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This book offers an original interpretation of the achievement of Leo Strauss, stressing how his ideas and followers reshaped the American conservative movement. According to this study, Strauss and his disciples came to influence the establishment Right almost by accident. The conservative movement that reached out to Strauss and his legacy was extremely fluid and lacked a self-confident leadership. Conservative activists and journalists felt a desperate need for academic acceptability, which they thought Strauss and his disciples would furnish. They also became deeply concerned with the problem of “value relativism,” which self-described conservatives thought Strauss had effectively addressed. But until recently, neither Strauss nor his disciples have considered themselves to be “conservatives.” Strauss's followers continue to view themselves as stalwart Truman-Kennedy Democrats and liberal internationalists. Contrary to another misconception, Straussians have never wished to convert Americans to ancient political ideals and practices, except in a very selective rhetorical fashion. Strauss and his disciples have been avid champions of American modernity, and “timeless” values as interpreted by Strauss and his followers often look starkly contemporary.Read more
- Rejects the conventional view of Strauss and his disciples as antiquarians looking backwards for their political models
- Stresses the thoroughly modern character of their political thinking and their reading of classical texts
- Argues that Straussians find it exceedingly difficult to separate hermeneutics and politics
Reviews & endorsements
"Paul Gottfried gives us the most knowledgeable and balanced analysis yet published of the thought of Leo Strauss and of his disciples, the famous and controversial Straussians. Like Strauss himself, Gottfried is deeply grounded in the great traditions of both German and Jewish scholarship. The resulting book is a rich, deep, and wise interpretation of the most important American political theorist of the mid-twentieth century."
James Kurth, Swarthmore CollegeSee more reviews
"Paul Gottfried's crisp and incisive study offers a fresh perspective on the subject of Strauss and his students. A gifted intellectual historian, Gottfried brings a breadth and density of knowledge, both of fin-de-siècle German Jewish culture and of post-World War II American conservatism, which he draws upon to challenge much of the conventional wisdom about his subject. The resulting book is a must-read for all serious students of American intellectual history and American conservatism."
Wilfred M. McClay, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
"There appears to be a terrible mental derangement, called 'Straussophobia', afflicting American academic life. Paul Gottfried is the therapist we need to disentangle its elements."
Kenneth Minogue, London School of Economics and Political Science
"Paul Gottfried is a learned scholar and a principled conservative. His admirably detailed and reflective study, which considers Strauss in the context of European and American intellectual history, commands our attention."
Anne Norton, University of Pennsylvania
"Gottfried's new book, Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America: A Critical Appraisal, is as much a study of Leo Strauss' influence in America as it is an historical narrative about the gradual marginalization of what used to be understood as 'conservatism' in America. Indeed, as he brilliantly shows, these two developments are inseparable."
Grant Havers, Trinity Western University
"… stimulating new book …"
Thomas L. Jeffers, The Journal of American History
"Though academic in nature, Paul Gottfried's Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America is written in plain English. What a blessing this is, for it is mandatory reading for all self-described conservatives interested in knowing about the history and the ideas that have influenced their movement."
Jack Kerwick, FrontPage Magazine
"Readers interested in the character of American conservatism and in the debates over the role of Leo Strauss and his students in the conservative movement will want to read this book … This densely argued book adds to the debate over Strauss and his legacy by its comprehensive assessment and its argumentative stance. It is worth serious reflection."
Timothy Fuller, Perspectives on Politics
"Paul Gottfried's book shows evidence of a lifetime of more intimate engagement with Straussians. He is respectful of the master, formed in 'a richer cultural world than his followers - indeed a Teutonic one that most of his prominent students detested'. Gottfried is clearly disappointed in Strauss’s 'epigones', who are happy to refute their poorly informed but respectable critics on the Left but who refuse to engage in serious debate with their learned and perceptive critics on the Right."
Mark Shiffman, Modern Age
"I've always wanted to read a critique of Strauss - and more particularly, of Straussianism - which didn't devolve into leftist hyperbole or paranoia. This is the first I've read. Gottfried’s critique is really from the right - against Strauss's postmodern reading of texts … against the abolition of history as well as historicism, against the reclusiveness and defensiveness of the Straussian enclave, and against their fixation with Western weakness in which the world is forever 1938. He persuaded me that the core of Straussianism is political, not philosophical - and a true competitor to what I would call conservatism, properly understood. None of this takes away from the truly remarkable scholarship that Strauss and Straussians have given us, or their useful antidote to the idea that all our core debates about the world have been resolved. But it helps reveal the deeply un-conservative and profoundly radical nature of neoconservatism, and its mania for imperialism and Israel."
Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish
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- Date Published: September 2013
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107675711
- length: 194 pages
- dimensions: 216 x 140 x 11 mm
- weight: 0.25kg
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
2. A significant life
3. Constructing a methodology
4. The method under assault
5. Politics as practice
6. Political theory as political practice
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