Leo Strauss

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Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was a German-born Jewish American political philosopher who has been called the father of neoconservatism.

The neoconservative Irving Kristol has acknowledged Strauss's influence. Ronald Bailey writes in an article for Reason magazine:

Kristol has acknowledged his intellectual debt to Strauss in a recent autobiographical essay. "What made him [Strauss] so controversial within the academic community was his disbelief in the Enlightenment dogma that 'the truth will make men free.'" Kristol adds that "Strauss was an intellectual aristocrat who thought that the truth could make some [emphasis Kristol's] minds free, but he was convinced that there was an inherent conflict between philosophic truth and political order, and that the popularization and vulgarization of these truths might import unease, turmoil and the release of popular passions hitherto held in check by tradition and religion with utterly unpredictable, but mostly negative, consequences."
Kristol agrees with this view. "There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people," he says in an interview. "There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work."[1]

Contents

Biographical Information

History

Strauss was heavily influenced by his German contemporaries, Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt. With Schmitt's help he secured a Rockefeller Foundation grant to study in Paris, which enabled him to escape Germany as the Nazis were coming to power.[2]He ultimately settled in the United States in 1938.[3]

While in Paris in 1933 he wrote a letter to his friend Karl Löwith which underlined the authoritarian nature of his political philosophy at this time:

And, what concerns this matter: the fact that the new right-wing Germany does not tolerate us says nothing against the principles of the right. To the contrary: only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible with seemliness, that is, without resort to the ludicrous and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l’homme(5) to protest against the shabby abomination.(6) I am reading Caesar’s Commentaries with deep understanding, and I think of Virgil’s Tu regere imperio… parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.(7) There is no reason to crawl to the cross, neither to the cross of liberalism, as long as somewhere in the world there is a glimmer of the spark of the Roman thought. And even then: rather than any cross, I’ll take the ghetto.[4]

As Scott Horton has noted, Strauss was writing at a time when liberalism was a marginal force in Weimar Germany.[5]

Views

Affiliations

Influence

In the mid-1990s, Political theorist Shadia Drury noted that a number of students and admirers of Strauss had become leading spokesmen of the American Conservative movement, including Harry V. Jaffa, Joseph Cropsey, Allan Bloom, Harvey Mansfield, Willmoore Kendall, and Irving Kristol.[6]

According to Drury, figures on the American political scene influenced by Strauss, included Paul Wolfowitz, Caspar Weinberger, Seth Cropsey, John T. Agresto, Carnes Lord, Alan Keyes, Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, William Bennett and William Kristol.[7]

Neoconservatives Abram Shulsky and Gary Schmitt sought in their 1999 essay Leo Strauss and the world of intelligence to apply the philosopher's ideas to the theory of intelligence analysis.[8]

According to Thomas J. DiLorenzo, other influential Straussians include William Allen, Joseph Bessette, Mark Blitz, David Epstein, Charles Fairbanks, Robert Goldwin, Michael Mablin, John Marini, Ken Masugi, Gary McDowell, James Nichols, Ralph Rossum, Steven Schlesinger, Jeffrey Schram, Nathan Tarcov, Michael Uhlman, Jeffery Wallin, Bradford Wilson, Leon Kass, John Waters, Francis Fukuyama and Robert Kagan.[9]

Publications, Resources and Notes

Publications

Resources

Articles, books, and parts of books (online)

Related commentary, other articles, and parts of books (online)

Notes

  1. Ronald Bailey, "Origin of the Specious: Why do neoconservatives doubt Darwin?", Reason magazine, July 1997, accessed 3 April 2009
  2. The Letter, by Scott Horton, Balkanizition, 16 July 2006.
  3. Leo Strauss's Philosophy of Deception, by Jim Lobe, Alternet, 19 May 2003.
  4. The Letter, by Scott Horton, Balkanizition, 16 July 2006.
  5. Will the Real Leo Strauss Please Stand Up?, by Scott Horton, Harper's Magazine, 21 January 2008.
  6. Shadia B. Drury, Leo Strauss and the American Right, St Martin's Press, 1999, p.3.
  7. Shadia B. Drury, Leo Strauss and the American Right, St Martin's Press, 1999, p.3.
  8. Tom Barry, Leo Strauss and Intelligence Strategy, Right Web, 11 February 2004.
  9. Thomas DiLorenzo, The Ivy League Dissects the Neocon Cabal, LewRockwell.com, 28 September 2004.
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