The Political Philosophy of Michael Oakeshott by Paul Franco

Paul Franco. The Political Philosophy of Michael Oakeshott. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.


This is the first full-length study of the thought of Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990), arguably the most important British political philosopher of the twentieth century. Paul Franco places Oakeshott’s political philosophy in the context of his ideas as a whole, drawing on all of his published writings. Franco begins with a detailed analysis of an early work, Experience and its Modes. He argues that Oakeshott’s vindication in this book of the possibility of philosophy and his establishment of its autonomy in relation to the limited standpoints of science, history and practice form the essential starting point of his political philosophy. Franco also examines the ‘concrete’ logic of human experience that underlies Oakeshott’s analyses of the various forms of knowledge in Experience and its Modes.

Franco locates Oakeshott’s substantive political philosophy within the liberal tradition as it had been elaborated from Hobbes through Hegel and Bosanquet. He concludes by demonstrating that in his theory of civil association in On Human Conduct, Oakeshott provides us with perhaps the most sophisticated and satisfying contemporary statement of liberalism to date.