Shils and Oakeshott
in The calling of social thought
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Michael Oakeshott and Edward Shils are thinkers similar in many respects. They both belonged to the intellectual current of the post-war anti-totalitarianism that was characterised by the opposition to the idea of regulating society by planning, by the rejection of ideological politics, and by the perception of similarity, if not identity, between the left-wing and right-wing radicalisms. They both occupied the conservative-liberal slot within the broad anti-totalitarian spectrum, combining their adherence to freedom and minimal state with their deep appreciation of tradition. At the same time, their different intellectual temperaments led them to opposite directions. Beneath Oakeshott’s apparent conservatism one often discovers an emancipatory and optimistic disposition grounded in his Romantic appreciation of radical individuality. Shils’ respectable liberalism, by contrast, often results in cultural pessimism and social conservatism.

The calling of social thought

Rediscovering the work of Edward Shils

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