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samedi, 25 janvier 2020

Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss in the Chinese-Speaking World


Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss in the Chinese-Speaking World

by Dongxian Jiang

 Ex: https://www.voegelinview.com

Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss in the Chinese-Speaking World: Reorienting the Political, Kai Marchal and Carl K.Y. Shaw, eds. Lanham, Lexington Books, 2017.

51SaQUAXfmL._SX331_BO1204203200_-e1527628158686.jpgCarl Schmitt and Leo Strauss are extremely popular in China, especially in Mainland China—this is no longer a secret in the Western academia. As early as 2003, Stanley Rosen had already told the Boston Globe that “A very, very significant circle of Strauss admirers has sprung up, of all places, China.”[1] Then, in 2010, Mark Lilla, after returning from a visit to Chinese universities, published a widely-circulated article in the New Republic, reporting that there was a “strange taste in Western philosophers” among Chinese scholars and college students, i.e. their strange obsession with Leo Strauss and Carl Schmitt.[2] A 2015 article published on “The China Story” website by Flora Sapio further described the reception of Carl Schmitt by China’s New Left intellectuals and showed the author’s concern with the potential danger of Schmitt’s legal and political theory.[3] Schmitt and Strauss have become philosophical and political stars in China is well-known in the Western world. The question that still puzzles people is—Why?

It is in line with this growing visibility of China’s “Schmitt-Strauss fever” that Kai Marchal and Carl K.Y. Shaw edited this current volume on Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss in the Chinese-speaking World, a long-waited contribution to the decoding of and engagement with this enigmatic intellectual phenomenon. The greatest virtue of this volume is, as the two editors say in the Introduction, that “while individual authors may differ in their evaluation of the nature of this reception and its possible implications,” they all agree that this intellectual phenomenon should be treated in a serious way (p. 13). Taken as a whole, this volume is currently the most in-depth discussion in the entire world of the Chinese receptions of Schmitt and Strauss, and should be recommended to anyone who is interested in Chinese intellectual history in the post-Mao era.

Readers who are intrigued by the Schmitt-Strauss fever in the Sinophone world would naturally ask three questions, and they expect that this volume would answer them from different angles. First, why are Schmitt and Strauss so popular in China (the “Why” question)? Second, how do Chinese intellectuals use Schmitt’s and Strauss’s political thought to participate in China’s political debates? And third, how can liberals respond to these Chinese Schmittians and Straussians, if they are using Schmitt’s and Strauss’s “illiberal” thought to express their discontent with the Western modernity? The contributors in this volume aim to do all these jobs, but as I shall demonstrate, several drawbacks of the book might have made it unsuccessful to fulfill readers’ expectations. Specifically, I shall argue, while the volume contains detailed answers to the second question, it does not provide persuasive and sufficient accounts of the “Why” question. In addition, though the volume aims to engage with the Chinese Schmittians and Straussians, the strategies that some contributors use may not be promising in the Chinese context.

As a book dealing with the Chinese reception of Schmitt and Strauss, several chapters are devoted to the analysis of the writings of Chinese Schmittians and Straussians, with a focus on how they use Schmitt’s and Strauss’s ideas to address distinctively Chinese issues. The chapters by Shaw, Marchal and Nadon are especially helpful for readers to know who the Schmittians and Straussians are in China and how they are politically motivated to invoke Schmitt’s and Strauss’s authorities. These close analyses, based on first-hand textual evidence, provide solid bases for the contributors in this volume to engage with the Chinese thinkers, and to show what they are getting right and where they are going wrong.

In terms of the historical accounts of China’s reception of Schmitt and Strauss, contributors have made significant efforts in reconstructing the historical context of China’s post-Mao period and in explaining why certain Schmittian and Straussian ideas have resonance in this particular circumstance. For example, Shaw is very successful in providing “a contextual and immanent analysis which demonstrates the rationale of the receptions, the inner logic of the theoretical reconstructions, and their relevance for contemporary Chinese intellectual debates” (p. 40). Similarly, Charlotte Kroll reconstructs the legal and political issues that Chinese intellectuals cared about when Schmitt was introduced, and connects Schmitt fever with what Jan-Werner Mueller calls “Schmitt’s globalization” in the 1990s. Before unfolding his engagement with and critique of Liu Xiaofeng’s interpretation and application of Strauss’s political thought in the Chinese context, Marchal presents an overview of the intellectual trajectories of China’s leading Straussians and briefly explains why Strauss is attractive to scholars who are concerned with the “nihilism” issue in the post-Maoist China.

However, as the Schmitt-Strauss fever is the most enigmatic, even “strange” intellectual phenomenon in contemporary China, this volume should have devoted more efforts to the investigations into the “Why” question. A reasonable account of this phenomenon must answer 1) why it is in this particular historical moment that Schmitt and Strauss become authoritative for many Chinese intellectuals, and 2) why it is Schmitt and Strauss, not other critics of Western modernity and liberal democracy, that especially attract the attentions of Chinese intellectuals. In the 1980s and 90s, for example, one of the most fashionable things to do among China’s leading intellectuals was to discuss Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, and Foucault. Why these critics of modernity and liberal democracy, either from the Left or the Right, did not trigger a similar wave of anti-liberalism in China is a question that all scholars interested in Chinese political thought should painstakingly think about. Therefore, a contextualized account of the Schmitt-Strauss fever is not complete if there lacks a comprehensive investigation of China’s reception of Western thought in general, and of China’s reception of anti-Enlightenment and illiberal thought in particular. This, I admit, is not an easy task, but is worth doing if we really take the Schmitt-Strauss fever in China seriously.

Another thing that this volume should have done is an excavation of the pre-Schmittian and pre-Straussian writings of intellectuals like Liu Xiaofeng and Gan Yang, to name a few, because these writings may provide some clues for explaining their intellectual transformations. Contributors like Marchal and Nadon have mentioned that Liu and Gan were not Schmittians and Straussians from the very beginning of their academic lives, but what they have not fully elaborated is that these two figures were active liberals before encountering Schmitt and Strauss. In the 1980s and early 90s, Liu was a “cultural Christian” advocating for China’s radical transformation from “traditional culture” to Christianity, but his political position was by and large liberal. Gan asked Confucianism to modernize itself in order to embrace modern values such as individual rights, equality, pluralism, and democracy. Before their encounter with Schmitt and Strauss, they were obsessed by various “illiberal” or “anti-liberal” philosophers in the West, such as Nietzsche, Heidegger and Sartre, but this obsession did not prevent them from appreciating Berlin, Habermas and Rawls. Just one year before Liu Xiaofeng’s open conversion to Strauss’s political thought and his embrace of illiberalism, he was using public reason liberalism to criticize Charles Taylor and his Chinese followers who wanted to use communitarian insights to fight for the Confucian causes.

After his Straussian turn, however, Liu has been increasingly intolerant of liberal political theory, thinking that a return to the “classical mentality” is incompatible with the pursuit of liberal reform in China. A detailed description of Liu’s “liberal years” may make his sudden but whole-hearted conversion to Schmitt and Strauss more enigmatic, but may also provide hints about whether his particular and idiosyncratic conception of liberalism actually paved way for his later conversion to anti-liberalism. For example, a close reading of his early works shows that the pursuit of an “absolute value” is a constant theme in his liberal years, and that his discomfort with value pluralism to some extent foreshadows his embrace of Strauss’s political thought.


The absence of detailed and sound explanations of the Schmitt-Strauss fever may be remedied if the Chinese Schmittians and Straussians in this volume could take this opportunity to explain why they think that China needs Schmitt and Strauss for imagining its political future. Readers may have the expectation to look for direct articulations and defenses of their motivations for invoking the authority of Schmitt and Strauss. The volume contains three articles written by Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese scholars who are sympathetic toward Schmitt and Strauss.

Among them, however, only Chuan-Wei Hu’s is a straightforward defense of Strauss in the Taiwanese context and an articulation of why Strauss matters for Taiwan’s democracy. The other two “Mainland” pieces, surprisingly, refrain from providing any direct answers to the “Why” question, and thus miss the opportunity for Mainland Chinese Schmittians and Straussians to make a case for themselves. Han Liu’s chapter, which argues that the global diffusion of constitutionalism and judicial guardianship is a bad thing, does not provide any positive proposals for China to design an alternative legal system in accordance with Schmittian insights, despite his merely one-paragraph assertion that “China should pay attention to its own political culture, however defined, to ground a firm constitutional authority” (pp. 134-5).

The chapter by Jianhong Chen, a leading Mainland Straussian, provides an excellent reinterpretation of Strauss’s political thought, and he argues, against various Western scholars, that Strauss should not be understood as a conservative thinker merely defending the status quo, because political philosophy as Strauss understands is still a radical “negation” of actual politics, thus preserving a utopian and normative dimension. By claiming that Heinrich Meier’s interpretation of Strauss is a myth (pp. 197-8), Chen hints that Liu Xiaofeng’s reception of Strauss might also be mistaken, because Liu encountered Strauss largely through Meier’s secondary literature. But, again, Chen does not elaborate the possible implications of his understanding of Strauss, such as whether Strauss can be used in a way to challenge the political status quo in China. If readers who are not able to read Chinese want to understand why Schmitt and Strauss are important for China from an indigenous perspective, they can read Wang Tao’s article published in the Claremont Review of Books, in which he provides an explanation and justification of China’s reverence for Strauss.[4]

Lastly, the most significant accomplishment that this volume has achieved is a theoretical engagement with the Chinese Schmittians and Straussians. The contributors believe that this wave of anti-liberalism in China inspired by Schmitt and Strauss should be taken seriously, and this volume is a valuable addition to the intercultural conversation in the burgeoning field of comparative political theory. Chapters written by Shaw, Wenning, Nadon and Marchal are recommended for readers who are looking for evaluations of the Schmitt-Strauss fever. Among these four chapters, Shaw and Marchal are generally critical of the Chinese Straussians, arguing that they either fail to grasp Strauss’s true spirit or distort his key teachings. Wenning has a similar critical attitude toward Chinese Schmittians and claims that these scholars have not recognized the “internal complexity” (p. 82) of Schmitt’s thought. Based on his discussion of Schmitt’s later writings, to which few Schmitt scholars have paid adequate attention, Wenning shows how this underappreciated dimension of Schmitt’s political thought might have the potential to overcome the one-sidedness of the current Chinese reception of Schmitt. In contrast, Nadon provides the most positive evaluation of the Chinese reception of Strauss, and contends that Liu Xiaofeng may ultimately “articulate a new and inspiring vision of what Chinese civilization could be” (p. 12).

A theme that unifies many contributors in this volume is their worry that some leading Chinese intellectuals in this fever, most notably Liu Xiaofeng, have an extremely hostile attitude toward liberalism and liberal democracy. While their discontent with Western cultural hegemony should be sympathized, contributors still feel that liberalism as a universal value should be defended in the Chinese context. As Marchal and Wenning have exemplified, one strategy to criticize Chinese Schmittians and Straussians is to show that they are misinterpreting Strauss and neglecting the internal richness of Schmitt. However, I wonder whether this is a promising strategy for engaging with these anti-liberal scholars.

Take Marchal’s chapter as an example, the underlying logic of his strategy is that if Chinese intellectuals get Strauss correctly, then they should have used Strauss for different purposes, rather than merely justifying China’s particular tradition and extant authoritarian regime. Based on his comparison of Strauss and Liu Xiaofeng, he argues that Liu’s use of Strauss “leads to a number of fundamental distortions” of Strauss’s claims in On Tyranny, that “instead of having discerned Strauss’s esoteric messages, Liu may thus have misunderstood his teacher” (p. 184), and that “Liu Xiaofeng’s project is being played out according to a very different agenda than Strauss’s original project,” which Strauss “likely never anticipated” (p. 181). In a word, “It is quite remarkable that the Chinese Straussian Liu Xiaofeng can relate to Strauss’s critique of liberal democracy without further ado in a non-liberal, non-democratic society (which China undoubtedly still is)” (p. 186).

However, what makes Marchal’s comparison of Strauss and Liu problematic is that he applies a double standard when interpreting Strauss’s and Liu’s works respectively. In terms of Strauss, Marchal is fully aware that his works are notoriously enigmatic, and recognizes that reconstructing a “real Strauss” is extremely difficult, so he carefully chooses what he thinks the “more convincing and theoretically plausible” secondary literature, and based on these, provides a charitable reading of Strauss’s political philosophy, i.e., Strauss as an eternal sceptic and critical friend of liberal democracy. When it comes to Liu, he chooses Liu’s most “Straussian book” to date, Republic and Statecraft, as a target for criticism, because he thinks that Liu misapplies Strauss’s teachings in On Tyranny in this book. However, the problem with his reading of Liu is that he does not attempt to use the same method to decode Strauss’s and Liu’s writings, thus making his understanding of Liu dubious and uncharitable.

As Liu himself claims in the afterword of this book, Republic and Statecraft is an expansion of his reading notes of Xiong Shili’s lengthy letter to Mao Zedong.[5] In this book, there is no place where Liu openly articulates his own positions, and, like Strauss, he hides his own ideas behind his textual analysis of Xiong’s letter. Xiong was a well-known New Confucian philosopher in twentieth century China who claimed that modern values such as equality and democracy could be interpreted from the Confucian canons. When the CCP came to power in 1949, Xiong decided to stay in the Mainland, and wrote a series of letters to Mao to make a plea for the protection of China’s traditional culture by arguing that the revolutionary spirit was compatible with Confucianism. In one letter, Xiong expressed his admiration of Mao by claiming that Mao was a modern reincarnation of the ancient sage-king, and that his authoritarian rule was necessary for China to realize freedom and democracy. Liu finds this letter extremely interesting, and uses a Straussian hermeneutics to interpret Xiong’s thought.


Marchal is aware that Liu is practicing Straussian hermeneutics in this book, but surprisingly, he unreflectively presumes that Liu affirms and praises Xiong’s ideas. Without presenting any quotations from this book, Marchal argues that “[Liu’s] argumentation in Republic and Statecraft strongly suggests that Liu regards Xiong Shili’s attempt to ground Mao’s revolution in the horizon of traditional Chinese culture as meaningful” (p. 188). It is true that Liu does admire Mao in recent years, but this does not necessarily mean that Liu expresses his admiration in a way similar to Xiong’s. His other Straussian writings show his disapproval of the attempt in the twentieth century to develop modern values from within the Confucian tradition, because the Straussian teaching of “transcending the modern horizon” inspires him to praise classical Confucianism, in which, according to him, moral and political hierarchy is the core of the authentic Confucian spirit. As Xiong belongs to the New Confucian school and speaks highly of equality and democracy, it is highly probable that Liu, in his Republic and Statecraft, fundamentally disagrees with Xiong’s ideas. Therefore, while reading Strauss in a charitable way, Marchal to a large degree provides an uncharitable reading of Liu. This double standard fatally discredits his claim that Liu distorts Strauss’s thought, as Liu may easily retort that Marchal is distorting Liu’s thought in the first place.

However, even if Marchal could distribute his charity evenly to Strauss and Liu, the effectiveness of his strategy in combating Chinese anti-liberalism is still doubtful. After all, to what extent is Liu distorting Strauss is a highly contestable issue, as Strauss himself is an extremely enigmatic political thinker. For Marchal, the “real Strauss” he identifies is a Strauss constantly skeptical about Western modernity but never attempts to offer any positive account of a radical alternative, not to mention actively pursues such an alternative in political actions (p. 176). In contrast, Liu distorts Strauss in the sense that he wants to craft a concrete alternative based on the Chinese tradition, and tends to put this project into action.

Were Marchal to do a close analysis of Liu’s interpretations of Strauss, he would quickly find that Liu is almost familiar with Strauss’s entire corpus, and it is extremely difficult to claim that Liu distorts Strauss without going through all his quotations of Strauss’s original texts. In particular, what Marchal does not mention in this chapter is that Liu is especially interested in Strauss’s “theologico-political predicament,” i.e., the tension between the philosopher and the political society. According to Strauss, it is the philosopher’s virtue to constrain its eagerness to challenge the conventions, customs, moral codes, religions, superstitions, laws, and political authorities of the political society, because a replacement of these nomoi with pure reason will lead to the very disintegration of the political society. Therefore, the philosopher should uphold and gently improve the nomoi in his exoteric teachings, while conceal his true philosophical teachings in his esoteric writings.

What Liu takes from Strauss is that a philosopher in the Chinese context should do the same thing, but this leads him to protect the extant values and political authority which Chinese people have inherited from the ancient times, against the encroachment of Enlightenment thought from the modern West. Liu’s construction of the Chinese nomoi might be wrong and politically motivated, as Marchal shows in his chapter, but this does not mean that Liu’s understanding of Strauss per se is also mistaken. After all, Strauss never anticipated that his thought would be applied someday in a non-Western society, so he did not set a rule for approvable applications, despite his criticism of totalitarianism and communism. Therefore, instead of “distorting” Strauss, one might say that Liu is “extending” Strauss in the Chinese context.

Therefore, if Marchal really wants to criticize Chinese Straussianism and defend liberal principles, his call for a correct understanding and application of Strauss in Mainland China may not work well. Even if there is a correct understanding of Strauss, the application of Strauss might be “beyond right and wrong,” and Marchal actually accepts that “[Strauss’s] writings encourage alternative readings in the context of non-Western intellectual traditions” (p. 174). In the “Conclusion” of his chapter, Marchal hopes that “it may be possible that other forms of Chinese Straussianism may preserve a genuinely critical, zetetic force,” a “more balanced understanding of the cultural differences between East and West,” and a less nationalist defense of the authoritarian regime (p. 191).

However, if Marchal really wants to achieve these goals and give liberalism a try in China, one may wonder whether Strauss is the “Mr Right”—Why not drop Strauss and resort to other liberal thinkers in the West for intellectual resources? After all, as primarily a critic of modernity and liberal democracy, Strauss not only upsets liberals in China but also liberals in the Western world. His mystical genre and his unwillingness to engage in public dialogues make him unfit for defending liberalism, let alone defending liberalism in the Chinese context. As the prospect of liberalism in China has been increasingly bleak in recent years, the need for a straightforward defense of basic liberal principles is needed. Building a liberal-friendly team of Straussianism in China as Marchal hopes is not impossible if some scholars can do what American Straussians did after 2001, i.e., defending Strauss while reconciling him with liberal democracy, but people caring about the future of Chinese liberalism may wonder whether Strauss is really an indispensable intellectual authority at all. After all, why should liberals play the game whose rules are one-sidedly settled by their rivals, instead of opening a new field to play?

Finally, at the end of my review, I should point out that even if the volume offers a variety of insights, it should have had some stylistic improvements for readers to have a better reading experience. Key arguments should be presented clearly in the beginning of each chapter, and convoluted expressions should be avoided. Therefore, readers interested in the Chinese reception of Schmitt and Strauss can start from this volume, but they have good reasons to wait for better works on this subject to be done.


[1] Jeet Heer, “The Philosopher the Late Leo Strauss has Emerged as the Thinker of the Moment in Washington, but His Ideas Remain Mysterious. Was He an Ardent Opponent of Tyranny, or an Apologist for the Abuse of Power?” Boston Globe, May 11, 2003.

[2] Mark Lilla, “Reading Strauss in Beijing,” New Republic, 2010, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/magazine/79747/reading-leo-strauss-in-beijing-china-marx#, accessed March 19, 2014.

[3] Flora Sapio, “Carl Schmitt in China,” The China Story, Oct 7, 2015, https://www.thechinastory.org/2015/10/carl-schmitt-in-china/, accessed March 31, 2018.

[4] Wang Tao, “Leo Strauss in China,” Claremont Review of Books, Spring 2012, accessed March 19, 2014, http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.1955/article_detail.asp.

[5] Liu Xiaofeng, Gonghe yu jinglun 共和与经纶 (Republic and Statecraft), Beijing, Sanlian chubanshe, 2012, 303-4.

Jiang - 4.jpeg

Dongxian Jiang

Dongxian Jiang is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Theory at Princeton University where he is also the Laurance S. Rockefeller Graduate Prize Fellow at Princeton’s University Center for Human Values. He is working on a dissertation justifying liberal principles in the Chinese context.

dimanche, 11 février 2018

Over Leo Strauss en het cultuurmarxisme; Sid Lukkassen en Eric C. Hendriks


Over Leo Strauss en het cultuurmarxisme

Sid Lukkassen

en Eric C. Hendriks

"Het woord cultuurmarxisme zou volgens de media fout zijn omdat
het verwijst naar een complottheorie. Ongetwijfeld zijn er dubieuze
figuren die dat woord gebruiken, maar de stelligheid en de haast
waarmee een hele inhoudelijke discussie opzij werd geschoven
was eigenlijk aanstootgevend. Men viel uitsluitend over het woord."
De term ‘cultuurmarxisme’ is de afgelopen periode doorgedrongen
tot het mainstream debat.
Thierry Baudet, vindt de Europese Unie een ‘cultuurmarxistisch
project’, Paul Cliteur zegt in zijn column op de ThePostOnline
dat de cultureel marxisten geen rust hebben ‘voordat u
onderworpen bent’.
Wat is cultuurmarxisme en wie zijn het?
Eric C. Hendriks (1985) studeerde onder meer in Berkeley
en op de Universiteit van Chicago, promoveerde in Duitsland
en werkt momenteel als postdoc onderzoeker sociologie
op de Peking Universiteit. Hij schrijft vanuit vergelijkend
perspectief over democratische en autoritaire regimes.
Leo Strauss (1899 – 1973) was een politiek filosoof, die in
Duitsland werd geboren en naar de Verenigde Staten
emigreerde. Hij wordt gezien als één van de inspiratiebronnen
voor de neoconservatieve beweging die sinds de jaren
zeventig belangrijk is in de Amerikaanse politiek. Van hem
komt de vaak geciteerde slagzin: "Als alle culturen
gelijkwaardig zijn, dan is kannibalisme slechts een
kwestie van smaak".
Help Café Weltschmerz en onze toekomst met een donatie
of adopteer een aflevering: NL23 TRIO 0390 4379 13.

vendredi, 27 novembre 2015

Léo Strauss, maître à penser des néo-conservateurs criminels


Léo Strauss, maître à penser des néo-conservateurs criminels

Auteur : RI
Ex: http://zejournal.mobi

Il y a consensus pour blâmer les instigateurs et les exécutants des guerres, révolutions, assassinats, bombardements, renversement des gouvernements et autres actes criminels qui ont ensanglanté des régions étendues de la planète, tout particulièrement depuis 2001, date charnière, qui a donné suite aux évènements du 11 Septembre de la même année.

Chacun y va de sa harangue, et désigne qui ceux-ci, qui ceux-là. À raison évidemment. L’empire du chaos est bien sûr omniprésent au cœur des désignés. Mais remontons un peu plus loin, au programme source, jusqu’à celui qui a concocté l’idéologie qui a déclenché en cascades tous ces crimes planétaires auxquels la Russie et Poutine s’efforcent de mettre fin aujourd’hui. La géostratégie mondiale menée par les pays puissants est fortement inspirée par les idéologies qui la sous-tend. Les politiques intérieures des états le sont également. Qui pourrait nier que l’idéologie socialiste et néo-libérale n’a pas d’impact sur la politique intérieure de la France ?

Certaines idéologies sont connues mondialement, avec leurs idéologues. On pense évidemment à Karl Marx par exemple, à l’idéologie fasciste, sioniste ou socialiste aussi. Mais d’autres idéologues, à peine connus du grand public et même des dissidents les plus affûtés, ont influencé directement des groupes puissants qui ont incité à semer guerres et destructions au cours des 15 à 20 dernières années. Léo Strauss a nourri directement les délires des néo-conservateurs américains qui ont, depuis leur fameux Project for a New American Century (PNAC de 1995), sous-tendu les politiques criminelles des Présidents américains, de George Bush à Obama, même si celui-ci s’en détourne encore trop timidement au cours de son deuxième mandat.

Il n’est pas surfait de craindre que ce qui se joue actuellement, en Syrie notamment, avec la Russie et Poutine, sera prolongé d’une guerre, ou bien non. Cette issue, qui pourrait s’avérer fatale même pour beaucoup d’entre nous, dépendra de la réponse américaine, et du résultat des luttes intestines au sein de son gouvernement et de son administration entre Américains patriotes et néo-conservateurs liberticides et hégémoniques, en grande partie, il faut bien le dire, inspirés par le sionisme fanatique aussi présent en Amérique qu’il l’est dans l’entité qui se fait appeler Israël.

leo strauss,neocons,néoconservateurs,néoconservateurs américains,bellicisme,états-unis,théorie politique,sciences politiques,philosophie,philosophie politique,politologie

Léo Strauss, né en 1899 d’une famille de juifs orthodoxes des environs de Marbourg, en Allemagne, vécut aux Etats-Unis de 1938 jusqu’à sa mort, en 1973. Professeur de philosophie politique à l’université de Chicago de 1953 à 1973, Strauss a créé toute une génération d’idéologues et de politiciens qui, aujourd’hui, sont infiltrés dans le gouvernement américain et dans le milieu néo-conservateur, et qui ont eu une influence énorme sur le Président Bush et qui sont encore là avec Obama. Léo Strauss était idéologue. On sait que les idéologies sont souvent le substrat des stratégies politiques dangereuses. Le fascisme était l’idéologie de l’Allemagne nazie, le marxisme celle du stalinisme. Les nazis ont tué des dizaines de millions de gens. Le straussisme était l’idéologie des faucons de Bush et celle des faucons néolibéraux d’Obama. Bush, ignare à son arrivée à la Maison Blanche (il l’est resté jusqu’au bout), avait endossé cette idéologie de A à Z. Les dégâts considérables dans les pays Arabo-Musulmans qu’on connaît et qu’on déplore aujourd’hui sont directement à associer à l’influence néfaste de Léo Strauss.

J’emprunte à « solidarité et progrès » ainsi qu’à plusieurs journaux américains certaines révélations sur le mouvement straussien qui est organisé en réseaux aux États-Unis : le principal idéologue qui se réclame de Léo Strauss dans l’administration Bush est le vice-ministre de la Défense, Paul Wolfowitz, qui a étudié auprès d’Allan Bloom à l’université de Chicago. Depuis les années 70, il compte parmi ses collaborateurs Richard Perle, Steven Bryen et Elliot Abrams. On peut en citer un autre, l’ancien directeur de la CIA, James Woolsey, membre du « Defense Policy Board », et adjoint du Général Garner qui a dirigé le gouvernement irakien. Dans le domaine des médias, on peut citer John Podhoretz, rédacteur du New York Post et ancien éditeur du Weekly Standard, ainsi qu’Irving Kristol, éditeur de Public Interest, l’organe des néo-conservateurs, et collaborateur de l’American Entreprise Institute (A.E.I), lieu privilégié de Bush pour ses discours de propagande. Son fils William Kristol est un des idéologues du parti républicain. Citons encore Werner Dannhauser, un protégé personnel de Strauss qui a quitté le monde universitaire pour assurer la rédaction de Commentary, après le départ à la retraite de Norman Podhoretz, ainsi que deux autres membres de la rédaction du Weekly Standard, David Brook et Robert Kagan, le fils d’un professeur straussien de Yale, Donald Kagan.

leo strauss,neocons,néoconservateurs,néoconservateurs américains,bellicisme,états-unis,théorie politique,sciences politiques,philosophie,philosophie politique,politologie

Dans le domaine du département de la justice, des straussiens inconditionnels sont le juge de la Cour suprême, Clarence Thomas, et l’ex ministre de la Justice, John Ashcroft. Pour ce qui est du gouvernement Bush à l’époque, on y trouve Lewis Libby, directeur de cabinet de l’ex vice-président Richard Cheney et ancien élève de Wolfowitz à l’université de Yale. Après le 11 septembre 2001, insatisfait des renseignements fournis par la CIA et l’intelligence militaire, Abram Shulsky fut nommé à la tête d’une unité de renseignements au sein de la bureaucratie civile du Pentagone, créée pour produire, au besoin inventer, tous les montages dont les faucons avaient besoin pour justifier la guerre contre l’Irak. Straussien convaincu, Shulsky anime encore aujourd’hui des débats sur la pensée du « maître ». Parmi les « penseurs » et stratèges, on compte l’auteur du Choc des civilisations, Samuel Huntington, ainsi que Francis Fukuyama et Allan Bloom, qui lui est décédé.

Alors qu’ils avaient été tenus totalement à l’écart du gouvernement américain pendant la présidence de Bill Clinton, les straussiens ne sont cependant pas restés inactifs. Outre l’élaboration de doctrines militaires, dont celles qui ont cours actuellement, ils ont notamment rédigé un document pour le gouvernement israélien (Clean Break), prévoyant la fin des accords d’Oslo. Plusieurs disciples de Strauss et de Bloom avaient d’ailleurs émigré en Israël où ils militaient contre la paix. L’Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS) a été créé à Washington et à Jérusalem en 1984, afin de promouvoir le libre-échange et explicitement, dès 1996, la pensée de Strauss.

Début 1997, William Kristol et Robert Kagan, deux « intellectuels dans la tradition de Strauss », ont lancé à Washington, en collaboration avec l’American Entreprise Institute, une organisation intitulée « Project for the New American Century », dont le but déclaré est de promouvoir la présence militaire américaine partout dans le monde, pour y tenir littéralement le rôle de « gendarme du globe », à commencer par l’Irak. Le 3 juin 1997, cette organisation a publié un acte de fondation, appelant à une nouvelle politique étrangère basée sur l’« hégémonie globale bienveillante » des Etats-Unis. Parmi les signataires de cette lettre : Elliot Abrams, William Bennett, Jeb Bush (frère du Président de l’époque), Dick Cheney, Francis Fukuyama, Lewis Libby, Norman Podhoretz, Donald Rumsfeld et Paul Wolfowitz.

Project for the New American Century

Maintenant que l’on connaît le nom des straussiens les plus influents de l’ex gouvernement Bush, et qu’il est aisé d’imaginer l’influence écrasante qu’ils ont eu et veulent encore avoir sur la politique américaine et le cours des évènements mondiaux, il nous reste à décrire les grandes lignes de l’idéologie de Léo Strauss.

Le philosophe, pour Léo Strauss, c’est l’homme rare, capable de supporter la vérité. Cette vérité, c’est qu’il n’y pas de Dieu, que l’univers n’a que faire de l’homme et de l’espèce humaine et que l’entièreté de l’histoire humaine n’est qu’une minuscule poussière insignifiante sur la croûte de l’univers, dont la naissance coïncide quasiment avec la disparition. Il n’existe ni moralité, ni bien ni mal, et toute discussion sur l’au-delà n’est que commérage. Mais évidemment, l’immense majorité de la population est si incapable de faire face à la vérité qu’elle appartient quasiment à une autre race, ce que Nietzsche appelait « le troupeau » ou encore « les esclaves ». Ils ont besoin d’un Dieu « père fouettard », de la crainte d’une punition après la vie, et de la fiction du bien et du mal. Sans ces illusions, ils deviendraient fous et se révolteraient, ce qui empêcherait toute forme d’ordre social. Puisque la nature humaine est ainsi faite et ne changera jamais, selon Strauss, ce sera toujours comme ça. C’est le surhomme ou « philosophe » qui fournit au troupeau les croyances religieuses, morales et autres, dont il a besoin, mais dont il sait très bien, lui, qu’elles sont erronées. En réalité, les « philosophes » n’utilisent ces manigances que pour plier la société à leurs propres intérêts. Par ailleurs, les philosophes font appel à toutes sortes de gens utiles, y compris les « gentlemen » qui sont formatés dans les connaissances publiques. On les dresse à croire à la religion, à la moralité, au patriotisme et à la chose publique et certains deviennent hauts fonctionnaires. Bien sûr, en plus de ces vertus, ils croient aussi aux philosophes qui leur ont enseigné toutes ces bonnes choses. Ces « gentlemen », qui deviennent des politiques, continueront à écouter à vie les conseils des philosophes. La gouvernance du monde par l’intermédiaire de ces golems implantés dans les gouvernements est ce que Strauss appelle le « Royaume secret » et pour beaucoup de ses élèves, c’est la mission de leur vie.

Ça vous semble du délire ? Ça l’est ! Imaginez vous que l’Amérique, le plus puissant pays au monde, était dirigée par un Président, George W. Bush, qui est tombé totalement et inconditionnellement sous l’influence de l’idéologie straussienne, décrite plus haut. Une trentaine de faucons de l’administration Bush sont pétris de cette idéologie, et la relève a été assurée aujourd’hui auprès d’Obama. Vous n’aurez aucun mal à établir la longue liste d’idéologues néo-conservateurs qui polluent encore au premier degré les politiques et inspirent les prétentions des Etats-Unis.

Les conséquences possibles de cette situation font frémir. Sans foi, ni loi, ni moralité, manipulant les autres, méprisant les masses, d’un racisme consommé, les straussiens américains ont commencé à étendre leur ombre malfaisante sur le monde. Le nôtre, dans lequel on vit, celui qui aura à souffrir de l’idéologie de Léo Strauss, qui n’a rien à envier au fascisme qui a noirci les plus belles pages de l’histoire du XX ème siècle. Mort en 1973, Léo Strauss aura marqué les premières années du XXI ème siècle et pourrait encore exercer son influence mortifère au cours des prochaines années.

Les relations entre les États-Unis et nos gouvernements qui se targuent d’être démocratiques risquent de tourner court, tant que l’idéologie straussienne dictera les politiques américaines, ce qui fut le cas à 100% avec George W. Bush et qui le reste encore trop avec Obama. D’ailleurs qu’en sera t-il avec le prochain Président, homme ou femme, aux Etats-Unis ? Une réponse qui aura un impact essentiel sur le reste du monde car cela dictera la politique extérieure américaine. D’un côté une idéologie barbare et archaïque, de l’autre des principes humanistes, religieux, moraux, sur lesquels sont fondés notre civilisation.

Il faut savoir nommer son ennemi, le désigner. On dit : les Américains mettent le monde à feu et à sang, comme si ce peuple de lui-même agissait de façon démoniaque. Ce ne sont pas les Américains qu’il faut blâmer, ce sont leurs gouvernements, directement influencés depuis les 15 à 20 dernières années par des groupes de pression puissants comme les néo-conservateurs, eux-mêmes nourris par des idéologies mortifères comme celle de Léo Strauss. On notera une fois de plus que la presque totalité de ces néo-conservateurs straussiens sont des binationaux, qui détiennent à la fois des passeports américains et israéliens. Serait-ce une coïncidence ?

Le néo-conservatisme straussien s’appuie sur six caractéristiques principales, qui se recoupent en grande partie :

– la volonté d’employer rapidement la force militaire ;

– un dédain pour les organisations multilatérales ;

– une faible tolérance pour la diplomatie ;

– une focalisation sur la protection d’Israël et donc un interventionnisme orienté et tronqué au Moyen-Orient ;

– une insistance sur la nécessité pour les États-Unis d’agir de manière unilatérale ;

– une tendance à percevoir le monde en termes binaires (bon/mauvais).

Ces caractéristiques, que vous reconnaîtrez de toute évidence, vous font-elles penser aux « Américains » ? C’est plutôt le néo-conservatisme straussien qu’il faut reconnaître et condamner. C’est là, in fine, que le mal absolu s’est logé, là d’où tout est parti, et qui est la source d’un chaos invraisemblable qui submerge la planète.


- Source : RI

mercredi, 04 novembre 2015

Entrevista al autor de "Ayn Rand y Leo Strauss" y "Crónicas del austericidio"

Entrevista al autor de "Ayn Rand y Leo Strauss" y "Crónicas del austericidio"

Entrevista a Francisco José Fernández-Cruz Sequera realizada en el programa "Una hora en libertad" de Radio Inter el 10-10-2015, con motivo de la publicación de los libros "Ayn Rand y Leo Strauss. El capitalismo, sus tiranos y sus dioses" y "Crónicas del austericidio"

Pour commander le livre/To order the book: http://editorialeas.com/shop/

dimanche, 16 août 2015

¿Quienes fueron Ayn Rand y Leo Strauss?

¿Quienes fueron Ayn Rand y Leo Strauss? 

¿Qué relaciones existen entre estos dos filósofos, el sionismo y el Nuevo Orden Mundial?

¿Quienes son los dioses y los tiranos en el capitalimo?

¿Conoces la teoría de la 'guerra permanente'?




En esta obra se analiza un aspecto puntual del asalto a la cultura occidental realizado desde el capitalismo a lo largo del pasado siglo, como es el de las corrientes ideológicas que mueven el sistema norteamericano, que ha puesto de manifiesto que esta concepción de la existencia representa el mayor desafío que se ha planteado nunca a la supervivencia de Europa como civilización. El estudio de esta ofensiva cultural contra el alma europea, nos conduce directamente, una vez más, a la caja torácica que contiene el corazón del capitalismo: los Estados Unidos.

El pensamiento anarcocapitalista de Ayn Rand junto con el pensamiento neoconservador de Leo Strauss y los herederos políticos de ambos, han intentado en la recta final del siglo pasado y lo transcurrido del presente, afrontar la crisis histórica de la nación ‘elegida por Dios’, como campeones intelectuales del capitalismo, luchando por mantener a cualquier precio su hegemonía mundial. Y lo han hecho, una, como la mano izquierda, y el otro, como la mano derecha del Leviatán capitalista.



una obra de
Francisco José Fernandez-Cruz Sequera

Coleccion Khronos
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Páginas: 171
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Cubierta estucada en mate de 260 gr.

P.V.P.: 14,50 € 
gastos de envío incluidos para España peninsular)

Web: www.editorialeas.com

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mercredi, 11 février 2015

Elementos nos 85, 86, 87 & 88



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Nueva Derecha, ¿extrema derecha o derecha extravagante?, por José Andrés Fernández Leost

La Nueva Derecha y la cuestión del Fascismo, por Diego Luis Sanromán

La Nueva Derecha. ¿«Software» neofascista?, por Rodrigo Agulló

Plus Ça Change!  El pedigrí fascista de la Nueva Derecha, por Roger Griffin

¿Discusión o inquisición? La Nueva Derecha y el "caso De Benoist", por Pierre-André Taguieff

El Eterno Retorno. ¿Son fascistas las ideas-fuerza de la Nueva Derecha Europea?, por Joan Antón-Mellón

¿Viejos prejuicios o nuevo paradigma político? La Nueva Derecha francesa vista por la Nueva Izquierda norteamericana, por Paul Piccone

La Nueva Derecha y la reformulación «metapolítica» de la extrema derecha, por Miguel Ángel Simón

El Frente Nacional y la Nueva Derecha, por Charles Champetier

La Nueva Derecha y el Fascismo, por Marcos Roitman Rosenmann



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Leo Strauss: filosofía, política y valores, por Alain de Benoist

Leo Strauss, el padre secreto de los “neocon”, por Esteban Hernández

Leo Strauss y la esencia de la filosofía política, por Eduardo Hernando Nieto

Leo Strauss, los straussianos y los antistraussianos, por Demetrio Castro

Leo Strauss, ideas sin contexto, por Benigno Pendás

Leo Strauss: los abismos del pensamiento conservador, por Ernesto Milá

Leo Strauss y la política como (in)acción, por Jorge San Miguel

Leo Strauss y la recuperación de la racionalidad política clásica, por Iván Garzón-Vallejo

¿Qué es filosofía política? de Leo Strauss. Apuntes para una reflexión sobre el conocimiento político, por Jorge Orellano

Leo Strauss y su crítica al liberalismo, por Alberto Buela

Leo Strauss y la redención clásica del mundo moderno, por Sergio Danil Morresi

Leo Strauss: lenguaje, tradición e historia, por Jesús Blanco Echauri

Mentiras piadosas y guerra perpetua: Leo Strauss y el neoconservadurismo, por Danny Postel

La mano diestra del capitalismo: de Leo Strauss al movimiento neoconservador, por Francisco José Fernández-Cruz Sequera





¿Teología Política o Filosofía Política? La amistosa conversación entre Carl Schmitt y Leo Strauss, por Eduardo Hernando Nieto

Entre Carl Schmitt y Thomas Hobbes. Un estudio del liberalismo moderno a partir del pensamiento de Leo Strauss, por José Daniel Parra

Schmitt, Strauss y lo político. Sobre un diálogo entre ausentes, por Martín González

La afirmación de lo político. Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss y la cuestión del fundamento, por Luciano Nosetto

Modernidad y liberalismo. Hobbes entre Schmitt y Strauss, por Andrés Di Leo Razuk

Leo Strauss y los autores modernos, por Matías Sirczuk

Leo Strauss y la redención clásica del mundo moderno, por Sergio Danil Morresi

Sobre el concepto de filosofía política en Leo Strauss, por Carlos Diego Martínez Cinca

Secularización y crítica del liberalismo moderno en Leo Strauss, por Antonio Rivera García

La obra de Leo Strauss y su crítica de la Modernidad, por María Paula Londoño Sánchez

Carl Schmitt: las “malas compañías” de Leo Strauss, por Francisco José Fernández-Cruz Sequera

Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss y Hans Blumenberg. La legitimidad de la modernidad, por Antonio Lastra


revue,nouvelle droite,nouvelle droite espagnole,leo strauss,carl schmitt,théorie politique,sciences politiques,politologie,philosophie,philosophie politique,théologie politique,argent,ploutocratie,capitalisme





La religión del dinero, por Ernesto Milá
Dinero, dinerización y destino, por Germán Spano


El dinero como síntoma, por Alain de Benoist


El poder del ídolo-dinero, por Benjamín Forcano


El poder del dinero: la autodestrucción del ser humano, por Antonio Morales Berruecos y Edmundo Galindo González


El dinero como ideología, por Guillaume Faye


La ideología del dinero en la época actual, por Juan Castaingts Teillery
Georg Simmel: el dinero y la libertad moderna, por Andrés Bilbao
¿El dinero da la felicidad?, por Pedro A. Honrubia Hurtado


Los fundamentos onto-teológico-políticos de la mercancía y del dinero, por Fabián Ludueña Romandini
Mundo sin dinero: una visión más allá del capitalismo, por Juan E. Drault
La época de los iconoclastas, por Alain de Benoist
Las identidades del dinero, por Celso Sánchez Capdequí
La ganga y la fecundidad del dinero, por Emmanuel Mounier
El dinero-financiero y el poder de la globalización, por Iván Murras Mas y Maciá Blázquez Salom

samedi, 06 décembre 2014

The Straussian Assault on America’s European Heritage


The Straussian Assault on America’s European Heritage

By Ricardo Duchesne

Ex: http://www.counter-current.com

Grant Havers
Leo Strauss and Anglo-American Democracy: A Conservative Critique [2]
Northern Illinois University Press, 2013

Havers-200x300.jpgAmain pillar sustaining the practice of mass immigration is that Western nations are inherently characterized by a “civic” form of national membership. Western nations express the “natural” wishes of “man as man” for equal rights, rule of law, freedom of expression, and private property. Mainstream leftists and conservatives alike insist on the historical genuineness of this civic definition. This civic identity, they tell us, is what identifies the nations of Western civilization as unique and universal all at once. Unique because they are the only nations in which the idea of citizenship has been radically separated from any ethnic and religious background; and universal because these civic values are self-evident truths all humans want whenever they are given the opportunity to choose.

To include the criteria of ethnicity or religious ancestry in the concept of Western citizenship is manifestly illiberal. Even more, it is now taken for granted that if Western nations are to live up to their idea of civic citizenship they must relinquish any sense of European peoplehood and Christian ancestry. Welcoming immigrants from multiples ethnic and religious backgrounds is currently seen as a truer expression of the inherent character of Western nationality than remaining attached to any notion of European ethnicity and Christian historicity.

The reality that the liberal constitutions of Western nations were conceived and understood in ethnic and Christian terms (if only implicitly since the builders and founders of European nations never envisioned an age of mass migrations) has been conveniently overlooked by our mainstream elites. These elites are willfully downplaying the fact that the liberal nation states of Europe emerged within ethnolinguistic boundaries and majority identities. Those states possessing a high degree of ethnic homogeneity, where ancestors had lived for generations—England, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark—were the ones with the strongest liberal traits, constitutions, and institutions. Those states (or empires like the Austro-Hungarian Empire) composed of multiple ethnic groups were the ones enraptured by illiberal forms of ethnic nationalism and intense rivalries over identities and political boundaries. In other words, the historical record shows that a high degree of ethnic homogeneity tends to produce liberal values, whereas countries or areas with a high number of diverse ethnic groups have tended to generate ethnic tensions, conflict, and illiberal institutions. As Jerry Muller has argued in “Us and Them” (Foreign Affairs: March/April 2008), “Liberal democracy and ethnic homogeneity are not only compatible; they can be complementary.”

Mainstream leftists and conservatives have differed in the way they have gone about redefining the historical roots of Western nationalism and abolishing the ethnic identities of Western nations. Eric Hobsbawm, the highly regarded apologist of the Great Terror [3] in the Soviet Union, persuaded most of the academic world, in his book, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality [4] (1989), that the nation states of Europe were not created by a people sharing a common historical memory, a sense of territorial belonging and habitation, similar dialects, and physical appearances; no, the nation-states of Europe were “socially constructed” entities, “invented traditions,” “imagined” by people perceiving themselves as part of a “mythological” group in an unknown past. Hobsbawm deliberately sought to discredit any sense of ethnic identity among Europeans by depicting their nation building practices as modern fairy-tales administered by capitalists and bureaucrats from above on a miscellaneous pre-modern population.

Leftists however have not been the only ones pushing for a purely civic interpretation of Western nationhood; mainstream conservatives, too, have been trying to root out Christianity and ethnicity from the historical experiences and founding principles of European nations. Their discursive strategy has not been one of dishonoring the past but of projecting backwards into European history a universal notion of Western citizenship that includes the human race. The most prominent school in the formulation of this view has come out of the writings of Leo Strauss. This is the way I read Grant Havers’s Leo Strauss and Anglo-American Democracy: A Conservative Critique (2013). In this heavily researched and always clear book, Havers goes about arguing in a calm but very effective way that Strauss was not the traditional conservative leftists have made him out to be; he was a firm believer in the principles of liberal equality and a unswerving opponent of any form of Western citizenship anchored in Christianity and ethnic identity.

9782253111177-T.jpgStrauss’s vehement opposition to communism coupled with his enthusiastic defense of American democracy, as it stood in the 1950s, created the erroneous impression that he was a “right wing conservative.” But, as Havers explains, Strauss was no less critical of “right wing extremists” (who valued forms of citizenship tied to the nationalist customs and historical memories of a particular people) than of the New Left. Strauss believed that America was a universal nation in being founded on principles that reflected the “natural” disposition of all humans for life, liberty, and happiness. These principles were discovered first by the ancient Greeks in a philosophical and rational manner, but they were not particular to the Greeks; rather, they were “eternal truths” apprehended by Greek philosophers in their writings against tyrannical regimes. While these principles were accessible to all humans as humans, only a few great philosophers and statesmen exhibited the intellectual and personal fortitude to fully grasp and actualize these principles. Nevertheless, most humans possessed enough mental equipment as reasoning beings to recognize these principles as “rights” intrinsic to their nature, so long as they were given the chance to deliberate on “the good” life.

Havers’s “conservative critique” of Strauss consists essentially in emphasizing the uniquely Western and Christian origins of the foundational principles of Anglo-American democracy. While Havers’s traditional conservatism includes admiration for such classical liberal principles as the rule of law, constitutional government, and separation of church and state, his argument is that these liberal principles are rooted primarily in Christianity, particularly its ideal of charity. He takes for granted the reader’s familiarity with this ideal, which is unfortunate, since it is not well understood, but is generally taken to mean that Christianity encourages charitable activities, relief of poverty, and advancement of education. Havers has something more profound in mind. Christian charity from a political perspective is a state of being wherein one seeks a sympathetic understanding of ideas and beliefs that are different to one’s own. Charitable Christians seek to understand other viewpoints and are willing to engage alternative ideas and political proposals rather than oppose them without open dialogue. Havers argues that the principles of natural rights embodied in America’s founding cannot be separated from this charitable disposition; not only were the founders of America, the men who wrote the Federalist Papers, quite definite in voicing the view that they were acting as Christian believers in formulating America’s founding, they were also very critical of Greek slavery, militarism, and aristocratic license against the will of the people.

Throughout the book Havers debates the rather ahistorical way Strauss and his followers have gone about “downplaying or ignoring the role of Christianity in shaping the Anglo-American tradition” – when the historical record copiously shows that Christianity played a central role nurturing the ideals of individualism and tolerance, abolition of slavery and respect for the dignity of all humans. Havers debates and refutes the similarly perplexing ways in which Straussians have gone about highlighting the role of Greek philosophy in shaping the Anglo-American tradition – when the historical record amply shows that Greek philosophers were opponents of the natural equality of humans, defenders of slavery, proponents of a tragic view of history, the inevitability of war, and the rule of the mighty.

9782743612375.jpgHavers also challenges the Straussian elevation of such figures as Lincoln, Churchill, Roosevelt, Hobbes, and Locke as proponents of an Anglo-American tradition founded on “timeless” Greek ideas. He shows that Christianity was the prevailing influence in the intellectual development and actions of all these men. Havers imparts on the readers a sense of disbelief as to how the Straussians ever managed to exert so much influence on American conservatism (to the point of transforming its original emphasis on traditions and communities into a call for the spread of universal values across the world), despite proposing views that were so blissfully indifferent to “readily available facts.”

Basically, the Straussians were not worried about historical veracity as much as they were determined to argue that Western civilization (which they identified with the Anglo-American tradition) was philosophically conceived from its beginnings as a universal civilization. In this effort, Strauss and his followers genuinely believed that American liberalism had fallen prey to the “yoke” of German historicism and relativism, infusing the American principles of natural rights with the notion that these were merely valid for a particular people rather than based on Human Reason. German historicism – the idea that each culture exhibits a particular world view and that there is no such thing as a rational faculty standing above history – led to the belittlement of the principles of natural rights by limiting them a particular time and place. Worse than this — and the modern philosophers, Hobbes and Locke, were to be blamed as well — the principles of natural rights came to be separated from the ancient Greek idea that we can rank ways of life according to their degree of excellence and elevation of the human soul. The modern philosophy of natural right merely afforded individuals the right to choose their own lifestyle without any guidance as to what is “the good life.”

Strauss believed that this relativist liberalism would not be able to withstand challenges from other philosophical outlooks and illiberal ways of life, from Communism and Fascism, for example, unless it was rationally grounded on eternal principles. He thought the ancient Greeks had understood better than anyone else that some truths are deeply grounded in the actual nature of men, not relative to a particular time and culture, but essential to what is best for “man as man.” These truths were summoned up in the modern philosophy of natural rights, though in a flawed manner. The moderns tended to appeal to the lower instincts of humans, to a society that would merely ensure security and the pursuit of pleasure, in defending their ideals of liberty and happiness. But with a proper reading of the ancient texts, and a curriculum based on the “Great Books,” the soul of contemporaneous students could be elevated above a life of trivial pursuits.

This emphasis on absolute, universal, and “natural” standards attracted a number of prominent Christians to Strauss. The Canadian George Grant (1918-1988), for one, was drawn to the potential uses Strauss’s emphasis on eternal values might have to fight off the erosion of Christian conviction in the ever more secular, liberal, and consumerist Canada of his day. Grant, Havers explains, did not quite realize that Strauss was neither a conservative nor a Christian but a staunch proponent of a philosophically based liberalism bereft of any Christian identity. Grant relished the British and Protestant roots of the Anglo-American tradition, though there were certain affinities between him and Strauss; Grant was a firm believer in the superiority of Anglo-Saxon civilization and its rightful responsibility in bringing humanity to a higher cultural level. The difference is that Grant affirmed the religious and ethnic particularities of Anglo-Saxon civilization, whereas Strauss, though a Zionist who believed in a Jewish nation state, sought to portray Anglo-American civilization in a philosophical language cleansed of any Christian particularities and European ethnicity.

Strauss wanted a revised interpretation of Anglo-American citizenship standing above tribal identities and historical particularities. Strauss’s objective was to provide Anglo-American government with a political philosophy that would stand as a bulwark against “intolerable” challenges from the left and the right, which endangered liberalism itself. The West had to affirm the universal truthfulness of its way of life and be guarded against the tolerance of forms of expression that threaten this way of life. Havers observes that Strauss was particularly worried about the inability of liberal regimes, as was the case with the Weimar republic, to face up to illiberal challenges. He wanted a liberal order that would ensure the survival of the Jews, and the best assurance for this was a liberal order that spoke in a neutral and purely philosophical idiom without giving any preference to any religious faith and any historical and ethnic ancestries. He wanted a liberalism that would work to undermine any ancestral or traditionally conservative norms that gave preference to a particular people in the heritage of America’s founding, and thereby may discriminate against Jews. Only in a strictly universal civilization would the Jews feel safe while retaining their identity.

Havers brings up another old conservative, Willmore Kendall (1909-68), who was drawn to Straussian thought even though substantial aspects of his thought were incompatible with Strauss’s. Among these differences was the “majoritarian populism” of Kendall versus the aristocratic elitism of Strauss. The aristocrats Strauss had in mind were philosophers and statesmen who understood the eternal values of the West whereas the majoritarian people Kendall had in mind were Americans who were conservative by tradition and deeply attached to their ancestral roots in America, rather than believers in universal rights concocted by philosophers. While Kendall was drawn to Strauss’s scepticism over unlimited speech, what he feared was not the ways in which particular ethnic/religious groups might use free speech to protect their ancestral rights and thereby violate – from Strauss’s perspective – the universality of liberalism, but “the opposite of what Strauss fear[ed]”: that an open society unmindful of its actual historical roots, allowing unlimited questioning of its ancestral identities, against the natural wishes of the majority for their roots and traditions, would eventually destroy the Anglo-American tradition.

Havers brings up as well Kendall’s call for a restricted immigration policy consistent with majoritarian wishes. While Havers is primarily concerned with the Christian roots of Anglo-American democracy, he identifies this view by Kendall with conservatism proper. The Straussian view that America is an exceptional nation by virtue of being founded on the basis of philosophical propositions, which somehow have elevated this nation to be a model to the world, is, in Havers view, closer to the leftist dismissal of religious identities and traditions than it is to any true conservatism. Conservatives, or Paleo-Conservatives, believe that human identities are not mere private choices arbitrarily decided by abstract individuals in complete disregard of history and the natural dispositions of humans for social groupings with similar ethnic and religious identities.

These differences between the Straussians and old conservatives are all the more peculiar since, as Havers notes, Strauss was very mindful of the particular identities of Jewish people, criticizing those who called for a liberalized form of Jewish identity based on values alone. Jews, Strauss insisted, must maintain fidelity to their own nationality rather than to a “liberal theology,” otherwise they would end up destroying their particular historical identity.

Leo-Strauss-De-la-tyrannie.jpgNow, Straussians could well respond that the Anglo-American identity is different, consciously dedicated to universal values, but, as Havers carefully shows, this emphasis on the philosophy of natural rights cannot be properly understood outside the religious ancestry of the founders, and (although Havers is less emphatic about this) outside the customs, institutions and ethnicity of the founders. As the Australian Frank Salter has written:

The United States began as an implicit ethnic state, whose Protestant European identity was taken for granted. As a result, the founding fathers made few remarks about ethnicity, but John Jay famously stated in 1787 that America was ‘one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors,’ a prominent statement in one of the republic’s founding philosophical documents that attracted no disagreement (230) [5].

This idea that Western nations are all propositional nations is not restricted to the United States, but has been applied to the settler nations of Canada and Australia, and the entire continent of Europe, under the supposition that, with the Enlightenment, the nations of Europe came to be redefined by such “universal” values as individual rights, separation of church and state, democracy. As a result, mainstream liberals and conservatives today regularly insist that Europe is inherently a “community of values,” not of ethnicity or religion, but of values that belong to humanity. Accordingly, the reasoning goes, if Europe is to be committed to these values it must embrace immigration as part of its identity. Multiculturalism is simply a means of facilitating the participation of immigrants into this universal culture, making them feel accepted by recognizing their particular traditions, while they are gradually nudge to think in a universal way. But, as Salter points out,

This is hardly a complete reading of Enlightenment ideas, which include the birth of modern nationalism, the democratic privileging of majority ethnicity, and the linking of minority emancipation to assimilation. The Enlightenment also celebrates empirical science including biology, which culminated in man’s fuller understanding of himself as part of nature (213).

Liberals in the 19th century were fervent supporters of nationalism and the essential importance of being part of a community with shared traditions and common ancestry. Eric Hobsbawm’s claim that Europeans nations were “ideological constructs” created without a substantial grounding in immemorial lands, folkways, and ethnos, should be contrasted to the ideas of such liberal nationalists as Camillo di Cavour (1810–1861), Max Weber [6] (1864–1920), and even John Stuart Mill (1806–1873). While these liberals emphasized a form of nationalism compatible with classical liberal values, they were firm supporters of national identities at a time when a “non-xenophobic nationalism” was meant to acknowledge the presence of what were essentially European ethnic minorities within European nations. None of these liberals ever envisioned the nations of Europe as mere places identified by liberal values belonging to everyone else and obligated to become “welcome” mats for the peoples of the world.

Moreover, Enlightenment thinkers were the progenitors of a science of ethnic differences [7], which has since been producing ever more empirical knowledge, and has today convincingly shown that ethnicity is not merely a social construct but also a biological substrate. As Edward O. Wilson, Pierre van den Berghe, and Salter have written, shared ethnicity is an expression of extended kinship at the genetic level; members of an ethnic group are biologically related in the same way that members of a family are related even though the genetic connection is not as strongly marked. Numerous papers – which I will reference below with links — are now coming out supporting the view that humans are ethnocentric and that such altruistic dispositions as sharing, loyalty, caring, and even motherly love, are exhibited primarily and intensively within in-groups rather than toward a universal “we” in disregard for one’s community. Strauss’s concern for the identity of Jews is consistent with this science.

The Straussian language about “natural rights” belonging to “man as man” is mostly gibberish devoid of any historical veracity and scientific support. Hegel long refuted the argument that humans were born with natural rights which they never enjoyed until a few philosophers discovered them and then went on to create ex nihilo Western civilization. Man “in his immediate and natural way of existence” was never the possessor of natural rights. The natural rights the founders spoke about, which were also in varying ways announced in the creation of the nations of Canada and Australia, and prescribed in the modern constitutions of European nations, were acquired and won only through a long historical movement, the origins of which may be traced back to ancient Greece, but which also included, as Havers insists, the history of Christianity and, I would add, the legal history of Rome, the Catholic Middle Ages [8], the Renaissance, Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Bourgeois Revolutions.

The Straussians believe that the way to overcome the tendency of liberal societies to relativism or the celebration of pluralistic conceptions of life without any sense of ranking the lifestyle of citizens is to impart reverence and patriotic attachment for the Anglo-American tradition by emphasizing not the heterogeneous identity of this tradition but its foundation in the ancient philosophical commitment to “the good” and the “perfection of humanity.” But this effort to instill national commitment by teaching citizens about the classics of ancient Greece and the great statesmen of liberal freedom is doomed to failure and has been a failure. The problem of nihilism is nonexistent in societies with a strong sense of reverence for traditional practices, authoritative patriarchal figures, and a sense of peoplehood and homeland. The way out of the crisis of Western nihilism is to re-nationalize liberalism, throw away the cultural Marxist notion that freedom means liberation from all identities not chosen by the individual, and accentuate the historical and natural-ethnic basis of European identity.

Recent scientific papers on ethnocentrism and human nature:

Oxytocin promotes human ethnocentrism [9]

Perhaps goodwill is unlimited but oxytocin-induced goodwill is not [10]

Oxytocin Increases Generosity in Humans [11]

Oxytocin promotes group-serving dishonesty [12]

We Take Care of Our Own [13]

Source: http://www.eurocanadian.ca/2014/06/the-straussian-assault-on-americas.html [14]




Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com


URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2014/12/the-straussian-assault-on-americas-european-heritage/


URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Havers.jpg

[2] Leo Strauss and Anglo-American Democracy: A Conservative Critique: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0875804780/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0875804780&linkCode=as2&tag=countecurrenp-20&linkId=ZWUAQYNFHAR6IFWN

[3] apologist of the Great Terror: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2013/03/eric-hobsbawm-keeping-the-red-faith/

[4] Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1107604621/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1107604621&linkCode=as2&tag=countecurrenp-20&linkId=SGA5FVCJO5LHXAKN

[5] (230): http://www.amazon.com/On-Genetic-Interests-Ethnicity-Migration/dp/1412805961

[6] Max Weber: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3654673?uid=3739448&uid=2&uid=3737720&uid=4&sid=21104391042883

[7] science of ethnic differences: http://www.amazon.com/Cambridge-History-Eighteenth-Century-Philosophy-Haakonssen/dp/0521418542

[8] Catholic Middle Ages: http://www.amazon.com/Catholic-Church-Built-Western-Civilization/dp/1596983280

[9] Oxytocin promotes human ethnocentrism: http://www.pnas.org/content/108/4/1262.abstract?ijkey=b9ad2efdf008b041812724e617989f6f23ccae23&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

[10] Perhaps goodwill is unlimited but oxytocin-induced goodwill is not: http://www.pnas.org/content/108/13/E46.full

[11] Oxytocin Increases Generosity in Humans: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0001128

[12] Oxytocin promotes group-serving dishonesty: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/15/5503.abstract

[13] We Take Care of Our Own: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/05/06/0956797614531439.abstract

[14] http://www.eurocanadian.ca/2014/06/the-straussian-assault-on-americas.html: http://www.eurocanadian.ca/2014/06/the-straussian-assault-on-americas.html


mercredi, 29 janvier 2014

Paul Gottfried’s Leo Strauss & the Conservative Movement in America

Paul Gottfried’s Leo Strauss & the Conservative Movement in America

By Greg Johnson

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com

Paul Edward Gottfried
Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America: A Critical Appraisal [2]
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012

leo strauss,paul gottfried,théorie politique,philosophie,philosophie politique,sciences politiques,politologie,états-unis,straussiens,néo-conservateursPaul Gottfried’s admirable book on Leo Strauss is an unusual and welcome critique from the Right.

Leo Strauss (1899–1973) was a German-born Jewish political theorist who moved to the United States in 1937. Strauss taught at the New School for Social Research in New York City before moving to the University of Chicago, where he was Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor until his retirement in 1969. In the familiar pattern of Jewish intellectual movements as diverse of Psychoanalysis, Marxism, and Objectivism, Strauss was a charismatic teacher who founded a cultish school of thought, the Straussians, which continues to this day to spread his ideas and influence throughout academia, think tanks, the media, and the government.

The Straussians have not, however, gone unopposed. There are three basic kinds of critiques: (1) critiques from the Left, which range from paranoid, middlebrow, journalistic smears by such writers as Alan Wolfe [3], Cloaked in Virtue: Unveiling Leo Strauss and the Rhetoric of American Foreign Policy [4], and John P. McCormick [5], to more scholarly middlebrow critiques by such writers as Shadia Drury [6] and Norton [7], (2) scholarly critiques of the Straussian method and Straussian interpretations from philosophers and intellectual historians such as Hans-Georg Gadamer and Quentin Skinner, and (3) scholarly critiques from the Right.

As Gottfried points out, the Straussians tend only to engage their critics on the Left. This makes sense, since their Leftist critics raise the cultural visibility of the Straussian school. The critics are also easily defeated, which raises Straussian credibility as well. Like all debates within the parameters of Jewish hegemony, the partisans in the Strauss wars share a whole raft of assumptions which are never called into question. Thus these controversies look somewhat farcical and managed to those who reject liberalism and Jewish hegemony root and branch.

Gottfried offers a far more penetrating critique of Straussianism because he is a genuine critic of liberalism. He is also surprisingly frank about Strauss’s Jewish identity and motives, although these matters come into crisper focus in Kevin MacDonald’s treatment [8] of Strauss. Gottfried’s volume is slender, clearly written, and closely argued—although his arguments tend to be overly involved. Gottfried presupposes a basic knowledge of Strauss. He also talks as much about Straussians as about Strauss himself. Thus this book cannot be used as an introduction to Strauss’s ideas—unlike Shadia Drury’s The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss [9] (New York: Saint Martins Press, 1988), for instance.

Gottfried strives to be scrupulously fair. He acknowledges the genuine intellectual virtues of Strauss and some of his followers. He distinguishes between good and bad writings by Strauss, good and bad Straussians, good and bad writings by bad Straussians, etc. But for all these careful qualifications, the net impression left by this book is that Straussians are an obnoxious academic cult engaged in a massive ethnically motivated intellectual fraud, to the detriment of higher education, the conservative movement, and American politics in general.

1. Straussians are Not Conservatives

Straussians like to posture as beleaguered intellectual and political outsiders. But Strauss and his school are very much an establishment phenomenon, with professorships at elite institutions, including Harvard and Yale, regular access to major university and academic presses (Yale, Chicago, and Cornell for the first stringers, SUNY, Saint Augustine’s Press, and Rowman and Littlefield for the rest), and a cozy relationship with the flagships of the “liberal” media the New York Times and the Washington Post.

This favored position is due largely to the strongly Jewish character of Straussian thought and of most Straussians. The Straussians are one of the major vectors by which Jewish hegemony was established over American conservatism. They are promoted by the Jewish establishment as a “safe” alternative to the Left. But they are a false alternative, since there is nothing conservative about the Straussians. Most Straussians are promoters of the welfare state, racial integration, non-white immigration, and an abstract “creedal” conception of American identity—the same basic agenda as the Jewish Left.

Where the Straussians depart from the Left is their bellicose “Schmittian” political realism. They recognize that enmity is a permanent feature of political life, and they fight to win. Although Straussians cloak their aims in universal terms like “liberal democracy,” the common thread running through their politics from Cold War liberalism to present-day neoconservatism is an entirely parochial form of ethnic nationalism, namely using the United States and Europe to fight on behalf of Israel and the Jewish diaspora world-wide.

As Jews in exile, Straussians prefer that the United States be a liberal democracy, a universal, propositional society that does not exclude them from power and influence. But since the world is a dangerous place, Straussians prefer the United States to be a militant, crusading liberal democracy, as long as its blood and treasure are spent advancing Jewish interests in Israel and around the globe.

Since the American Right contains strong militarist tendencies, Strauss and his followers regarded it as a natural ally. It was child’s play, really, for the Straussians to take over the post-World War II American Right, in which a glib, shallow poseur like William F. Buckley could pass as an intellectual leader. All the Straussians needed to do was assume “a certain right-wing style without expressing a right-wing worldview” (p. 115).

Once inside the Right-wing camp, the Straussians worked to marginalize any nativist, isolationist, identitarian, racialist, and genuinely conservative tendencies—any tendencies that might lead Americans to see Jews as outsiders and Israel as a questionable ally. Gottfried sums up Strauss’s project nicely:

As a refugee from a German movement once identified with the far Right and as someone who never quite lost his sense of Jewish marginality, Strauss was anxious about the “festering dissatisfaction” on the American Right. A patriotic, anticommunist conservatism, one that was open to the concerns of Strauss and his followers, could lessen this anxiety about Right-wing extremism. Such a contrived Right would not locate itself on the nativist or traditional nationalist Right, nor would it be closed to progressive winds in the direction of the civil rights revolution that was then taking off. But it would be anti-Soviet and emphatically pro-Zionist. In a nutshell, it would be Cold War liberalism, with patriotic fanfare. (p. 120)

Of course the Straussians did not gain the power to remake the American Right along Jewish lines merely through merit. Like other Jewish intellectual movements, the Straussians’ preferred method of advancement is not rational debate but the indoctrination of the impressionable, the slow infiltration of institutions, and then, when their numbers are sufficient to cement control, the purge of dissidents within and the exclusion of dissidents without. Gottfried has been observing the Straussian takeover of the American Right for decades. He has seen his own ambitions, and the ambitions of other conservatives, checked by Straussian operatives.

Straussians make a cult of great “statesmen” like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill. But, as Gottfried points out, “From the standpoint of . . . older [American] republicanism, Lincoln, and other Straussian heroes were dangerous centralizers and levelers, certainly not paradigms of great statesmanship” (p. 111). There is nothing distinctly conservative about the warmongering of Straussian neoconservatives:

Fighting wars for universal, egalitarian propositions was never a priority for authoritarian conservatives like Antonio Salazar or Francisco Franco. Nor is this type of crusade an activity that one might associate with American conservative isolationists like Robert Taft. It is an expression of progressive militarism, a form of principled belligerence that French Jacobinism, Wilsonianism, and wars of communist liberation have all exemplified at different times. (p. 116)

Some Straussian apologists argue that Strauss and the neoconservatives are two very different things. Of course not all Straussians are neoconservatives, and not all neoconservatives are Straussians. But nobody argues for such simplistic claims. Gottfried devotes an entire chapter to the neoconservative connection, arguing that “the nexus between neoconservatism and Straussians is so tight that it may be impossible to dissociate the two groups in any significant way” (p. 9).

Of course, the Straussians and neoconservatives need to be understood in the larger context of Jewish hegemony, and the more specific context of Jewish subversion of the American Right. The problem is not just the Straussians. Thus it could not be solved simply by purging Straussians from American life. The problem is the larger Jewish community and its will to dominate.

If Leo Strauss had never set foot on these shores, essentially the same process of Jewish subversion would have taken place, only the external details would be different. There were other sources of neoconservatism besides the Straussians: Zionist Trotskyites, for example. And long before the birth of neoconservatism, Jews were already at work redefining the American Right. For instance, George H. Nash documents extensive Jewish involvement in the founding of National Review. (See George H. Nash, “Forgotten Godfathers: Premature Jewish Conservatives and the Rise of National Review,” American Jewish History, 87, nos. 2 & 3 [June–September 1999], pp. 123–57.)

2. The “Lockean Founding” of the United States

Gottfried is apparently attracted to the anti-rationalist Burkean tradition of conservatism, which in effect claims that history is smarter than reason, therefore, we should take our guidance from historically evolved institutions and conventions rather than rational constructs. This form of conservatism is, of course, dismissed by the Straussians as “historicism.” Gottfried counters that the Straussians

seek to ignore . . . the ethnic and cultural preconditions for the creation of political orders. Straussians focus on those who invent regimes because they wish to present the construction of government as an open-ended, rationalist process. All children of the Enlightenment, once properly instructed, should be able to carry out this constructivist task, given enough support from the American government or American military. (pp. 3–4)

In the American context, historicist conservatism stresses the Anglo-Protestant identity of American culture and institutions. This leads to skepticism about the ability of American institutions to assimilate immigrants from around the globe and the possibility of exporting American institutions to the rest of the world.


leo strauss,paul gottfried,théorie politique,philosophie,philosophie politique,sciences politiques,politologie,états-unis,straussiens,néo-conservateurs


Moreover, a historicist Anglo-Protestant American conservatism, no matter how “Judaizing” its fixation on the Old Testament, would still regard Jews as outsiders. Thus Straussians, like other Jewish intellectual movements, have promoted an abstract, “propositional” conception of American identity. Of course, Gottfried himself is a Jew, but perhaps he has the intellectual integrity to base his philosophy on his arguments rather than his ethnic interests

(Catholic Straussians are equally hostile to an Anglo-Protestant conception of America, but while Jewish Straussians have changed American politics to suit their interests, Catholic Straussians have gotten nothing for their services but an opportunity to vent spleen against modernity.)

The Straussians’ preferred “Right-wing” form of propositional American identity is the idea that American was founded on Lockean “natural rights” liberalism. If America was founded on universal natural rights, then obviously it cannot exclude Jews, or refuse to grant freedom and equality to blacks, etc. The liberal, Lockean conception of the American founding is far older than Strauss and is defended primarily by Strauss’s followers Thomas L. Pangle in The Spirit of Modern Republicanism: The Moral Vision of the American Founders and the Philosophy of Locke [10] (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988) and Michael Zuckert Natural Rights and the New Republicanism [11] (Princeton University Press, 1994). Moreover, the Straussians argue that Locke was a religious skeptic, thus on the Straussian account, “The ‘American regime’ was a distinctly modernist and implicitly post-Christian project . . . whose Lockean founders considered religious concerns to be less important than individual material ones” (p. 39).

Lockean bourgeois liberalism is so dominant in America today that it is easy to think that it must have been that way at the founding as well. But this is false. Aside from the opening words of the Declaration of Independence—which were highly controversial among the signatories—and the marginal writings of Thomas Paine, Lockean natural rights talk played almost no role in the American founding, which was influenced predominantly by classical republicanism as reformulated by Machiavelli, Harrington, and Montesquieu (the thesis of J. G. A. Pocock’s The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition [12] [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975]) and Calvinist Christianity (the thesis of Barry Allan Shain’s The Myth of American Individualism: The Protestant Origins of American Political Thought [13] [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994]).

There is nothing distinctly Lockean about the American Constitution, and nothing particularly Constitutional about modern Lockean America. Liberals effectively refounded America by replacing the Constitution with Jefferson’s Lockean Declaration of Independence (which is not even a legal document of the United States). Daniel Webster (1782–1852) is the first figure I know of to promote this project, but surely he was not alone. The refounding is summed up perfectly by the opening of Straussian hero Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago [i.e., 1776] our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The United States, of course, was founded by the US Constitution, which was written in 1787 and ratified in 1788 and which says nothing about universal human equality, but does treat Negroes as 3/5 of a person and Indians as foreign and hostile nations. But Lincoln was in the process of founding a new nation on the ruins of the Constitution as well as the Confederacy.

Straussians, of course, oppose both the classical republican and Anglo-Calvinist origins of the United States because both sources are tainted with particularist identities that exclude Jews. Gottfried doubts that the “organic communitarian democracy” defended by Carl Schmitt—and also by classical republicans and New England Calvinists, although Gottfried does not mention them in this context—would appeal to Strauss: “Outside of Israel, that is not a regime that Strauss would likely have welcomed” (p. 128). Jews can have an ethnostate in the Middle East, but they insist we live under inclusive, universal liberal democracies.

Incidentally, the North American New Right does not aim at a restoration of the Anglo-Protestant past, which has been pretty much liquidated by the universal solvents of capitalism and liberal democracy. The Anglo-American has been replaced by a blended European-American, although the core of our language, laws, and status system remains English. American “conservatism” has managed to conserve so little of the original American culture and stock that by the time New Rightist regimes might attain power, we will in effect be handed a blank slate for constructivist projects of our own design.

3. The “Return” to the Ancients

The Straussians are reputed by friend and foe alike to be advocates of a return to classical political philosophy, and perhaps even to classical political forms like the polis. Strauss and his students certainly have produced many studies of ancient philosophy, primarily Plato and Aristotle. The Straussians, moreover, have a definite pattern of praising the ancients and denigrating modernity.

Gottfried, however, demolishes this picture quite handily. We have already seen his argument that the Straussians are advocates of universalistic modern liberal democracy, not classical Republicanism or any other form of political particularism—except, of course, for Israel.

Beyond that, Gottfried argues that Straussians merely project Strauss’s own modern philosophical prejudices on the ancients. The method that licenses such wholesale interpretive projection and distortion is Strauss’s famous rediscovery of “esoteric” writing and reading. Strauss claims that under social conditions of intolerance, philosophers create texts with two teachings. The “exoteric” teaching, which is accommodated to socially dominant religious and moral opinions, discloses itself to casual reading. The “esoteric” teaching, which departs from religious and moral orthodoxy, can be grasped only through a much more careful reading. Philosophers adopt this form of writing to communicate heterodox ideas while protecting themselves from persecution.

Ultimately, Strauss’s claim that classical political philosophy is superior to the modern variety boils down to praising esotericism over frankness. But esoteric writers can exist in any historical era, including our own. Indeed, for the Straussians at least, the “ancients” have already returned.

In my opinion, Strauss’s greatest contribution is the rediscovery of esotericism. In particular, his approach to reading the Platonic dialogues as dramas in which Plato’s message is conveyed by “deeds” as well as “speeches” has revolutionized Plato scholarship and is now accepted well beyond Straussian circles.

That said, Strauss’s own esoteric readings are deformed by his philosophical and religious prejudices. Strauss was an atheist, so he thought that no serious philosopher could be religious. All religious-sounding teachings must, therefore, be exoteric. Strauss was apparently some sort of Epicurean materialist, so he dismissed all forms of transcendent metaphysics from Plato’s theory of forms to Aristotle’s metaphysics to Maimonides’ argument for the existence of God as somehow exoteric, or as mere speculative exercises rather than earnest attempts to know transcendent truths. Strauss was apparently something of an amoralist, so he regarded any ethical teachings he encountered to be exoteric as well.

In short, Strauss projected his own Nietzschean nihilism, as well as his radical intellectual alienation from ordinary people onto the history of philosophy as the template of what one will discover when one decodes the “esoteric” teachings of the philosophers. These prejudices have been taken over by the Straussian school and applied, in more or less cookie cutter fashion, to the history of thought. As Gottfried puts it:

He [Strauss] and his disciples typically find the esoteric meaning of texts to entail beliefs they themselves consider rational and even beneficent. . . . If this cannot be determined at first glance, then we must look deeper, until we arrive at the desired coincidence of views. . . . Needless to say, the “hidden” views never turn out to be Christian heresies or any beliefs that would not accord with the prescribed rationalist worldview. A frequently heard joke about this “foreshortening” hermeneutic is that a properly read text for a Straussian would reveal that its author is probably a Jewish intellectual who resides in New York or Chicago. Being a person of moderation, the author, like his interpreter, would have attended synagogue services twice a year, on the High Holy Days—and then probably not in an Orthodox synagogue. (p. 99)

This is not to deny that there are genuine Straussian contributions to scholarship, but the best of them employ Strauss’s methods while rejecting his philosophical prejudices.

Throughout his book, Gottfried emphasizes the importance of Strauss’s Jewish identity, specifically the identity of a Jew in exile. And I have long thought that the radical alienation of the Straussian image of the philosopher goes well beyond ordinary intellectual detachment. It is the alienation of the exiled Jew from his host population. Strauss’s philosophers reject the “gods of the city,” constitute a community with strong bonds of solidarity, and engage in crypsis to protect themselves from persecution by the masses. But Strauss’s philosophers are no ordinary Jews in exile, for they seek to influence society by educating its leaders. The template of the Straussian philosopher is thus the “court Jew” who advises the rulers of his host society, phrasing his advice in terms of universal values and the common good, but working always to secure the interests of his tribe. Thus it is no aberration that the Straussians have spawned a whole series of neoconservative “court Jews,” like William Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz, who do not just have ink on their fingers but blood up to their elbows.

Straussians make a great show of “piety” toward the great books. They have the face to claim that they understand texts exactly as the authors did, rejecting as “historicist” arrogance the idea of understanding an author better than he understood himself. In practice, however, Straussians turn the great philosophers of the past into sockpuppets spouting Strauss’s own views. As Gottfried remarks, “In the hands of his disciples, Strauss’s hermeneutic has become a means of demystifying the past, by turning ‘political philosophers’ into forerunners of the present age. One encounters in this less an affirmation of a permanent human nature than a graphic examples of Herbert Butterfield’s ‘Whig theory of history’” (p. 10).

Surely one cause of these Straussian misreadings is simple hermeneutic naïveté: they reject reflection on their own prejudices as “historicism,” thus they remain completely in their grip. But that is not the whole story. When a school of thought makes a trademark of praising dishonesty over frankness, one would be a fool to assume that “they know not what they do.”

Straussian interpretations have often been called “Talmudic” because of certain stylistic peculiarities, including their use of arithmetic. But the similarity is not just stylistic. Talmudism, like Straussianism, affects a great show of piety and intellectual rigor. But its aim is to reconcile human selfishness with divine law, to impose the interpreter’s agenda on the text, which is the height of impiety, intellectual dishonesty, and moral squalor. And if Talmudists are willing to do it to the Torah, Straussians are willing to do it to Plato as well. Beyond that, both Talmudism and Straussianism have elements of farce—as texts are bent to support preconceived conclusions—and of perversity, since the practitioners of the art applaud one another for their dialectical subtleties and their creation of complex arguments where simple ones will do.

Straussians like to posture as critics of postmodernism and political correctness, but in practice there is little difference. They merely sacrifice objective scholarship and intellectual freedom to a different political agenda. As with other academic movements, the pursuit of truth runs a distant third to individual advancement within the clique and collective advancement of its political agenda.

* * *

Throughout Gottfried’s book, I found myself saying “Yes, but . . .” Yes, Gottfried makes a powerful case against Straussianism. Yes, it functions as an intellectual cult corrupting higher education and national politics. Yes, the Straussian graduate students I encountered were smug, pompous, and clubbish. Yes, some of the Straussian professors I encountered really were engaged in cult-like indoctrination. But in all fairness, I have had a number of Straussian and quasi-Straussian teachers whom I greatly admire as scholars and human beings.

And, in the end, Strauss towers above his epigones. Over the last 25+ years, I have read all of Strauss’s published writings, many of them repeatedly. He has had an enormously positive influence on my intellectual life. More than any other writer, he has opened the books of both ancients and moderns to me, even though in the end I read them rather differently. (See my “Strauss on Persecution and the Art of Writing [14].”)

There are three areas in which I do not think Gottfried does Strauss justice.

First, Gottfried is correct to stress the abuses of Strauss’s hermeneutics. But these abuses to not invalidate the method. Gottfried shows no appreciation of the power of esotericism to reveal long-hidden dimensions of many ancient and modern thinkers.

Second, Gottfried is dismissive of the idea that Strauss’s engagement with Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Schmitt—and his evident knowledge of the broader Conservative Revolutionary milieu—indicates a real sympathy with far-Right identitarian politics. Simply repeating Strauss’s praise of liberal democracy cannot settle this question. The fact that Gottfried has written a fine book on Carl Schmitt proves that he is certainly competent to inquire further. (See my ongoing series on “Leo Strauss, the Conservative Revolution, and National Socialism,” Part 1 [15], Part 2 [16].)

Third, Gottfried is a historicist, Strauss an anti-historicist. Until the question of historicism is settled, a lot of Gottried’s criticisms are question-begging. Yet a serious engagement with historicism falls outside the scope of Gottfried’s book.

But all that is merely to say: Paul Gottfried’s Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America is that rarest of achievements: an academic book that one wishes were longer.

Source: The Occidental Observer, Part 1 [17], Part 2 [18]




Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com


URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2014/01/paul-gottfrieds-leo-strauss-the-conservative-movement-in-america/


URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Leo_Strauss_and_the_Conservative_Movement_in_America.jpg

[2] Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America: A Critical Appraisal: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1107675715/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1107675715&linkCode=as2&tag=countercurren-20

[3] Alan Wolfe: https://chronicle.com/article/A-Fascist-Philosopher-Helps-Us/20483

[4] Cloaked in Virtue: Unveiling Leo Strauss and the Rhetoric of American Foreign Policy: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0415950902/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0415950902&linkCode=as2&tag=countercurren-20

[5] John P. McCormick: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0521664578/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0521664578&linkCode=as2&tag=countercurren-20

[6] Shadia Drury: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0312217838/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0312217838&linkCode=as2&tag=countercurren-20

[7] Norton: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0300109733/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0300109733&linkCode=as2&tag=countercurren-20

[8] treatment: http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2013/09/paul-gottfried-and-claes-ryn-on-leo-strauss/

[9] The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/140396954X/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=140396954X&linkCode=as2&tag=countercurren-20

[10] The Spirit of Modern Republicanism: The Moral Vision of the American Founders and the Philosophy of Locke: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0226645479/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0226645479&linkCode=as2&tag=countercurren-20

[11] Natural Rights and the New Republicanism: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0691059705/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0691059705&linkCode=as2&tag=countercurren-20

[12] The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0691114722/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0691114722&linkCode=as2&tag=countercurren-20

[13] The Myth of American Individualism: The Protestant Origins of American Political Thought: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0691029121/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0691029121&linkCode=as2&tag=countercurren-20

[14] Strauss on Persecution and the Art of Writing: http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/01/strauss-on-persecution-the-art-of-writing/

[15] Part 1: http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/01/leo-strauss-the-conservative-revolution-and-national-socialism/

[16] Part 2: http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/03/leo-strauss-the-conservative-revolution-and-national-socialism-part-2/

[17] Part 1: http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2014/01/review-of-paul-gottfrieds-leo-strauss-and-the-conservative-movement-in-america-part-1/

[18] Part 2: http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2014/01/review-of-paul-gottfrieds-leo-strauss-and-the-conservative-movement-in-america-part-2/


jeudi, 14 février 2013

The Right’s False Prophet

The Right’s False Prophet

Review of: Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America, Paul Gottfried, Cambridge University Press, 182 pages




When writing about the work of an academic historian or philosopher—as opposed to a polemicist, a politician, or a popularizer—there is an obvious threshold question with which to begin: is the writer’s work intrinsically interesting or compelling in some way? If this question is answered in the negative, then there is usually no reason to carry on.

The strange case of Leo Strauss, however, proves that there are definite exceptions to this rule. Strauss’s work is almost universally dismissed by philosophers and historians, yet he has attracted a following amongst political theorists (hybrid creatures most often associated with political science departments) and neoconservative political activists. So, while the verdict on the intellectual importance of Strauss’s historico-philosophical work has been that, like Gertrude Stein’s Oakland, there is no there there, the practical influence of Strauss, its manifestation as Straussianism, and Straussianism’s connection with neoconservatism still present themselves as intriguing problems in contemporary American intellectual history.

In Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America Paul Gottfried, the Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, offers an explanation of the Straussian phenomenon that is concise and compelling. While treating Strauss’s work with considerable respect, Gottfried concludes that the historians’ and philosophers’ rejection of Strauss is, for the most part, justified. However, unlike critics on the left who suggest that Strauss is illiberal and anti-modern, Gottfried argues that Strauss’s appeal consists largely in his creation of a mythical account of the rise of liberal democracy and its culmination in a creedal conception of the American polity.

According to Gottfried, Strauss and his followers have always been more concerned with practical questions about contemporary politics than with intellectual history or complex philosophical questions. Their primary purpose, which allies the neoconservatives with them, is to develop an abstract legend of American politics that supports a moderate welfare state domestically and a quasi-messianic internationalism in foreign policy.

Gottfried comes to these conclusions from several directions. First, he offers an engaging contextual account of Strauss’s intellectual formation. Gottfried argues that three biographical facts are central to understanding Strauss’s work: “he was born a Jew, in Germany, at the end of the nineteenth century.” Strauss’s most important early intellectual encounter was with the neo-Kantian Hermann Cohen, who attempted to make Kant safe for Judaism and vice versa. Strauss was also influenced by Cohen’s sharply critical reading of Spinoza as a proto-liberal intent on conceiving of political life in a secular way that would allow for the successful assimilation of the Jewish people. According to Gottfried, “a profound preoccupation with his Jewishness runs through Strauss’s life” and plays a major role in Strauss’s development into an apologist for an ideological and universalist version of liberal democracy.

Strauss was also influenced by the intellectual battles being waged in Germany at the turn of the century. The Methodenstreit that was taking place amongst economists was also occurring amongst historians and philosophers, and it resulted in a series of conceptual dichotomies that would appear throughout Strauss’s later writings. His trio of bêtes noires (positivism, relativism, and historicism) was at the heart of the conflicts about methodology in Germany, and the outcome of these debates set the terms of critique for Strauss’s youth and beyond.

Finally, there was the political situation in Germany, especially after the disastrous end of World War I. The attractions of fascism to someone like Strauss, whose early inclinations were in a more social-democratic direction, would have been obvious, given the instability of Weimar. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that Strauss’s admiration for Mussolini outlasted the mid-1930s. Instead, the lesson that Strauss took from the fall of the Weimar government and the rise of Hitler and National Socialism was that liberalism was not capable of withstanding the onslaught of historicism, positivism, and moral relativism without solid quasi-religious and quasi-mythical foundations—and that he would be the one to provide those. Gottfried is certainly correct in arguing that for Strauss and his acolytes it is always September 1938 and we are always in Munich.

The second direction from which Gottfried approaches Strauss leads through an examination of the Straussian method and its products. Gottfried provides a critical account of the method and also notes the ahistorical, quasi-legendary, and often hagiographic character of the interpretations that the method produces. The Straussian method consists of two distinct doctrines, neither of which is particularly clear or convincing. First, Strauss asserts that understanding the work of a philosopher involves the reproduction of the author’s intention. Unfortunately, and as Gottfried argues, Strauss never explains what he means by “intention,” nor does he explain how one might reproduce an author’s intention. The second doctrine, however, renders the first irrelevant. Strauss argues that authentic philosophers hide their teaching from the casual reader and only initiates into the true philosophic art can decode the esoteric meaning of such texts. For Strauss and the Straussians, this is not an historical claim but a theoretical one, and it yields an interpretative strategy both naïve and paranoid.

The results of the Straussian method read like they were written by the intellectual offspring of Madame Blavatsky and Edgar Bergen. It may seem difficult to distinguish between the oracular pronouncements and the intellectual ventriloquism, but that’s because there is no real distinction to be made. As Gottfried notes, there is uncanny similarity between the Straussian reading of texts and the postmodern deconstruction of language. The esoteric claims provide cover for Straussian interpretive preferences and shield against criticism from anyone outside the clique. Cleanth Brooks once imagined what postmodern literary critics could have made of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and it makes just as much sense to ask what the Straussians could do with the nursery rhyme.

The two primary conclusions associated with Strauss’s esoteric reading of past texts are that all philosophers from the time of Plato onward were atheistic hyper-rationalists and that the United States emerged fully formed from the forehead of John Locke. Both of these conclusions are historically false, but it is inaccurate to call Strauss or his epigones bad historians because they are not historians at all.

Gottfried suggests correctly that Strauss and his followers are, in fact, engaged not in historical scholarship but in offering an extended civics lesson. He writes that the “celebration of the American present, as opposed to any march into the past, is a defining characteristic of the Straussians’ hermeneutics.” The Straussian professor understands himself as a prophet, a preacher, and a proselytizer, and at least in this consideration there is a significant element of commonality with the academic left. The Straussian past is composed of a collection of heroes and villains, and the story describes a teleological development of political life culminating in a highly abstract and ideologized version of the United States. This legend of American politics has proven to be the most influential of Strauss’s various tales of the mighty dead.

In his third approach to Strauss, Gottfried offers an appraisal of the influence of Straussianism on American politics generally and on American conservatism specifically. It is here that Gottfried makes what will likely be considered his most controversial arguments. He suggests that Strauss and the Straussians are best understood not as conservatives but as Cold War liberals and that their natural allies are the so-called neoconservatives. There are two Strausses and Straussianisms here. There are the West Coast Straussians (Harry Jaffa, Charles Kesler, and the Claremont crew), who read the master as a true-believing liberal democrat, and there are the East Coasters (Harvey Mansfield, Allan Bloom, Thomas Pangle, et al.) who view him as liberal democrat faute de mieux. However, as Gottfried points out, the similar practical conclusions reached by the two schools make the differences between them unimportant.

Indeed, one of the implicit claims that Gottfried makes is that there is not that great of an ideological difference between the American political parties, and there is no difference between neoconservatives and Cold War liberals. Thus the influence of the Straussians derives in part because, despite their sometimes bombastic rhetoric, their politics are center or center-left and not much different from the politics of both of the mainstream warfare/welfare-state parties in America.

Gottfried notes that both the Straussians and the neoconservatives “assume a certain right-wing style without expressing a right-wing worldview.” Neoconservatives serve to popularize the Straussians’ mythical account of American politics by “drawing their rhetoric and heroic models from Straussian discourse.” Staussians, on the other hand, profit from neoconservative largesse. Gottfried writes that the Straussians “have benefited from the neoconservative ascendency by gaining access to neoconservative-controlled government resources and foundation money and by obtaining positions as government advisors.”

For Gottfried, the primary effect that both neoconservatives and Straussians have had on the American conservative movement is to suck all the air out of it and ensure that there is no one to the right of them, while their primary effect on American politics generally has been to reinforce the ideologically charged notion that America is some sort of propositional nation constituted like a vast pseudo-religion by a set of tenets needing constant promulgation. It is a story of America as armed doctrine, and Gottfried is assuredly right in arguing that there is nothing conservative about it.

Strauss was at best a mediocre scholar whose thought expressed a confused bipolarity between a very German and ahistorical Grecophilia on the one hand and a scattered, dogmatic, and unsophisticated apology for an American version of liberal universalism on the other. Amongst prominent European philosophers, Strauss was taken seriously only by Hans-Georg Gadamer, until Gadamer concluded that Strauss was a crank, and by Alexandre Kojève, whose work reads today as if it were a parody of trendy French Marxism. In Britain, neither Strauss nor the Straussians have ever been taken seriously.

Strauss’s argument about esotericism is both historically and philosophically incoherent and useless in any methodological sense. It calls to mind something that Umberto Eco called cogito interruptus:

cogito interruptus is typical of those who see the world inhabited by symbols or symptoms. Like someone who, for example, points to the little box of matches, stares hard into your eyes, and says, ‘You see, there are seven…,’ then gives you a meaningful look, waiting for you to perceive the meaning concealed in that unmistakable sign.


Finally, regarding the phenomenon of Straussianism, the cult took hold here for the same reasons that cults generally succeed in the U.S.: ignorance, inexperience, and a desire to have a simple answer to complex problems.

Kenneth B. McIntyre is assistant professor at Concordia University in Montreal and is the author of Herbert Butterfield: History, Providence, and Skeptical Politics.

samedi, 21 avril 2012

Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement

Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement

by Paul Gottfried

Ex: http://lewrockwell.com/




A book of mine, Leo Strauss and Conservative Movement in America: A Critical Appraisal, is about to come out with Cambridge University Press; and it has a special connection to the Mises Institute. Much of the critical thrust comes from attending conferences sponsored by the Mises Institute and from getting to know my fellow- participants and their writings. Although I harbored strong doubts about my latest subjects even before these encounters, my conversations with David Gordon, Murray Rothbard, Robert Higgs and Thomas DiLorenzo and later, discovering Mises’s comments about Strass gave additional substance to my suspicions. My project became a way of calling attention to a significant body of criticism that the liberal-neoconservative press and most scholarly organizations wouldn’t deign to present. I was upset in particular by the inability of David Gordon (and Lew Rockwell) to find a suitable publisher for a long, incisive work that David had produced about Harry Jaffa’s reading of American history. It was one of the most cerebral "value critiques" by a living thinker that I had seen.

Why, asks David, should Jaffa, a cult figure who is wined and dined by GOP benefactors, be immune from the type of assessment that other authors of scholarly works should have to accept? Why do Straussians like Jaffa, Allan Bloom, Thomas Pangle, and Charles Kesler achieve canonical status as "conservative" thinkers without having their ideas rigorously examined in widely accessible forums? It seems that the only appraisals such figures have to deal with are puff pieces in neoconservative publications and the scribbling of inflamed leftists attacking them as rightwing extremists.



Note that my book does not come out of any political engagement. It is in no way a statement of my political creed. Although hardly friendly to the Wilsonian Weltpolitik of the Straussians, I devote more space to defending my subjects from unjust critics than I do to dissecting their views. Nor was my book produced, as one nasty commentator writing to the executive editor of an Ivy League press explained, because I’m "a very angry person" trying to settle scores. Apparently my madness would "permanently discredit" any press that was foolish enough to publish me. My book at any rate is not an expression of pique, and I bend backward to make sense of arguments that I have trouble accepting at face value. I also treat main subject, Leo Strauss, with respect and empathy, even while disagreeing with his hermeneutic and liberal internationalism. I stress that for all his questionable judgments, Strauss was a person of vast humanistic learning, and more thoughtful and less pompous than some of his famous students. I fully sympathize with the plight that he and others of his background suffered who because of their Jewish ancestry were driven out of their homeland and forced to live in exile. My own family suffered the same fate.

What seemed intolerable, however, was the unwillingness of Straussians and their adulators to engage serious critics, some of whom have been associated with the Mises Institute. These expressions of moral self-importance may go back to Strauss himself. Murray Rothbard observed that at a Volker Fund conference, his teacher Mises had argued vainly with Strauss about the need to separate facts from values in doing research. Strauss had retorted that there are moral judgments inseparably attached to our use of facts. This supposedly indicates that one could not or, perhaps more importantly, should not draw the fact/value distinction that Mises, and before him, in a different form, Max Weber had tried to make. In response to these statements, Mises argued that facts remain such, no matter how people dress them up. "A prostitute would be plying the same trade no matter what designation we choose to confer on such a person." As the debate wore on and Strauss began to moralize, Mises lost his equanimity. He indicated to Rothbard that he was being asked to debate not a true scholar but a "gymnasium instructor."



In my book I quote David, who has taken over and elaborated on the criticism offered by his teacher and Murray’s teacher Mises, namely, that the Straussians reach for moral platitudes against those who are better- armed with "facts." One reason David is mentioned so often in my monograph, and particularly in the chapter "The Method Deconstructed," is that he did much of the deconstructing for me. While helping with the proofreading, which is another service he performed, David commented about how much he enjoyed my text; then, in typically David-fashion, he listed as his favorite parts of my book those pages on which he’s mentioned. Actually he missed more than half of the references to him, including two of them in the acknowledgements.

Like other thoughtful critics of Straussian methodology, specifically Grant Havers, Barry Shain, and Kenneth McIntyre, David was essential to my work. But in his case listening to him reel off what was wrong with how the Straussians read (or misread) selected texts, inspired my project. Without the fact that David cornered me about ten years ago at a conference in Auburn and explained to me in between Borscht Belt jokes the fallacies of Strauss and his disciple, I doubt that I would have done my book. His conversation and written comments, stored in the bowels of the Lew Rockwell Archives, made my task considerably less burdensome. One remark from David’s conversation in Auburn that I still remember was his hypothetical rejoinder to Harry Jaffa in a debate that never took place. Jaffa insisted on the pages of National Review, and in fact wherever else he wrote, that we should believe in equality because Lincoln did (never mind that Di Lorenzo, among others, has challenged this view of Lincoln with counter-evidence). David asked that "even if we assume that Jaffa was expressing Lincoln’s real opinion, why should we have to hold the same view"? And why are we supposed to impose Lincoln’s opinion on unwilling subjects by force of arms? No one else to my knowledge has asked these indelicate questions.



Even then David and I were sick of the smarminess with which certain Straussians would respond to logical and factual objections. Calling one’s opponent a "relativist" or scolding him for not embracing universal democratic values is not an answer at all. It is an arrogant evasion of a discussion. David also observed that in their attempt to find "secret writing" in texts, Straussians would almost compulsively read their own values into the past. Presumably all smart people who wrote "political philosophy," no matter when they lived, were religious skeptics, yearning for something like "liberal democracy." This speculation could be neither confirmed nor disconfirmed and contributed zip to scholarly discussion. Like me, David also wondered why none of the great minds whom the Straussians wrote about was ever shown to be a Christian heretic or something other than a forerunner of those who are now revealing their concealed meanings. One might have thought that if concealment was their intention, these fellows on at least some occasions would have been hiding non-modern thoughts from the public or their monarchs. Why do all "secret writings" seem to have originated with a Jewish agnostic residing in an American metropolitan area?

An observation in my book contrasting Straussian enterprises to the Mises Institute also warrants some attention here. The Miseans and the Straussians both claim intellectual descent from Central European Jewish scholars who fled from the Nazis. Moreover, both groups have processed these biographical experiences and incorporated them into their worldviews, but in totally different ways. Whereas the Miseans view their founder as the victim of a particularly noxious form of state socialism, the Straussians emphasize the evils of the "German connection," as explained by Allan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind. While the Miseans focus on the link between state planning and tyranny, the Straussians finger the uniquely wicked heritage of the Germans in telling us why "liberal democracy" is always under siege. Strauss himself established this perspective, when in Natural Right and History he stressed the continuing danger of German ideas, even though the German military threat had been defeated six years earlier.



While the disciples of Mises favor an isolationist foreign policy designed to dismantle socialism at home, the Straussians are perpetually reliving Munich 1938, when the "democracies" backed down to a German dictatorship, just as they had failed to confront the supposed iniquities of Kaiser Wilhelm in 1914. One might push the contrast even further: while the Mises Institute celebrates the Vienna in which the Austrian School of Economics took form, including the generally supportive liberal monarchy of Kaiser Franz Josef, the Straussians have continued their efforts to counter a threat that they see originating in Central Europe. During the student revolts of the 1960s, Allan Bloom and his soul-brothers blamed these outbursts on German critics of modern democracy. Strauss’s star students managed to find the German threat wherever they looked. In one of my earliest encounters with Straussian professors, at Michigan State in 1967 and 1968, it was explained to me that German historicists had fueled the antiwar student protest with their antidemocratic notions. This connection seemed to me so surreal that it caused me to reflect on the life’s experiences of those who could believe such things.

Significantly, these Straussian attacks on the tainted German heritage play well in our society of letters. A Jewish liberal-neoconservative presence (perhaps predominance) in the media and in the academy renders some Straussian fixations profitable. Well-placed intellectuals are still agonizing over the "German catastrophe" in a way that they don’t about other bloodbaths, particularly those unleashed by Communist tyrants. There is also a culture of defeat and self-rejection among the Germans which fits perfectly with the Straussian war on German ideas and German illiberalism. Although the Left may attack the Straussians rhetorically as "fascists," it shares many of their sentiments, particularly their revulsion for German culture and for German politics before the First World War.

Another factor has helped the Straussians professionally: Their impassioned Zionism has enhanced their moral acceptability in Jewish and neoconservative circles. If their interpretive gymnastics may sometimes drive their political fans up the wall, Strauss’s disciples win points where it counts. They are recognized as part of the journalistic establishment. Whereas the Miseans (and a fortiori this author) would have trouble getting into the New York Times, Washington Post or neoconservative publications, Straussians (and their allies) appear in all these venues as both authors and respected subjects. Nothing is more baffling than the complaint that the "liberal media" ignore or persecute Straussians. This gripe is almost as baseless as another related one, that Straussians are excluded from elite universities. Would that I had been excluded from academic posts during my career the way the Straussians have been.



I do not mean to suggest that there is something wrong with how the Mises Institute has dealt with its founder’s experiences in Central Europe. Its approach to this aspect of twentieth-century history has been rational and even commendable. But it has certainly not won the Mises Institute the moral acceptability that the Straussians have achieved by taking the opposite position. Curiously, leftist opponents have laced into the Straussians for not being sufficiently Teutonophobic. Despite the scornful references to German ideas in their polemics, these Straussians are alleged to be perpetuating the hated German connection while pretending to denounce it. In short, one can never hate German thought sufficiently (except of course for Marx and a few other selected German leftists) to please our current cultural industry. But Straussians can at least be credited with having made a start here.

One final point may belong here: The professional and journalistic successes of Strauss’s students have had little to do with their efforts to revive a "classical heritage" or to make us appreciate Plato and Thucydides. The argument I try to make in my book is exactly the opposite: the Straussians have done so well at least partly because they have bet on the right horse in our current liberal internationalist politics. They provide window-dressing and cultic terminology for a widely propagated American creed pushed by government and the media, featuring calls for armed "human rights" campaigns, references to the Holocaust and the Anglosphere, and tributes to liberal or social democratic "values." The Straussians have made names for themselves by putting old and even stale wine into new bottles.

December 7, 2010

Paul Gottfried [send him mail] is Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College and author of Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt, The Strange Death of Marxism, Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right, and Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers. His latest book, Leo Strauss and the American Conservative Movement: A Critical Appraisal, was just published by Cambridge University Press.


Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

lundi, 13 février 2012

Leo Strauss—Immigration Enthusiast?


Leo Strauss—Immigration Enthusiast?

For many, Leo Strauss is a man of mystery. Was he, as Myles Burnyeat of Cambridge University suggested many years ago in The New York Review of Books, a “sphinx without a secret”, not a genuine philosopher but rather a proponent of “ruthless anti-idealism” who provided intellectual backing for an aggressive American foreign policy?

Kevin MacDonald takes a different view, holding that “Strauss crafted his vision of an aristocratic elite manipulating the masses as a Jewish survival strategy.”(MacDonald, Cultural Insurrections, Occidental Press 2007, p.163).

In his illuminating book Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America: A Critical Appraisal, the distinguished intellectual historian Paul Gottfried rejects what these approaches have in common: their picture of Strauss as an enemy of liberal democracy. Though Strauss earned the respect of the rightwing legal theorist Carl Schmitt, he was by no means, Gottfried maintains, a man of the Right. To the contrary, and despite some ambiguous remarks made early in his career, he remained throughout his long sojourn in America a convinced liberal democrat.

Gottfried traces the misapprehension to Strauss’s popular lectures in 1949 for the Walgreen Foundation, published in 1953 as Natural Right and History. Strauss appeared to many as the vindicator of natural law against the relativism and nihilism that threatened to weaken America in its Cold War against communism. Gottfried writes:

“A one-time teacher of mine, Anton Hermann Chroust...used to joke about Strauss’s visit to South Bend: ‘The natural law Catholics came out in force, and as soon as St. Leo started talking, they were like Moses receiving the Law.’”

Gottfried calls attention to the role of Willmoore Kendall of National Review in propagating the myth of Strauss as a high-powered philosopher of conservatism. Kendall, himself an eminent conservative political theorist, was a hero-worshipper, and Eric Voegelin vied with Strauss as the object of his intellectual star-gazing.

But despite the adulation of Kendall and other conservatives, Gottfried notes that Strauss was in politics an “FDR-Truman Democrat---that is, someone who found even the uncertain Republican Dwight Eisenhower to be a bit far to the right for his taste.” Strauss abhorred Joe McCarthy and feared a rightwing populist outbreak.

Still, whatever his personal political opinions, does not Strauss remain useful as a defender of classical philosophy against modern-day relativists and other enemies of the Right?

Gottfried does not think so. Though he recognizes Strauss’s remarkable linguistic and scholarly abilities, he argues that Strauss was in not in fact an advocate of either ancient philosophy or natural law.

Despite Strauss’ close and careful study of Plato and Aristotle and his ostensible praise for the ancient polis, he did not derive from the classical sources doctrines designed to correct the unwisdom of the modern world. Strauss found in Plato, for example, not the doctrine of eternal forms that most scholars discern in his work but rather a search for truth that eventuates in no fixed conclusions: “Unfortunately, Strauss and his disciples never show that what Plato seems to accept is not what he in fact believes.”

Some of Strauss’s followers go further: Mary Nichols gives Aristotle “a recognizably progressive gloss.” Aristotle’s support for slavery, she thinks, is not what it seems. Modern democrats can embrace Aristotle without worry.

But what of natural law? Here too Gottfried maintains that Strauss’s conservative defenders have misunderstood the Master. Strauss, contrary to his Catholic friends, opposed Thomist natural law:

“Advances in the natural sciences had shaken the cosmology that was attached to an earlier understanding of man’s relation to the universe, ands so there was no plausible way—or so one might read into Strauss without too much reaching—of returning to medieval metaphysical notions.”

If Strauss thought that Thomist natural law rested on outdated views, he can hardly be taken as its advocate.

Cannot those who would see in Strauss a conservative at least take solace in one point? Did he not offer sharp attacks on relativism and historicism?

Indeed he did, says Gottfried, but precisely in his attack on historicism he distanced himself from the Right.


In contrast with the Left, which stress principles supposedly true regardless of time, place, or manner, the Right has exalted race, nation, and community. The immigration controversy, key to readers of VDARE.com, illustrates this division of opinion. Leftists scorn the attachment of a people to its national territory, defending instead an alleged right of everyone to live where he wishes, regardless of historical circumstance. Those on the Right reject such nonsense, emphasizing, with Taine, la race, le milieu, le moment.

But in this dispute between universal and particular, Strauss took the side of the Left. He had little use for Edmund Burke and the German Romantic conservatives of the nineteenth century. We must, Strauss argued, guard ourselves against the “waves of modernity” that followed the American Revolution. In Gottfried’s summary:

“These waves were due to the value-relativist British counterrevolutionary Edmund Burke and to various nineteenth-century German romantic worshippers of History, some of whom are mistaken for ‘conservatives’.”

Gottfried must confront an objection to his interpretation of Strauss. If in fact Strauss cloaked his liberal democratic beliefs in rhetoric redolent of the ancients, would not conservatives have eventually discovered the ruse and abandoned him?

Kendall and his fellow Catholic conservatives have long since departed the scene. There are today a few Catholics, like Daniel Mahoney and Pierre Manent, influenced by Strauss, but they are not Straussians of the strict observance. Why would the conservatives of today embrace a false friend?

Gottfried has an ingenious response to this problem. The neoconservatives, he says, exercise immense influence over the American Right because of their control of so many foundations, journals and newspapers. They are in fact pseudo-conservatives, who, just like Strauss, preach liberal democracy disguised as the wisdom of the ancients and the American Founders. It is in their interest to elevate Strauss as a conservative sage, and they have achieved great success in doing so.

The neoconservatives in particular appeal to Strauss to support one of their key doctrines: a foreign policy for America based on the spread of “democracy” worldwide. Gottfried writes:

“Straussians contributed to the process by which the conservative movement came to redefine itself during the Cold War as the defender of ‘democratic values’. . .a bellicose missionary  spirit is very much in evidence, but it is doubtful that one could link it to anything identifiably right-wing. “

 Gottfried calls attention to another theme that neoconservatives draw from Strauss: the alleged dangers that stem from German nationalism and German philosophy. In one revealing comment, Strauss wrote: “All profound German longings… all those longings for the origins or, negatively expressed, all German dissatisfaction with modernity pointed   toward a third Reich, for Germany was to be the core even  of Nietzsche’s Europe ruling the planet.”

Gottfried finds “a major concern among Strauss’s students, namely that the specifically German path toward a viciously anti-Semitic form of fascism must never again be taken in Germany or anywhere else.” (p.58)

Gottfried argues strongly that Strauss does not belong on the Right. But he must confront yet another objection. If Strauss was not a conservative but rather a liberal democrat, why do so many of his critics take him to be a rightwing elitist, if not an outright fascist?

Here once again Gottfried blames the neoconservatives and their concerted influence. He bring to the fore Shadia Drury, who views Strauss as an immensely learned scholar but dangerous anti-democrat, and other leftist critics like her. He writes:

“Such critics have reinforced the image that the Straussians have cultivated for themselves, as patriotic Americans with vast humanistic learning.  And the Straussians have returned the favor by showering attention on their preferred critics.”

In doing so, the Straussians ignore, because they cannot answer, the most cogent criticisms of their Master: those that stem from the genuine Right. As Gottfried puts it:

“Significantly, Spinoza expert Brayton Polka, American religious historian Barry Allen Shain, and linguistic philosopher David Gordon have all devoted many pages of criticism to the defects of the Straussian interpretive grid, without eliciting appropriate responses. Basic to these criticisms is the contention that the Straussians misinterpret the historical past either by ignoring it or by refusing to notice the religious aspects of what they style ‘modernity’”

Gottfried has omitted one of the most penetrating of Strauss’s assailants—himself. In a brilliant passage, he challenges Strauss’s key claim that political philosophy is the most fundamental branch of philosophy:

“It seems that Strauss is providing a somewhat personal view of ‘philosophy.’ He does not deem as more than incidental to his inquiry those metaphysical aspects of classical philosophy that mattered to Plato and Aristotle; nor does Strauss attach to his ‘political philosophy’ the epistemic assumptions that mark Plato’s discussion of the Good, the Just, and the Prudent.”

Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America: A Critical Appraisal is far and away the best critical examination of Strauss we have. It is no diatribe: Gottfried is fully appreciative of Strauss’s merits as a scholar and thinker. But he makes unmistakably clear, however, that Strauss was not a man of the Right. 


John Venn (Email him) says he is “a student of the passing scene”