Front Page Titles (by Subject) Michael Oakeshott on Hayek - Literature of Liberty, Winter 1982, vol. 5, No. 4
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Michael Oakeshott on Hayek - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Winter 1982, vol. 5, No. 4 
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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Michael Oakeshott on Hayek
These cited points are reinforced if we consider Michael Oakeshott's attitude to Hayek's work.98 Oakeshott is a more intrepid traditionalist than Hayek in that Oakeshott claims that we cannot in the end do anything but accept the traditions which we inherit in our society. Certainly, we cannot appraise our traditions by reference to any transcendental standard of reason or justice, since such standards (in Oakeshott's view) necessarily turn out to be abridgements of our traditions themselves. Like Hayek, then, Oakeshott maintains that all moral or political criticism must be immanent criticism, but, unlike Hayek, he denies that there is any inherent or evolutionary tendency for the development of traditional practices to converge on liberal institutions. For this reason Oakeshott would insist that his conception of civil association or nomocracy—upon which, as we have already seen, Hayek draws in his conception of the juridical framework of the liberal order—is a description of a strand of practice in the modern European state and has no necessary application beyond the cultural milieu in which it came to birth. Oakeshott would accordingly repudiate the implicit universalism of Hayek's argument for the liberal order.
To some extent, of course, Hayek concedes that there cannot be universal scope for liberal principles when he allows that the Great or Open Society is itself an evolutionary emergence from rude beginnings. Where he differs from Oakeshott is in affirming that the Great or Open Society in which liberal principles are uniquely appropriate represents the future of all mankind. In this respect, Hayek continues to subscribe to an Enlightenment doctrine of universal human progress which Oakeshott has abandoned. I do not mean that Hayek has ever endorsed the belief that historical change is governed by a law of progressive development, but rather that he seems to take for granted (what surely is most disputable) that the unhampered natural selection of rival practices and traditions will result in a general convergence on liberal society.
Hayek's Variant of Classical Liberalism: A Fusing of Libertarian & Traditionalistic Ideals?
A contrast of Hayek's thought with that of Oakeshott revives one of the commonest criticisms of Hayek's work, namely, that it straddles incompatible conservative and libertarian standpoints. The upshot of my discussion thus far may support this standard criticism in that it suggests that Hayek's system is poised uneasily between the constructivist (but not uncritical) rationalism of a Buchanan and the out-and-out traditionalism of an Oakeshott.
At the same time, however, elements of Hayek's conception of social evolution via the competitive selection of rival traditions may provide a point of convergence, if not of fusion, for some libertarian and conservative concerns. One central argument in contemporary neo-conservatism, after all, is in the claim that the stability of the free society depends upon its containing strong supportive traditions. Modern neo-conservatives such as Irving Kristol and Daniel Bell take up the doubts expressed by writers of the Scottish Enlightenment such as Smith and Ferguson about the effect on society's moral traditions of the workings of the commercial marketplace itself. A major difficulty in the neo-conservative analysis is the lack of any very convincing prognosis: if free markets have corrosive effects in respect of the moral traditions which support them, so that capitalism institutions contain cultural contradictions which make them over the long run self-destroying, what is to be done?
This is an especially hard question if we recognize (as some of the neo-conservatives themselves sometimes fail to do) that merely capturing positions of power in the apparatus of the contemporary democratic state affords no longrun security for the market order.
[98.] See Oakeshott's “Rationalism in Politics,” in the book of that name for his most explicit criticism of Hayek.