The Anti-Ideologue

Mar 1 2013 @ 12:27pm

Reviewing Oakeshott on Rome and America by Gene Callahan, Kenneth B. McIntyre describes what keeps Oakeshott from accompanying fellow British philosophers into America’s intellectual canon:

oakeshottcaius[His] lack of influence among the movers and shakers of American political life should not be surprising,given Oakeshott’s insistence on the irrelevance of political philosophy to practical politics. As he once wrote, “reputable political behavior is not dependent upon sound or even coherent philosophy.” Such behavior is instead related to the concrete practical knowledge of an actual political tradition and what such a tradition intimates.

Oakeshott was skeptical of philosophers who meddled in practical affairs, insisting that he was not concerned with establishing “a seminary for training political hedge-preachers in some dim orthodoxy.”

No, that was Leo Strauss’s metier. Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz are where you end up (or just read Ravelstein). Oakeshott – for fear of being dragged into partisan politics – even refused a knighthood engineered by Margaret Thatcher, who wanted to elevate him as a “movement intellectual”, as if such a thing weren’t an oxymoron. One other thing that distinguishes him from the neoconservative advocates or permanent warfare, as explained on his Wiki page:

Although his 1939 essay ‘The Claim of Politics’ defended the right of individuals not to become directly involved, in 1941, Oakeshott joined the British Army in its fight against Nazi Germany. He was on active service in Europe with the intelligence unit Phantom, which had SAS connections, but he was never in the front line.

He served his country for the rest of the war against the Nazism he despised.