Government as a British Conservative Understands It: Comments on Oakeshott’s Views on Government

  • Ferenc HörcherEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Classical Liberalism book series (PASTCL)


This paper provides a short overview of how Oakeshott identifies the functions and limits of government, with reliance primarily on two texts. The first one from “Lectures on the History of Political” thought distinguishes nomocratic (rule providing) and teleocratic (purpose imposing) ways of governing. Oakeshott describes the two forms in a detached fashion, and indirectly hints at his preference for nomocratic rule. The second text is Oakeshott’s essay “On Being Conservative”, where Oakeshott gives a sceptical and critical description of human nature. The paper argues that this account of human nature should be seen as the basis, on which a nomocratic rule can be defended. It will be argued, that the two texts should be read together, if we want to get a reasoned overview of Oakeshott’s criticism of contemporary forms of government, and of his reasons to choose nomocratic rule instead of the teleocratic one. It will be argued that a complex political philosophy based on these two pillars will be provided by Oakeshott’s late book On Human Conduct.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Institute of Politics and GovernmentNational University of Public ServiceBudapestHungary
  2. 2.Institute of PhilosophyHungarian Academy of SciencesBudapestHungary

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