Western imagination; such modes require nothing less than the “dramatic” stance that contentment—as opposed to true happiness or bliss—with the present entails.

For example, in his Confessions, Saint Augustine writes that people “attempt to grasp eternal things, but their heart flutters among the changing things of past and future.”[18] From at least the time that Augustine articulated his unrivaled analysis of time, orthodox Christian thought marked a radical departure from paganism in interpreting eternality in terms not of endless time but of God’s timelessness. God’s eternality or timelessness means that for God there is neither past nor future but a forever-abiding Present, for He transcends “all past times in the sublimity of an ever present eternity,” as Augustine writes. “Your years are one day, and your day is not each day, but today,” for with God “today is eternity.”[19] In contrast to eternity, “time is a kind of distention,”[20] and since Augustine, like all human beings, is a temporally embodied being, it is with agonizing truthfulness that he confesses to being scattered or “dissipated in many ways upon many things,” “distracted amid times, whose order I do not know,” and “torn asunder by tumult and change.” The goods for which human beings clamor—the goods among which they are distended—being temporal, are mutable and, hence, perishable. Inasmuch as our lives are marked by an insatiable striving for one satisfaction after another, satisfactions that, if they can be obtained at all, can be realized only at some future time, we never live in the present, but are scattered among times. Augustine prays for release from this flux that threatens to rip him into pieces so that he will no longer be “distended but extended, not to things that shall be and shall pass away, but ‘to those things which are before’” and “which neither come nor go.”[21]

The “present” with which Oakeshott expresses concern in his description of the conservative disposition is admittedly temporal, not eternal. Yet there can be no denying that from the Christian perspective, as preeminently illustrated by Augustine, both fasten attention on what is as opposed to either what was or what may be; thus, the temporal present and the eternal present not only are not unrelated, but the former is the only phase of temporality that supplies the link between time and eternity. The satisfaction that people derive from friendship and conversation, patriotism and prayer, being intrinsic to those activities, demands a present-mindedness that, however imperfectly and incompletely, arrests their restlessness, their “distention” over “things that shall be and shall pass away.” In acquiring an appreciation for the present just because it is present, we succeed to some measure in abating the paralysis that springs from those anxieties concerning an uncertain future as well as those arising from a determined past. The orientation toward the present for which Oakeshott’s account of conservatism calls, in conveying intimations of eternity, is an approximation of it.

This is the insight, I submit, that from at least the time of Augustine the Christian tradition has affirmed. In the seventeenth century, the French Catholic thinker Pascal provided as succinct a statement of it as can be found. He laments the folly that leads us to “wander about in times that do not belong to us,” while failing to “think of the only one that does,” as well as the vanity that propels us to “dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only that is.” The fact is that while “we recall the past” and “anticipate the future,” “we never keep to the present.” Pascal says that “we try to give” the present “the support of the future, and think of how we are going to arrange things over which we have no control for a time we can never be sure of reaching.” The only time we think of the present is when we are interested in determining “what light it throws on our plans for the future.” In short: “The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning on how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.”[22]

Oakeshott’s vision of conservatism, then, far from being inconsistent with traditional religion, is entirely in keeping with it. The dissolution of the self that Christianity has always sought to arrest presupposes just that affirmation of the present on which Oakeshott’s conservatism insists, for this temporal present, though admittedly a shadowy and remote image of the Eternal Presence in which all hopes will finally rest, is an image of it all the same. As such, enjoyment of it anticipates, even if only faintly, nothing less than beatitude, the bliss experienced in the immediate encounter with God to which all Christians aspire.

A “Creedal” Nation?

According to Kristol, Oakeshott’s statement of conservatism is unpalatable not only to Jews and Christians but also to Americans, for it stands in irreconcilable conflict with America’s “civic religion,” its “creed.” Prior to unpacking this latter notion, we must first attend to Oakeshott’s position on the relationship between conservatism and politics.

Oakeshott is adamant that what we may, for convenience’s sake, call “political conservatism” is logically separable from all of those metaphysical, moral, or religious ideas—like God, “natural law,” “an ‘organic’ theory of human society,” and “the absolute value of human personality,” to name but a few[23]—on which it has traditionally been thought to depend. He bluntly states that “a disposition to be conservative in politics does not entail either that we should” hold any of these ideas “to be true or even that we should suppose them to be true.” Rather, a disposition to be conservative in politics “is tied to…certain beliefs about the activity of governing and the instruments of government, and it is in terms of ” these beliefs alone “that it can be made to appear intelligible.”[24]

What are these beliefs? Oakeshott’s reply is to the point: It is the belief, coupled with “the observation of our current manner of living”—a manner of living, that is, of which individuality and plurality are the most salient features—that “governing is a specific and limited activity” providing “general rules of conduct” for the sake not of “imposing substantive activities” but of “enabling people to pursue the activities of their own choice with minimum frustration.”[25] What this means is that “the office of government is not to impose other beliefs and activities upon its subjects”; it is “not to tutor or to educate them,” “to make them better or happier”; it is not “to direct” citizens or “to galvanize them into action, to lead them or to coordinate their activities so that no occasion of conflict shall occur.” Government is “merely to rule,” an office that, being “a specific and limited activity” and, thus, “easily corrupted when it is combined with any other,” can not afford to suffer dilution.[26]

A disposition to be conservative in politics, then, demands an aversion not just to change but to change of a certain type, what Oakeshott calls “innovation”—those changes that are the products of deliberate design. In addition to the most basic consideration that, like all change, the “improvements” sought by the innovator—if and when they truly are improvements—are accompanied by loss, the conservative’s reluctance to embrace innovation with a modicum of the enthusiasm of the innovator stems from his rejection of the latter’s belief that “unless great changes are afoot,” there is “nothing happening.” It is not dreams of an unbounded future that engage him but, rather, “the use and enjoyment of things as they are.”[27]

It would be a mistake to conclude from any of this that the conservative in politics has elevated his reticence regarding change and innovation into anything like a doctrine or creed. He is well aware that change is a fundamental and inescapable fact of life and that innovation is both necessary and desirable in some instances. Before he lends his consent, however, the conservative must be satisfied that some conditions will be met. Among those is that the proposed innovation approximate “growth” in being “intimated in and not merely imposed upon the situation.” Another is that it be “a response to some specific defect” rather than aimed at realizing some “generally improved condition of human circumstances.” Finally, it should be “small and limited,” not “large and indefinite,” and should proceed at a “slow rather than rapid pace.”[28]

Now, we may ask, how is this idea of politics, with its assignation to government of the modest (yet indispensable) role of maintaining order and its aversion to change and innovation, in conflict with America’s creed, as Kristol charges?

It is crucial to recognize that when Kristol and others refer to the United States as a creedal nation, they follow the lead of Abraham Lincoln, who famously said of America that it is “dedicated” to a “proposition,” the proposition that “all men are created equal.” Because America is a “creedal” or “propositional” nation, all that American patriotism requires is an affirmation of this principle of equality that is purportedly at the core of the American founding: the particularities of race and ethnicity that had historically defined all other patriotisms are irrelevant to it. It also accounts for why Kristol cannot but find the temporal thrust of Oakeshott’s conservatism unacceptable, for the logic of the egalitarianism with which he identifies America’s creed is “future-oriented and ‘progressive’” politically.[29]

A creed or ideology is a proposition or set of related propositions to which anyone, in theory, can subscribe, and the American creed that Kristol affirms, a doctrine of “natural rights” expressing a “principle of equality” that is embodied in the Declaration of Independence, has unabashedly universalistic pretensions. In Kristol’s judgment, Americans affirm not only their “unalienable” rights but the inalienable, God-derived rights of all humanity. In proclaiming these rights to be “self-evident” truths, the Declaration construes them as principles of Reason—principles, that is, that are accessible to all people in all places and at all times. This, in turn, implies that in addition to being universalistic, the idea of a “creedal” or “ideological” nation is as well rationalistic: for Kristol and his ilk, one’s identity as an American is established by nothing more than an intellectual exercise whereby one rationally assents to the propositions encapsulated in the Declaration. Given this unqualified quasi-religious commitment to “the Rights of Man,” America must forever be future-oriented, for as long as human rights are threatened, and regardless of where they are imperiled, her work in the world will never be complete.

It is this, I contend, to which Kristol’s opposition to Oakeshott’s account of conservatism ultimately boils down: It is not the latter’s alleged incompatibility with traditional religion that motivates it but, rather, its undeniable incompatibility with the rationalistic and universalistic character of the ideology of “natural” or “human rights” with which Kristol equates America’s “civic religion” and which, not coincidentally, his understanding of “conservatism”—what is now called “neoconservatism”—resoundingly affirms. That Kristol’s subscription to this species of Enlightenment liberal rationalism fundamentally informs his distaste for Oakeshott’s statement of conservatism is beyond mere speculation, for Kristol himself acknowledges it. In “looking back over the past forty years,” Kristol writes, he realizes that his distaste for Oakeshott’s analysis of the conservative disposition stemmed from the fact that Kristol “was then in the earliest stages of intellectual pregnancy with those attitudes and dispositions that later emerged as ‘neoconservatism,’” an American political philosophical orientation “very different from the kind of ideal English conservatism that Oakeshott was celebrating so brilliantly.”[30]

As Oakeshott understands it, the conservative disposition is essentially a disposition toward change—specifically, the “lust for change” that had come to dominate modern Western societies. In this respect, it is neither uniquely nor even distinctively English, much less ideally English. I have already shown this by locating it within the context of the Christian tradition and connecting it with thinkers as far removed from twentieth-century England as Saint Augustine and Pascal. And whereas the English flavor of Oakeshott’s articulation of political conservatism is indeed unmistakable, it is but a variant of the dominant understanding of classical conservatism, since it first assumed a recognizably distinct shape in the words of Edmund Burke, widely regarded as the “patron saint” of modern conservatism Burke’s philosophy was born of exactly the same impulse that animates Oakeshott’s: an animus toward a lust for change—that is, radical change and innovation. As Burke writes, “A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views,”[31] and “the spirit of change” that innovators encourage consists of “signals” for “revolutions” that are informed by “the total contempt which prevails” among innovators and revolutionaries for “all ancient institutions.”[32] He cautions them against indulging that “unprincipled facility of changing the state as often and as much and in as many ways as there are floating fancies or fashions”[33] and implores them to exercise “due caution” when attending to problems by eschewing the fantasy that “reformation” of the state can consist in its “subversion.”[34] With innovators “it is a sufficient motive to destroy an old scheme of things, because it is an old one,” but as for what they erect in its place, “they are in no sort of fear with regard to the duration of a building run up in haste.” The duration of institutions and of whole governments, Burke continues, is of no interest to innovators, “who think little or nothing has been done before their time, and who place all their hopes” in future “discoveries”; they sorely lack a “principle of attachment.”[35] Innovators “see no merit or demerit in any man, or any action, or any political principle, any further than as they may forward or retard their design of change,”[36] a design that must appear as “a great change of scene,” “a magnificent stage effect,” “a grand spectacle to rouse the imagination.”[37] With their abstract metaphysics of “the Rights of Man,”[38] a “mechanic philosophy” that promises to preclude “our institutions” from ever becoming “embodied” in human hearts, from eliciting “love, veneration, admiration, or attachment,”[39] innovators are filled with a “vanity, restlessness, petulance, and a spirit of intrigue.”[40]

Notice that Oakeshott, in resolutely eschewing the abstract, rationalistic ontological presuppositions underwriting the “lust for change” informing “the progressive” or future-centered orientation of “the innovator,” is improvising on just those themes to which Burke first gave expression nearly two hundred years earlier. To put this point more straightforwardly, since Burke set the tone for subsequent conservative thinkers, and since Oakeshott has made this tone his own, the position that he delineates and for which he supplies an apology, far from being a deviation from historical conservatism, is a faithful adaptation of it. This, in turn, implies that Kristol, in rejecting Oakeshott’s understanding of conservatism and deeming it irreconcilable with America’s “civic religion,” rejects conservatism and holds it to be incompatible with the American “creed.”

It is not America, however, with which conservatism (as construed either by Burke or by Oakeshott) fails to cohere; it is Kristol’s neoconservatism and its rationalistic conception of America that cannot be reconciled with it.

Of course, the idea that the essence of America is located in a creed, a set of propositions specifying transcultural, transhistorical “rights” of which all human beings are said to be in possession, is not unique to neoconservatives; the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence—a defining American document—have provided generations of Americans reason to endorse it, or at least something like it. Oakeshott, in fact, is among those to have observed this.

In another essay, “Rationalism in Politics,” Oakeshott writes that the Declaration “is a characteristic product of the saeculum rationalistium” and “one of the sacred documents of the politics of Rationalism” that were interpreted to justify not just the bloody French Revolution, in response to which Burke gave form to conservatism, but also “many later adventures in the rationalist reconstruction of society” as well.[41] He goes further: “The early history of the United States of America is an instructive chapter in the history of the politics of Rationalism,” for the unique circumstances of early America, including and especially the fact that it was populated by colonial subjects who saw themselves as taming a vast wilderness, made its people “disposed to believe…that the proper organization of a society and the conduct of its affairs were based upon abstract principles, and not upon a tradition.”[42] The moral “principles” on which Americans believe their society is based are thought to be not “the product of civilization” but “natural, ‘written in the whole volume of human nature,’” and “to be discovered in nature by human reason, by a technique of inquiry available alike to all men and requiring no extraordinary intelligence in its use.”[43]

There are a few things to observe here. First, Oakeshott and Kristol are in at least partial agreement that the United States, as it is seen through the lens of the Declaration, lends itself to the rationalistic reading that both make of it, and on this score, their shared judgment is sound as far it goes.

Second, this evaluation goes only so far, for like that of any other entity or phenomenon constituted of an ever-changing complex of contingencies, America’s identity is open-textured, defying all attempts at definitions seeking to encapsulate it in a set of necessary and sufficient conditions. It is true that America can, with some plausibility, be construed as a “creedal” or “propositional” nation. But at the same time, it can, with a much greater share of plausibility, be understood as a “historical” nation that owes its existence to just those “accidents” that have conspired to form every other society which has ever existed but that an “ideological patriotism” precludes.

Although the Declaration is admittedly littered with universalistic rhetoric reflecting eighteenth-century Enlightenment rationalism, the bulk of it, consisting as it does of numerous grievances issued by English subjects against their king in a shared idiom, is unmistakably historically particular. That the founding generation spearheaded what essentially amounted to an English secessionist movement is something that was widely understood on both sides of the Atlantic. In England, the “father of modern conservatism” sympathized with the American colonists. Burke is quick to remind all that “the people of the colonies are descendants of Englishmen.” As such, they inherited England’s characteristic “bias” not for some “abstract” concept of “liberty” but for “liberty according to English ideas and on English principles.” In fact, even the grounds on which Americans declared their independence are a function of the distinctively English conception of liberty, for unlike those conceptions that have dominated at different times and in different societies, according to which monetary considerations played little or no role, “the great contests for freedom in this country [England] were from the earliest times chiefly upon the question of taxes.”[44] Burke informs the “British Colonists in North America” that they should not believe “that the whole, or even the uninfluenced majority, of Englishmen in this island are enemies to their own blood on the American continent,” and that the English generally long “to continue united with you, in order that a people of one origin and one character should be directed to the rational objects of government by joint counsels.”[45]

Third, although Oakeshott, in commenting on the rationalistic character of the Declaration, readily observes the propensity of Americans to believe that theirs is a “propositional” or “creedal” nation, he no less readily debunks this idea as a delusion. At least some of the early American colonists believed, and subsequent generations of Americans may continue to believe, that their society had been arranged in terms of abstract principles (or “the proposition” that “all men are created equal”), but, in fact, such principles are but abridgments of a centuries-old, culturally specific practice. As Oakeshott explains, “the inspiration of Jefferson and the other founders of American independence,” far from being universalistic “principles” or “propositions” accessible to all rational beings everywhere, was, rather, “the ideology which Locke had distilled from the English political tradition.”[46] The principles affirmed in the Declaration are not unlike any others in being “a sediment” that “have significance only so long as they are suspended in a religious or social tradition, so long as they belong to a religious or social life.”[47]

Thus, Oakeshott’s understanding of political conservatism, though certainly in conflict with Kristol’s neoconservatism and the suprahistorical conception of America that it embraces, is not, ultimately, at odds with the historically centered—and accurate—interpretation of America shared by Burke and (of all people!) the author of precisely that document, the Declaration, that gave rise to Kristol’s rationalistic reading of America as a “creedal” nation.

Conclusion

By now there should no longer be any doubts that Kristol’s “religious critique” of Oakeshott’s statement of “the conservative disposition” is not only a function of the neoconservatism to which he subscribes but also fundamentally misplaced. The present-mindedness that pervades Oakeshott’s conservatism, whether oriented toward politics or any other aspect of life, coheres comfortably with traditional Christianity. And while it is definitely incompatible with America conceived as a creedal nation, such a conception is the product of a misreading that springs from a failure to contextualize the principles affirmed in the Declaration within the culturally and historically specific English tradition whence they were elicited. Oakeshott’s articulation of conservatism is continuous with the conservative tradition to which Burke gave unprecedented expression two centuries earlier and, as such, is compatible with America understood as a historical nation.

Republished with permission from Modern Age (Winter/Spring 2011).

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Notes:

1. Michael Oakeshott, “On Being Conservative,” in Rationalism in Politics (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1962).

2. Irving Kristol, “America’s ‘Exceptional’ Conservatism,” in Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea (New York: The Free Press, 1995), 373.

3. Ibid., 374.

4. Ibid., 375.

5. Ibid., 376.

6. Ibid., 377.

7. Ibid., 407.

8. Oakeshott, “On Being Conservative,” 408.

9. Ibid., 414.

10. Ibid., 408.

11. Ibid., 410.

12. Ibid., 413.

13. Ibid., 409.

14. Ibid., 412.

15. Ibid., 417.

16. Ibid., 416.

17. Ibid., 417.

18. Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine, trans. John K. Ryan (New York: Doubleday, 1960), 255.

19. Ibid., 287.

20. Ibid., 296.

21. Ibid., 302, emphases mine.

22. Blaise Pascal, Pensees, trans. A.J. Krailsheimer (New York: Penguin Books, 1995), 13.

23. Oakeshott, “On Being Conservative,” 422–23.

24. Ibid., 423.

25. Ibid., 424.

26. Ibid., 427.

27. Ibid., 411.

28. Ibid., 411–12.

29. Kristol, “America’s ‘Exceptional’ Conservatism,” 377.

30. Ibid., 373–74.

31. Edmund Burke, “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” in The Portable Edmund Burke, ed. Isaac Kramnick (New York: Penguin Books, 1990), 428.

32. Ibid., 424–25.

33. Ibid., 456.

34. Ibid., 457.

35. Ibid., 452.

36. Ibid., 444.

37. Ibid., 445.

38. Ibid., 440.

39. Ibid., 448.

40. Ibid., 450.

41. Oakeshott, “Rationalism in Politics,” 33, emphases mine.

42. Ibid., 32.

43. Ibid., 32–33.

44. Edmund Burke, “Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies,” in The Portable Edmund Burke, 261, emphases mine.

45. Edmund Burke, “Address to the British Colonists in North America,” in The Portable Edmund Burke 275, emphases mine.

46. Oakeshott, “Rationalism in Politics,” 32.

47. Ibid., 41.

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3 replies to this post
  1. This is an extremely thought-provoking piece. It provokes so much thought that, while I might ponder it now and then, I don’t want to wear myself down trying to come close to providing an adequate response.
    But thanks for posting it, and I hope others will come aboard.

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