Front Page Titles (by Subject) Oakeshott\'s Political Theory - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2
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Oakeshott's Political Theory - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Oakeshott's Political Theory
“Oakeshott on Politics.” The Journal of Politics 41 (February 1979):150–168.
Archer examines the foundational concepts developed in Oakeshott's works in order to define the character of this conservative political theory. These concepts are the following: experience, rationalism, empiricism, tradition, human conduct, and ideal character.
The basis of Oakeshott's understanding of experience is his philosophical idealism which holds that there is no reality apart from ideas. Philosophy, then, is the whole or totality of experience which seems to imply that there can be no theoretical as opposed to empirical understanding of society. This leads Archer to a consideration of Oakeshott's indictment of rationalism for its misguided attempts to theoretically grasp the mechanics of society and organize our lives rigidly. The paradigm of rationalism is the planned society. Its proponents, Stalin, Hitler, and R.A. Butler, are indicted along with all those like Hayek, whom Oakeshott believes to be just as doctrinaire in their antipathy to planning as its proponents are in their enthusiasm for it. But in his zeal to stigmatize his opponents for excessive rationalism, Archer contends that Oakeshott has developed his own “theory” and, hence, stands exposed to this same charge of theoretical excess.
Oakeshott was suspicious of empiricism which he caricatures as the view that present observation is the source of all knowledge. In its place Oakeshott hopes to restore the status of tradition as the principal guidepost to political action. Tradition for Oakeshott is narrowly identified with the British legal tradition and, therefore, seems unjustifiably narrow in definition. His selectivity is indicative of his own rationalism, Archer argues, as it seems to presuppose a theory of what constitutes the genuine British tradition.
The tradition of Roman conduct to which we are referred by Oakeshott can be grasped through the process of idealization. By identifying the ideal typical features of human conduct, we disclose the tradition of any society.
Given this background, it is not surprising that Oakeshott's politics have neither “rationalist” nor “empiricist” foundations. It is traditionalist in as much as it takes the prevailing political arrangements as given and attempts to sustain them. These arrangements for Britain consist of a government which functions as an umpire and strives to maintain the traditional British concept of freedom. Collectivism in all its forms is rejected.