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The idea of freedom in Michael Oakeshott and the contemporary liberal-communitarian debate.

Rabin, M. Jeffrey (2000) The idea of freedom in Michael Oakeshott and the contemporary liberal-communitarian debate. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The purpose of this thesis is to ask: what are the issues that divide today's Liberals, Rawls, Dworkin, and Kymlicka for example, from their Communitarian critics, Sandel, Taylor, MacIntyre and so forth, and how may we see the political theorizing of Michael Oakeshott as going some way to answering, explaining and criticizing these issues. At root, it would appear that the principal issue that divides the Liberals from the Communitarians is agency: what it is, how it ought to be understood, and the normative consequences that are regarded as following from such differing understandings. In the case of the Liberals, they are said to employ an "unembedded" or "emotivist" conception of the self plainly indebted to Kant, with the normative consequences being that of the justification and promulgation of the procedural republic in which impartial justice is regarded as "the first virtue of social institutions." The Communitarians, by contrast, are regarded as employing a more "Hegelian" conception of agency, one in which practice precedes principal, justice is an important element in a complex whole, and the normative consequences are that of the promulgation of a perfectionist "politics of the good." However, in this dissertation, I dispute that the issue that divides the Liberals from the Communitarians is one of philosophy. I prefer in-stead to suggest it is actually one of politics and that such politics as it is composed can best be seen by examining the respective political dispositions, though not philosophies, of Kant and Hegel, and through the lenses of Oakeshott's understanding of Rationalism in Politics. I say this because while the Liberals and the Communitarians borrow the political dispositions of Kant and Hegel, they eschew the metaphysics with which Kant and Hegel underwrote their political philosophies, and it is from such metaphysics that they acquire their normative legitimacy. However, without such metaphysics, they merely become examples of what Oakeshott terms Rationalism in Politics. Once I have staked out these two 'dispositions' in political theorizing in Chapters 4 and 5, I then examine the respective relevant expositors of these dispositions in the current debate. John Rawls's A Theory of Justice will be examined in Chapter 6 as the paradigm example of Deontological Liberalism. Chapters 7 and 8 will examine Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor's critique of the contemporary theory and practice of Liberalism respectively. Chapter 9 will examine Richard Rorty's attempt at a post-modern ideal. Liberal utopia as a response to our current condition, and lastly, in chapter 10, I shall examine Oakeshott's ideal character of civil association as presented in On Human Conduct as a non-normative resolution of certain important facets of the Liberal-Communitarian debate. Chapter 11 shall provide a summary of the dissertation so far, as well as examine the alternative politics of truly rational conduct. By constructing the dissertation in this way, I hope to demonstrate the following points: One, that today's debate is as much about politics as it is philosophy; two, that there really is much more common ground between the Liberals and the Communitarians than either side is willing to recognize; three, that the Liberal-Communitarian debate is much more parochial and historically bound than might otherwise be thought; and lastly, that in Oakeshott's critique of what he calls Rationalism in Politics, which I examine in Chapter 3, standing on the shoulders of his idealist conception of philosophy presented in Experience and its Modes, we may gain a perspective and critique of the debate that would otherwise remain hidden.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy, Political Science, General
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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