Idealism, the sociology of knowledge and revisionist history of political thought : Peter Laslett's reappraisal of whig historiography
Title: Idealism, the sociology of knowledge and revisionist history of political thought : Peter Laslett's reappraisal of whig historiography
Author: SKODO, Admir
Citation: History of political thought, Vol. 35, No. 3, 2014, pp. 538-564
This article examines the historical thought of Peter Laslett against the background themes and dilemmas of British 'Golden Age' post-Second World War historiography, c.1945-1980. Laslett reappraised whig interpretations of English history, and extended these reappraisals to critiques of liberal political theory, in a similar vein as other Golden Age historians. The article argues that Laslett drew on themes fromMichael Oakeshott's idealist philosophy of history and Karl Mannheim's sociology of knowledge in his revisions of Sir Robert Filmer, patriarchalism, John Locke and liberal political theory. Tracing these specific themes in Laslett's thought is significant as it allows, first, for an understanding of the exact interpretive moves and speech acts that Laslett performed in writing his revisionist historical accounts. Second, this approach allows for an identification of the ways in which Laslett differed from both Oakeshott and Mannheim, and other Golden Age historians. The results of this article reveal several important aspects of Laslett's historical thought: first, that, why and how Oakeshott and Mannheim had a profound influence on Laslett. Second, that Laslett's inverted whiggism was similar to that of other Golden Age historians in exhibiting welfare state anachronisms, but that it was different from theirs in its > particular critique of liberalism, and in its belief in the positive features of early modern patriarchalism. Third, underneath Laslett's famous ambition to reform traditional political philosophy lay an unconventional form of inverted perennialism that reserved for present use only those aspects of past political philosophy that were entirely unique.
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