Leo Strauss


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German emigré historian of ideas and political theorist. Strauss was professor of political science in the university of Chicago from 1949 to 1968. An élitist and critic of political egalitarianism Strauss lamented the morally impoverished political theory of the modern world, from Machiavelli through Hobbes to modern liberalism, all of which he contrasted unfavourably with the morally rich writings of Plato and Aristotle. He interpreted these as advancing an ‘esoteric’ philosophy, hidden between the lines and concealed from all except initiates, which meant primarily himself and his students. Strauss's own experience was shaped by the collapse of the Weimar Republic, and he saw the modern liberal state as prey to relativism, nihilism, and a flabby inability to defend itself and its ideals. His influence has been much greater in political science, where the right of the government to deceive and ignore the masses is a staple of illiberal conservative doctrine, than in philosophy or classical studies. His students included a galaxy of American ‘neo-conservatives’, as well as writers such as Allan Bloom whose The Closing of the American Mind brought Straussianism into the American mainstream. His own books include Persecution and the Art of Writing (1952) and Natural Right and History (1953).

Subjects: Social Sciences — Philosophy.

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