Table of Contents

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Oakeshott on Rome and America 1
Introduction 6
What Is Rationalism in Politics? 7
Comparing the Theory with Some Evidence 8
An Outline of This Work 9
The Manner of Enquiry 12
I. Politics as the Crow Flies 16
Was Oakeshott’s Critique Merely an Apology for Conservatism? 16
The Rationalist ‘Founders’ 18
A Further Examination of the Rationalist Character 22
An Example of Rationalism in a Modern, Liberal Democracy 28
What Is the Character of ‘Anti-Rationalist’ Politics? 31
Conclusion 34
II. The Development of Oakeshott’s Critique of Rationalism 35
Experience and Its Modes 35
The Politics of Faith and the Politics of Scepticism 37
Morality and Politics in Modern Europe 43
On Human Conduct 45
Aristotle on Practice Versus Theory 49
O’Neill on Abstraction Versus Idealization 51
Conclusion 53
III. Misunderstanding Oakeshott 54
Some Typical Criticisms 54
Traditionalism as an Apology for the Status Quo 54
Traditionalism as Denigrating the Role of Rational Reflection 56
Is Pragmatic Politics Sufficient When Serious Reform Is Called for? 60
‘Non-Ideological Politics’ as Covertly Ideological 62
Some Foils for Oakeshott 69
F. A. Hayek: ‘Why I Am Not a Conservative’ 69
Voegelin as a Foil to Oakeshott 74
The Modern Crisis 79
Neoconservatives as Gnostics 82
Conclusion 87
IV. Constitutionalism and Oakeshott 89
Constitutionalism 90
The Varieties of Constitutions 95
The Case for Constitutionalism 99
Constitutions as Embodying A Priori Natural Rights: Rothbard 100
Constitutions as Contracts I: Rawls 103
Constitutions as Contracts II: Buchanan and Tullock 107
Constitutions as Coordinating Devices: Hardin 113
V. The Roman Republic as Pragmatic Polity 119
Did the Roman Republic Have the Pragmatic Character Oakeshott Attributed to It? 120
Does a Pragmatic Polity Have the Resources to Respond to Changing Conditions? 125
The Roman Government as Representative 130
VI. The Roman Revolution: Could the Embrace of Rationalist Principles Have Saved the Republic? 132
What Was the ‘Roman Revolution’? 133
Does the Failure of the Reforms of the Gracchi Brothers Exhibit a Shortcoming of Pragmatic Politics? 137
Gaius Marius and Sulla: Planning to Halt the Revolution Proves Fruitless 141
The Ascendancy of Ideological Politics 146
Oakeshott’s Understanding of the Roman Revolution 152
The Importance of the Roman Revolution for the American Republic 156
Would the Employment of Rationalist Designing Have Been an Effective Treatment for the Ills of the Roman Republic? 157
Conclusion 161
VII. Rationalism in the American Founding 163
From Rome to America Through Florence and England 164
Machiavelli and Florence 165
The English Transit and Locke 167
Did the American Founders Exhibit Oakeshottian Rationalism? 171
American Political Thought and the Founding 172
Slaves and Women 176
It’s Not Rationalism All the Way Down 177
It Was All Planned 179
Does Burke’s Understanding of the ‘American Situation’ Contradict Oakeshott’s? 180
Conclusion 181
VIII. Were the American Founders Able to Realize Their Design? 183
The Case of Jefferson 183
The Rationalist Jefferson 184
The Practical Jefferson 186
Slavery 186
Freedom of the Press 188
The Louisiana Purchase 189
The Burr Conspiracy 191
The Embargo 193
Is Hypocrisy a Reasonable Explanation for the Jeffersonian Paradox? 194
The Crisis of the Election of 1800 196
The Continuing Failure of the Constitution to Realize Its Authors’ Designs 202
The Modern Obsession with Constitutional Design and Instrumental Republicanism 208
Conclusion 214
Summing Up 216
Bibliography 219


  1. That's some shitload of interesting topics. Especially III-IV and VII-up.

  2. Anonymous5:25 PM

    Any chance this will be online?

  3. Looking forward to it.

  4. Hello,
    Will this be published as a book? If so, will the level be suited for, "the intelligent layperson" or will it be more geared toward an academic audience? Does it assume a knowledge of Oakeshott or would it be a good introduction to Oakeshott? Thank you.

  5. I do hope this will come out in book form.


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