Volume 17, 1992
Oakeshott and the Practice of Politics
Oakeshott’s thesis is that political knowledge is essentially praetical: it is not given to propositional formulation and cannot be deliberately exercised, but rather is expressed in conduct and transmitted by example and practice. I argue that this is true primarily of physical skills which depend upon unconscious, automatic physiological processes. Political practice, by contrast, is largely a matter of rule-governed activity. It is an empirical fact that we do have introspcetive access to many of the rules whieh govern our political conduct, and there is good evidence for the claim that we can deliberately and reflectively set ourselves to apply them.