Oakeshott's theory of freedom as recognized contingency

Efraim Podoksik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This article argues that Oakeshott's theory of freedom possesses a greater degree of coherence than is often perceived. Freedom in Oakeshott's philosophy may be defined as 'recognized contingency', combining the notions of a genuine choice of action and of an agent's awareness of having such a choice. Oakeshott employs his notion of freedom in two different contexts. One is the context in which freedom is understood as a concept distinguishing what is conceived as 'human' from what is conceived as 'non-human'. The other context is that of membership in societies, which under certain circumstances can be characterized either by the presence or the lack of freedom. The article argues that, while at first glance Oakeshott's ideas look counter-intuitive, at a deeper level this understanding of freedom is akin to that prevalent in the consciousness of modern liberal societies.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)57-77
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Choice
  • Civil association
  • Contingency
  • Freedom
  • Human agency
  • Idealism
  • Liberalism
  • Negative liberty
  • Oakeshott
  • Rule of law


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