I’m no follower of Schmitt, but I don’t imagine one has to be in order to ask: was Oakeshott too naive about our ability to domesticate or pacify politics? Call it what you want cruelty, in Shklar’s terms; the world’ or the profane’ or despair’ in more theological ones; simply power’, in Foucauldian or pop-Thucydidean language. Isn’t the question the same?
This is, of course, one of the more trenchant criticisms of Oakeshott and an area where Rorty's and Oakeshott's flaws more obviously over-lap. It's a long discussion, but my point was to clarify a problem within conservatism - the logic of power and the logic of freedom.
At some very deep level, the modern liberal state is, of course, founded on violence and the threat of it. All politics is, as Machiavelli and Hobbes explained. Understanding that is not to capitulate to some kind of fascism. But the ability to keep that violent basis for power hidden and to sustain habits of mind of soul and politics that keep it at bay is something Oakeshott viewed as a fragile but wondrous cultural achievement. So the introduction of raw political violence in the West in the 21st Century is an undermining of that achievement. Bin Laden is responsible first and foremost. But Dick Cheney's zest to meet the Islamists on their level is something an Oakeshottian conservative will worry very deeply about. And it is something that should cause all conservatives to stop and think. It is not, to coin a phrase, a "no-brainer".
Is the logic of the Gaza offensive really going to be the lodestar of the West in the years ahead?
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