Leo Strauss in the news

Leo Strauss and his proteges, the "Straussians,"

are again in the news. Jeet Heer writes in the May 11 Boston Globe:

Odd as this may sound, we live in a world increasingly shaped by Leo

Strauss, a controversial philosopher who died in 1973. Although generally

unknown to the wider population, Strauss has been one of the two or

three most important intellectual influences on the conservative worldview

now ascendant in George W. Bush’s Washington. Eager to get the lowdown

on White House thinking, editors at the New York Times and Le Monde

have had journalists pore over Strauss’s work and trace his disciples’

affiliations. The New Yorker has even found a contingent of Straussians

doing intelligence work for the Pentagon .

In the International

Herald Tribune, William Pfaff calls Strauss "the main intellectual

influence on the neoconservatives," listing as Straussians: "Deputy

Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Abram Shulsky of the Pentagon’s Office

of Special Plans, Richard Perle of the Pentagon advisory board, Elliott

Abrams of the National Security Council, and the writers Robert Kagan

and William Kristol."

In her 1988 book The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss, Shadia Drury

argued that Strauss was not really a cultural conservative committed to

natural law and transcendent truths; he was actually a nihilist who promoted

conservatism as a golden lie for the masses. Some of John Gunnell’s articles

from the 1970s and 1980s had reached similar conclusions. In my 1995 book,

Nietzsche and the Modern Crisis

of the Humanities, I sharpened this analysis somewhat by arguing


  1. Nietzsche was a duplicitous or esoteric author, teaching public doctrines

    (such as Will to Power and Eternal Return) that he did not believe,

    because he feared the impact of the nihilistic Truth; and

  2. Strauss was systematically and profoundly influenced by Nietzsche’s

    conclusions and methods of writing. Thus he was a Nietzschean, if anyone

    deserves that title.

Then, in Something to Hide (1996), I

published a comic novel about a conspiratorial group of nihilists/conservatives,

loosely based on Leo Strauss. However, given the level of suspicion that

Straussians now provoke in some quarters (e.g., among followers of Lyndon

Larouche), I should say that I find the actual Straussians curious and

sometimes interesting, but not dangerous or malevolent.

Here is the section from my 1995

book in which I assemble evidence for the hypothesis that Leo Strauss

and Allan Bloom were Nietzscheans.