Michael Oakeshott; Politics Philosopher

From Associated Press

Political philosopher Michael Oakeshott, whose stress on personal responsibility and freedom was said by some to have laid the foundations for Margaret Thatcher’s social policies, has died at 89.

Oakeshott died Tuesday at his home at Acton in southwest England, his family announced Saturday. No cause of death was given.

In 1951, when he became University Professor of Political Science at London University’s London School of Economics, his conservative ideas were a sharp contrast with socialist Harold Laski, whom he replaced.

Oakeshott was credited with turning conservative opinion away from social planning and back to personal responsibility and freedom.


The Times of London noted Saturday: “More than anybody else Michael Oakeshott articulated the real philosophical foundations of Mrs. Thatcher’s policies. Yet he had no direct influence on her and she was disposed to consider him irrelevant for her purposes because unlike Hayek, he made no practical recommendations.”

Mrs. Thatcher claimed that her philosophy of individual self-reliance was influenced by the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek and his 1944 book “The Road to Serfdom,” a critical study of socialistic trends in Britain.

Oakeshott once said in an interview: “I am a member of no political party. I vote, if I have to vote, for the party which is likely to do the least harm. To that extent, I am a Tory.”

Oakeshott’s books included “Experience and Its Modes,” published in 1933, and “The Voice of Liberal Learning,” which came out last year.