Abating contingency: Michael Oakeshott’s political pluralism

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This article investigates the liberal political implications of Michael Oakeshott’s political theory of civility and civil association by focusing on his judicious attempts to abate contingency. It argues that Oakeshott’s political theory can be best understood as ‘political pluralism’, aimed at the maximalist accommodation of abundant and fluctuating human pluralities, individual and associational. By reinterpreting Oakeshott as a defender of civil society, composed of numerous purposive associations, against state-imposed monism, it argues that in Oakeshott’s theory civil association is devised to protect associational freedom, thereby keeping civil society as free as possible. It then discusses the distinctiveness of Oakeshott’s characteristically ‘liberal’ political theory by critically engaging it with two dominant strands of liberalism, namely, liberal pluralism and political liberalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-288
Number of pages22
JournalPhilosophy and Social Criticism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Mar 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2015.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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