Allan Bloom


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Leo Strauss (1899—1973)

Francis Fukuyama (b. 1952)

Alexandre Kojève (1902—1968)


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Americancultural critic and philosopher, Bloom was born in Indianapolis but his family moved to Chicago when he was a teenager. He gained a scholarship to study politics and philosophy at the University of Chicago, where he met his mentor and key influence Leo Strauss. He completed his PhD in 1955 and after three years in Europe, to study first with Alexander Kojève in Paris, and then in Germany, he returned to the University of Chicago to teach adult education classes. Subsequently he worked at Cornell, Yale, Tel Aviv University and the University of Toronto. While he was at Cornell, Bloom served as a faculty member of the Telluride House, whose student residents included Paul Wolfowitz (future Deputy Secretary of Defence under Donald Rumsfeld and disgraced President of the World Bank), and Francis Fukuyama. Bloom was rocketed to international celebrity status with the publication of the huge-selling The Closing of the American Mind (1987), a jeremiad for the decline of ‘proper’ teaching in the US. Drawing heavily on Nietzsche, its central thesis is that social movements that sprang up in the 1960s—such as the civil rights movement—are a sign of moral decay. Its success was not without controversy and the book sparked stern ripostes from Martha Nussbaum, David Rieff, Alexander Nehamas, and Benjamin Barber. Nevertheless the book was, and continues to be, championed by the Right and remains an icon of the so-called ‘culture wars’. Bloom wrote several other books, but none so widely received as this. His novelist friend Saul Bellow immortalized and ‘outed’ Bloom in the roman à clef Ravelstein (2000).

Subjects: Philosophy.

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