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In Praise of Middle Government

Ian Gilmour, 12 July 1990

Liberalisms. Essays in Political Philosophy 
by John Gray.
Routledge, 273 pp., £35, August 1989, 0 415 00744 5
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The Voice of Liberal Learning: Michael Oakeshott on Education 
edited by Timothy Fuller.
Yale, 169 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04344 9
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The Political Philosophy of Michael Oakeshott 
by Paul Franco.
Yale, 277 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04686 3
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Conservatism 
by Ted Honderich.
Hamish Hamilton, 255 pp., £16.99, June 1990, 0 241 12999 0
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... upset. Aside from Berlin, the only thinkers to survive Gray’s bombardment without a scratch are Michael Oakeshott and Karl Popper. Gray even pays Oakeshott the compliment of quoting him twice: ‘In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for ...
Rationalism in Politics, and Other Essays 
by Michael Oakeshott, edited by Timothy Fuller.
Liberty, 556 pp., $24, October 1991, 0 86597 094 7
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... partly because of the commotion caused by the change of national leadership, the passing of Michael Oakeshott did not attract much public notice. Even the Spectator, which might have been expected to mark the event with a full salute, ignored it for half a year, before carrying a curiously distracted piece by its editor, reporting strange losses in ...

Tales of the Unexpected

José Harris, 20 November 1986

Marriage and Morals among the Victorians, and Other Essays 
by Gertrude Himmelfarb.
Faber, 253 pp., £15.95, July 1986, 0 571 13952 3
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... herself is the first to admit. The final essay in the book looks hopefully to the philosophy of Michael Oakeshott and is forced to come away disappointed. Oakeshott’s emphasis on unpretentious ‘experience’ may have advanced a salutary critique of the busybody system-builders of thirty years ago (or might have ...

Citizen Hobbes

Noel Malcolm, 18 October 1984

De Cive: The Latin Version 
by Thomas Hobbes, edited by Howard Warrender.
Oxford, 336 pp., £35, March 1984, 0 19 824385 5
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De Cive: The English Version 
by Thomas Hobbes, edited by Howard Warrender.
Oxford, 300 pp., £35, March 1984, 0 19 824623 4
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... in Hobbes owes its impetus to the writings of three men: Howard Warrender, Quentin Skinner and Michael Oakeshott; of these, it is Warrender’s book The Political Philosophy of Hobbes (1957) that has produced the greatest quantity of subsequent discussion and development. This book had the merit of taking Hobbes seriously as a major moral and ...

The other side have got one

Ian Gilmour: Lady Thatcher’s Latest, 6 June 2002

Ideologies of Conservatism: Conservative Political Ideas in the 20th Century 
by E.H.H. Green.
Oxford, 309 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 19 820593 7
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Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World 
by Margaret Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 486 pp., £25, April 2002, 0 00 710752 8
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... Hailsham considered Conservatism to be ‘not so much a philosophy as an attitude’. Finally, Michael Oakeshott, the leading Conservative philosopher of the 20th century, wrote of ‘the distorting mirror of an ideology’ and identified the main enemy of limited government as ideological politics and state planning. Above all, ...

High Jinks at the Plaza

Perry Anderson, 22 October 1992

The British Constitution Now 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Heinemann, 289 pp., £18.50, April 1992, 0 434 47994 2
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Constitutional Reform 
by Robert Brazier.
Oxford, 172 pp., £22.50, September 1991, 0 19 876257 7
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Anatomy of Thatcherism 
by Shirley Letwin.
Fontana, 364 pp., £6.99, October 1992, 0 00 686243 8
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... this, but the best is probably to begin with its dedication. The book is devoted to the memory of Michael Oakeshott – whose thought, Mount tells us, has left its traces, ‘no doubt sadly smudged’, on many of its pages. At first glance, the affinity between author and authority seems straightforward enough, for ...

Thatcher, Thatcher, Thatcher

John Gray: The Tory Future, 22 April 2010

The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron 
by Tim Bale.
Polity, 446 pp., £25, January 2010, 978 0 7456 4857 6
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Back from the Brink: The Inside Story of the Tory Resurrection 
by Peter Snowdon.
Harper Press, 419 pp., £14.99, March 2010, 978 0 00 730725 8
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... appear more tractable on Europe; if David Davis had moved decisively in the immediate aftermath of Michael Howard’s resignation or been a more fluent speaker; if Howard had offered Cameron the shadow chancellorship or George Osborne had not accepted it – if these or any number of other contingencies had been otherwise, Cameron might not have become ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: On Peregrine Worsthorne, 4 November 1993

... of them rather whiskered but both of them rather well-made. He summarises the style of his guru Michael Oakeshott, who he met as a brother officer in the course of a fairly undemanding war. Worsthorne seems to have intuited all or most of Oakeshott’s elegant resignation about politics and action from his view ...

Not Just Anybody

Terry Eagleton: ‘The Limits of Critique’, 5 January 2017

The Limits of Critique 
by Rita Felski.
Chicago, 238 pp., £17, October 2015, 978 0 226 29403 2
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... Nature has served as a revolutionary concept in its day, while from Edmund Burke to Michael Oakeshott the notion of culture has been for the most part a conservative one. When the political regimes of 18th-century Europe heard the word nature, they reached for their cultural privileges. The notion that everything is cultural, including the ...

Frisks, Skips and Jumps

Colin Burrow: Montaigne’s Tower, 6 November 2003

Michel de Montaigne: Accidental Philosopher 
by Anne Hartle.
Cambridge, 303 pp., £45, March 2003, 0 521 82168 1
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... Investigations, there have been and are many philosophers of a wide range of political shadings (Michael Oakeshott, Richard Rorty, Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum) who breathe the air of the tower far more easily than they do that of the stove. Maybe if this tendency continues, Montaigne will one day come to seem as significant a figure in the history ...

The Contingency of Community

Richard Rorty, 24 July 1986

... I want to take up some comments on Berlin’s essay by an acute critic of the liberal tradition, Michael Sandel. Berlin ‘comes perilously close to foundering on the relativist predicament’: If one’s convictions are only relatively valid, why stand for them unflinchingly? In a tragically configured moral universe, such as Berlin assumes, is the ideal ...

By the Roots

Jeremy Waldron, 9 February 1995

The Anatomy of Anti-Liberalism 
by Stephen Holmes.
Harvard, 330 pp., £23.95, November 1993, 0 674 03180 6
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... in the Anatomy presumably to remind us that when modern anti-liberals like Alasdair MacIntyre or Michael Sandel talk of the rootlessness of the liberal individual and his lack of ‘constitutive attachments’, they are using language redolent of earlier attacks on ‘rootless’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ Jews. Holmes insists he is not saying that ...

Post-Nationalism

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 3 December 1992

English Questions 
by Perry Anderson.
Verso, 370 pp., £39.95, May 1992, 0 86091 375 9
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A Zone of Engagement 
by Perry Anderson.
Verso, 384 pp., £39.95, May 1992, 0 86091 377 5
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... of essays, some of which first appeared in this paper, and are now reprinted in Engagement, on Michael Mann, Norberto Bobbio, Roberto Unger, W.G. Runciman. Andreas Hillgruber, Max Weber, Ernest Gellner, Carlo Ginzburg, Isaiah Berlin, Fernand Braudel and Francis Fukuyama. More recently (LRB, 24 September and 22 October), he has extended himself to ...

Privatising the atmosphere

Jeremy Waldron, 4 November 1993

Beyond the New Right: Markets, Government and the Common Environment 
by John Gray.
Routledge, 195 pp., £19.99, June 1993, 0 415 09297 3
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... partly by government attention to the long-term resource situation. Gray stands with Hayek and Michael Polanyi in regarding the epistemic character of markets as their greatest virtue: markets can transmit through price signals a vast amount of local information about economic conditions and initiatives that simply cannot be made available for general use ...

Sagest of Usurpers

Ian Gilmour: Cromwell since Cromwell, 21 March 2002

Roundhead Reputations: The English Civil Wars and the Passions of Posterity 
by Blair Worden.
Allen Lane, 387 pp., £20, November 2001, 9780713996036
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... the historian Lecky pronounced in 1892. And not long afterwards, Isaac Foot, the father of Michael and a firm Cromwellian, used to ‘judge a man by one thing: “Which side would he have liked his ancestors to fight on at Marston Moor?”’ Worden has no time for Postmodernism, the view that ‘the past exists only in the present’s head, and that ...

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