Recasting Conservatism [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 50 (4):876-878 (1997)
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This book's subtitle, as well as its inclusion in Yale University Press's philosophy catalog, creates the expectation of a philosophical match between, in one corner, the ideas of Michael Oakeshott and Leo Strauss and, in the other, the ideas of such "postmodernist" thinkers as Michel Foucault, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jacques Derrida, and Richard Rorty, and behind them such gray eminences as Heidegger and Kojève. One soon discovers, however, that Devigne deals not with philosophical responses to postmodernism, but with political responses to postmodernity--a sociological category described only in the most superficial terms. Devigne's account of these political responses is further constricted by his method of treating Strauss's ideas in the context of American conservatism and Oakeshott's ideas in the context of British conservatism. Thus, instead of illuminating the meaning of Strauss's work in the light of Plato, Farabi, and Maimonides, Devigne places him in the company of such writers as Daniel Bell, James Q. Wilson, and Michael Novak. In his chapter on Oakeshott, Devigne only superficially connects Oakeshott to Hobbes, Hegel, and Bradley, while failing to mention Augustine and Montaigne, but he does manage to devote a third of a page to the arcana of the British budget between 1971 and 1977. Recasting Conservatism is, in short, less a work of political philosophy than a work of political science or sociology.



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