Political Moderation and Practical Conservatism
McIlwain examines the conventional identification of Leo Strauss and Michael Oakeshott as conservatives and demonstrates the superficiality of characterizations of them as political reactionaries. This involves a critique of Perry Anderson’s grouping of Strauss and Oakeshott with Carl Schmitt as katechon or “restrainers” of the “end times,” which Anderson argues Schmitt interpreted as democratic or proletarian sovereignty. McIlwain reveals instead that Oakeshott and Strauss were aware of the tension between the radicalness of theory and the moderation that is appropriate in practical life. Understanding this relationship in terms of the achievements of “German” theory and “British” practice, Oakeshott and Strauss attempted to avoid the political extremes of fascism and Nazism while remaining aware of the necessity of addressing the very real shortcomings of liberal modernity.