April 28, 2005
I posted the following as a comment to the Opium For You post and Dave asked me to repost it as a blog.
I've been researching the devotion of the neocons to the philosophy of Leo Strauss for a long time. If I haven't posted anything about this here, I should have. He was a professor at the U. of Chicago, taken very seriously at the time by any number of bright young things who considered themselves intellectually elite. A lot of my friends considered themselves intellectually elite and went to the University of Chicago, which considered itself the most intellectually elite university, so this was the right place for Strauss. I wasn't considered intellectually elite because I couldn't afford to go there. It was a private school and very expensive. To be intellectually elite you had to be rich. Of course you also had to be a man, so I could only have become a second-class Straussian at best anyway.
Strauss himself was, well, nuts. No other way to put it. A victim of Nazi Germany's persecution of the Jews, he spent his life wasting his considerable intellect finding secrets that didn't exist hidden in ancient philosophers, using this to reconstruct Nazi style philosophy. Maybe he suffered from the Stockholm syndrome.
You had to be a member of the intellectual elite to be allowed to share those "secrets" and this created a vicious circle. Those who wanted to be considered elite were allowed into the inner sanctum and thus could forever consider themselves elite, and plenty of his former students are now in positions of power. I knew some of his followers. You couldn't argue with them because, of course, they considered themselves the cream of the intellectual elite in possession of "secrets' nobody else could grasp -- or were even allowed to know about. Strauss' writings contain their own hidden "secrets" only the initiated elite can interpret and understand. You have to have been given the Keys to the Kingdom or you can't play. The Chosen Ones, the would-be modern Philosopher Kings. Combine this with their cynical manipulation of the Dominionists, who believe that God has appointed them to establish and rule the Kingdom of God on Earth and you've got as poisonously dangerous a brew as has ever existed.
We would do well to research and understand this.
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Posted by: GaryBoatwright at April 29, 2005 6:10 AM
I think Straussian thought is definitely influential in the thinking of neocons, particularly the younger, college-educated types. I had a roomate in college who was extremely conservative, but approached his politics in a very intellectual and philosophical manner. But the rise of the right-wing has been equally fueled by social conservatives like this guy, who wants to ban any book written by a gay author or featuring gay characters. This breed of conservative has probably never heard of Strauss, and seems to be fueled more by ignorance than philosophy, but he is becoming as influential as any well-read neocon.
Posted by: Elyas at April 29, 2005 7:45 AM
Revolutions often (always?) start with relatively comfortable elites. Then, they are taken over and sternly radicalized by non-elites who mostly go completely nuts (menshy-bolshy, Danton-CPS, etc., etc.).
(I hope we never half to add Straussians-Dominianists to that list. It'll be ugly.)
The question is: Were there any precursors of the Nazis, socially elite moderates from which the Nazis took off? I don't know of any. (I vaguely know that the Fascists had intellectual roots in the Italian futurist movement. The Nazis did conduct purges against their own, e.g., SA-Night of the Long Knives, but that's not what I mean.)
Posted by: richard at April 29, 2005 10:23 AM
"half to add" (see above) heh!
I've noticed that as I start to get really old (56 and counting) I am making this mistake more and more often. I never made mistakes like this when I was young and smart. I substitute homonyms (and almost homonyms) for the proper word in writing. Weird.
Posted by: richard at April 29, 2005 10:26 AM
I'm not sure if this has been mentioned elsewhere, but if not, the BBC's documentary "The Power of Nightmares" originally set out to examine the origins of the Straussians, and still ended up containing a lot of background on them.
If you haven't seen it make sure you do.
Posted by: Big Gav at May 1, 2005 5:06 AM
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