Michael Oakeshott's Critique of Rationalism in Politics as Basis for His Theory of Civil Association

Synthesis Philosophica 23 (1):135-148 (2008)
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Abstract

Michael Oakeshott criticises rationalism in politics because it excludes everything that is not grounded in and justified by theory. Theoretical knowledge, according to Oakeshott, isn’t capable of absorbing the given diversity because it operates in different categories than the reality it seeks to grasp. As a consequence, rationalism reduces politics to problem- solving activity. Oakeshott’s formula for the return to autonomous politics is its emancipation in civil association, a framework constituted in terms of common recognition of general rules within which politics in the form of conversation is to be exercised. Corrective to Oakeshott’s utopian project is given by Michel Foucault’s thought where it is best shown how common institutions, norms and laws are a result of very complex power relations

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