Anti-totalitarian ambiguities: Jacob Talmon and Michael Oakeshott

Efraim Podoksik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Jacob Talmon and Michael Oakeshott represent two opposite tendencies in the anti-totalitarian world view. Both thinkers share many central features of this broad intellectual trend, such as the equation between the Soviet and Nazi regimes, Anglophilia and the rejection of the utopian quest. Yet this basic agreement should not distract us from significant differences in attitude and temperament. Talmon, like most other critics of totalitarianism, was strongly affected by the atmosphere of a profound intellectual and political crisis in Europe, and he regarded the danger of totalitarianism to be an inherent aspect of modernity itself. His liberalism was that of 'fear'. By contrast, for Oakeshott, who believed in the strength of liberal, and specifically British, civilisation, totalitarianism was merely a child of resentment, a parasitic force with no positive message of its own. He thus displayed a greater measure of confidence in the fortunes of liberal modernity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)206-219
Number of pages14
JournalHistory of European Ideas
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • History of political thought
  • Jacob Talmon
  • Michael Oakeshott
  • Modernity
  • Totalitarianism


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