Politics is a kind of human activity. Few, if any, would seriously quarrel with this. To understand any human activity, Oakeshott once told his students, is ‘to discern the character of the activity itself and not merely to classify its products’; that is, to establish the place of a given activity ‘on the map of human activity in general’ (HL 15). Here agreement is less likely, especially so once it comes to the possibility of world politics.
KeywordsFatigue Europe Brittle Coherence Librium
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- 7.The exact timing of this reversal, and whether there was a reversal at all, is a matter of debate in Oakeshottian scholarship. At any rate, what is specific to OHC, is the withdrawal of ‘practice’ as a name for the mode of experience. Thus, in ‘The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind’, where the hierarchical view of experience is already rejected, ‘practice’ still stands, alongside ‘science’ and ‘history’, for a particular voice in the conversation. In OHC, Oakeshott explicitly refuses to use the expression ‘practical understanding’ where he would have used it previously, mainly because subscription to specific practices is required both in ‘historical’ and in ‘scientific’ understanding otherwise released from the considerations of ‘practice’ as it was presented in EIM (OHC 57, note 1). Some argue that what was ‘practice’ in EIM or ‘The Voice of Poetry’, becomes ‘conduct’ in OHC (Tseng, The Sceptical Idealist). Others, believe that ‘conduct’, although it stands for what used to be ‘practice’, is significantly different from the latter (E. Podoksik, In Defence of Modernity). I follow Luke O’Sullivan, Terry Nardin and Glenn Worthington ( ‘Michael Oakeshott on Life: Waiting with Godot’, History of Political Thought, 1995, 16: 105–19 and ‘Michael Oakeshott and the City of God’, Political Theory, 2000, 28: 377–98) who argue that ‘human conduct’ is not reducible to the considerations of ‘practice’.Google Scholar
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