Rationalism in Politics

Oakeshott, Michael. "Rationalism in Politics." In Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, 2nd edition, pp. 5-42. Liberty Fund: Indianapolis, 1991.

From this site’s Introduction:

In this, possibly his most renowned essay, “Oakeshott sketches out the ideal type of the ‘Rationalist,’ whose conduct is grounded not in tradition or habit but in self-conscious reflection, relying on ideologies or abridgements to guide his moral and political activity. Rationalist conduct approximates engineering. […]

“Here one can begin to identify a duality that will persist throughout the rest of his writing: between political arrangements that facilitate human choice and freedom, and those that aim at accomplishing some particular end or group of ends. In the former, law is understood as instrumental, a set of conditions to be observed in going about one’s business. In the latter, law is employed as the means to accomplish the chosen ends, and it must drag everyone along whether they like it or not.”

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