Rationalism and tradition

The Popper-Oakeshott conversation

Struan Jacobs, Ian Tregenza*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


In 1948 Karl Popper sent a copy of his paper, 'Utopia and Violence', to Michael Oakeshott. Popper had recently read Oakeshott's essay 'Rationalism in Politics', appreciating its relevance to views he had expressed in The Open Society. Oakeshott wrote to Popper at some length, explaining his thoughts about reason, tradition and kindred matters, to which Popper responded. This paper reproduces these letters and discusses them with reference to pertinent writings of Popper and Oakeshott. While showing there was much common ground between the two men and that they significantly influenced each other, the writings reveal important differences over the role of reason and tradition in social and political life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-24
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Theory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • criticism
  • rationalism
  • reason
  • tradition
  • utopia

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