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Leo Strauss, the Conservative Revolution, & National Socialism, Part 1

LeoStrauss32,992 words

Part 1 of 3

“What [Walter Moses] calls ‘political’ is the political in the ancient sense of the word, rather than in the modern sense that is relevant for us. What is hidden behind this absolute negation of the sphere of the ‘private’ is not a modern Leviathan, but rather its pagan-fascist counterpart . . .”

—Leo Strauss, 1923[1]

“. . . the fact that the new Right-wing Germany does not tolerate us [Jews] says nothing against the principles of the Right. To the contrary: only from the principles of the Right, that is from fascist, authoritarian, and imperial principles, is it possible with decency, that is, without the laughable and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l’homme [inalienable rights of man], to protest against the shabby abomination.”

—Leo Strauss to Karl Löwith, May 19, 1933[2]

“My head spins with a hundred plans, none of which is likely to be realized: England, U.S., Palestine. France is out of the question—in part because of the circumstance that they consider me a ‘Nazi’ here.”

—Leo Strauss to Gerhard Krüger, December 3, 1933[3]

“If I were a German, if I had ever been a German, I might be prepared, or in duty bound, to have that hope.”

—Leo Strauss, 1943[4]

Leo Strauss: A “Nazi” Jew?

Leo Strauss has long been dogged with the accusation of being a “Nazi” Jew. For instance, the first time I saw Strauss’s name was in 1986 in Elisabeth Young-Bruehl’s biography Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World, where on page 98, we read, “Strauss was haunted by the rather cruel way in which Hannah Arendt had judged his assessment of National Socialism: she had pointed out the irony of the fact that a political party advocating views that Strauss appreciated could have no place for a Jew like him.”[5] I sighed inwardly, thinking that even Arendt, whom I admired at the time, could sink to the cheap canard of labeling anyone to her Right as a “Nazi.” (Arendt and Strauss had met in the Prussian State Library in Berlin in the early 1930s, sometime before Strauss left Germany in the summer of 1932.)

But with the publication of the first volumes of Strauss’s Gesammelte Schriften, including his correspondence and early Zionist writings, as well as lectures from the 1940s,[6] the question of Strauss’ relationship to National Socialism (and Italian Fascism) has resurfaced, and given the ample textual foundations, there is no mistaking it for mere cheap political polemics. Let us review the case.

1. Nietzsche

First, Strauss was deeply influenced by Nietzsche, who was the single most influential thinker in the Conservative Revolutionary milieu from which National Socialism emerged. Strauss began reading Nietzsche and Schopenhauer “furtively” as a teenager.[7] In a letter to Karl Löwith, Strauss claimed that, “Nietzsche so dominated and charmed me between my 22nd and 30th years [1920–1928] that I literally believed everything I understood of him.”[8] (This is an exaggeration, as we shall see, for Strauss never accepted Nietzsche’s assimilationist views on the Jewish Question.)

Four Nietzschean teachings that Strauss accepted are particularly relevant to this topic: (1) atheism, specifically the rejection of the Biblical god; (2) the rejection of Biblical “slave morality” and bourgeois mercantile values in favor of a pagan, warlike, aristocratic “master morality”; (3) the rejection of universalism, i.e., the idea of a global moral and political order, on the grounds that the moral life requires a multiplicity of “closed horizons,” i.e., different cultures and political orders that are, at least in principle if not in practice, always in conflict with one another, whereas universalism leads to the emergence of the “Last Man,” a bestialized or subhuman entity concerned only with bourgeois comfort, security, and equality; and (4) the rejection of liberal democracy, which is founded upon political universalism and Biblical and bourgeois moral principles. Although this is not the place, I would argue that Strauss never saw fit to abandon or modify these Nietzschean principles.

2. Zionism

Nietzsche’s principal difference from National Socialism concerned the Jewish Question. Nietzsche saw Jews as a European people. He hoped that Jews, like other European peoples, would set aside their petty nationalism and assimilate to become “good Europeans” who would be equal to the global political struggles of the coming century. In Beyond Good and Evil, section 251, Nietzsche claims that Jews wanted assimilation and denied that they wished to remain a separate and hostile people who sought dominion over Europeans. (If they wanted that, he claimed, it already would have happened. Indeed, it already, to a great extent, had.) Furthermore, the idea of Zionism never occurred to Nietzsche. Indeed, when Beyond Good and Evil was published in 1886, Zionism had not occurred to Theodor Herzl either.

Strauss, like the National Socialists, rejected Nietzsche’s assimilationist view of the Jewish Question. It is important to recognize, however, that Nietzsche’s assimilationism was based on a mistake of fact whereas Zionism is quite consistent with Nietzsche’s deeper philosophical principles, e.g., the rejection of universalism and liberal democracy. At the age of 17, Strauss—while reading Nietzsche but before he was totally under his sway—“was converted to Zionism—to a simple, straightforward political Zionism.”[9]

Strauss was a Zionist because he believed that Jews were a distinct people who required their own homeland. He was a political not a religious Zionist because he was a Nietzschean who rejected Biblical religion, Biblical morals, bourgeois values (Jews almost exclusively occupied the bourgeois economic niche), moral universalism, and liberal democracy.

The Zionist group that Strauss joined at age 17 was the Jüdischer Wanderbund Blau-Weiss (Jewish Hiking Club Blue White—as in the colors of the Israeli flag), founded in 1907 as a Jewish equivalent of the German Wandervogel movement. Members wore uniforms of khaki shorts, blue shirts, and low cut boots. Blau-Weiss advocated a secular, power-political form of Zionism. In 1922, Blau-Weiss was reorganized under the leadership of Walter Moses. Instead of looking to the Bible or modern liberalism for political models, Moses looked back to the Greek and Roman pagans and across the Alps to Mussolini’s Fascism, hence Strauss’s characterization of Moses’ tendency as “pagan-fascist” in his very first Zionist essay.[10] The group developed in an increasingly paramilitary and hierarchical direction, with levels of membership, oaths of lifetime fealty to the group’s Führer, and the rejection of private life in favor of total political committment. Blau-Weiss actually managed to create a German-speaking settlement in Palestine, but when the settlement collapsed in 1926, the group dissolved.

Granted, in the essay in question, Strauss does not exactly endorse Moses’s “pagan-fascist” orientation. But it nonetheless maps out Strauss’s later intellectual journey: the critic of liberal democracy (here represented by Hobbes’s Leviathan state) who looked both to the Ancients (the pagans) and to the “fascists” (Heidegger, Schmitt, Nietzsche, the Conservative Revolution) for critical ammunition and alternative political models. In particular, Nietzsche—who loved pithy sayings—can be pithily summed up as offering a “pagan-fascist” synthesis, insofar as he was a critic of liberal modernity who looked to pagan antiquity for an alternative to Biblical religion and morality. And in 1923, Strauss was first and foremost a Nietzschean.

Strauss was not a cultural Zionist, because he defined nationality in terms of blood, rather than in terms of culture and law. Legally, Strauss was a German citizen. Culturally, he was a German Jew, a self-consciously German Jew who throughout his life apparently disdained East European Jews, even among his own students. But in 1943, when Strauss was a US citizen, he claimed that he was not German and never had been.[11] Meaning that he was by blood a Jew and not a German, regardless of culture and law. (By the same token, Strauss was legally a US citizen, but on his own premises, he was not and never had been an American, since he was and always remained a Jew.) Strauss’s blood-based distinction between Jews and Germans was, of course, shared by the National Socialists. Both Strauss’ Zionism and National Socialism are species of biological nationalism. The main point on which Strauss departed from Nietzsche drew him closer to National Socialism.

3. Heidegger

In 1922, after completing his Ph.D. in Hamburg, Strauss went to the University of Freiburg to study with Edmund Husserl, the founder of the phenomenological movement.[12] Strauss did not get much from Husserl’s classes, but he made a major discovery in Husserl’s entourage: Martin Heidegger. Strauss attended Heidegger’s lectures from time to time, but understood little. He did, however, understand a lecture explicating the beginning of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, which left him thunderstruck: “I had never heard nor seen such a thing—such a thorough and intensive interpretation of a philosophic text.”[13] He told Franz Rosenzweig, that “compared to Heidegger, Max Weber, till then regarded by me as the incarnation of the spirit of science and scholarship, was an orphan child.”[14]

Strauss claimed that he took little interest in Heidegger for “about two decades” after Heidegger joined the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) on May 1, 1933. Strauss says next to nothing about his engagement with Heidegger from 1922 to 1933, but a number of Strauss’ posthumously published lectures contain masterful syntheses of Heidegger’s thought that can only result from careful reading and lengthy reflection.[15] Even though Strauss seldom mentions Heidegger in his published works, he was a constant hidden presence. As a rule, when Strauss talks about philosophical or radical historicism, he is talking about Heidegger. And Strauss talks about historicism frequently.

Strauss claims that, “There is a straight line which leads from Heidegger’s [concept of] resoluteness to his siding with the so-called Nazis in 1933.”[16] But this does not mean that Strauss could not have shared Heidegger’s concept of resoluteness. Resoluteness is relative to particularity: to one’s historical situation and historical tradition—to Nietzsche’s plurality of closed cultural horizons. Resoluteness means owning up to one’s indebtedness to one’s particular heritage and horizon and taking responsibility for carrying it forward. Thus resoluteness could lead the German Heidegger straight to German National Socialism, whereas it could lead the Jew Strauss to its Zionist equivalent.

Heidegger and Strauss differed in their views of the particular identities to which their resoluteness was relative. Heidegger rejected the Nazis’ biological definition of nationhood, preferring a cultural-historical one. Strauss rejected a cultural-historical definition of nationhood for a biological one. Thus Strauss’s departure from Heidegger actually brings him closer to the National Socialist position. Despite the fact that he was a Jew, on this point, Strauss was closer to orthodox National Socialism than Heidegger.

4. Schmitt

Strauss also had an intellectual relationship with another prominent German philosopher who joined the NSDAP on May 1, 1933: the jurist and political philosopher Carl Schmitt. In 1927, Schmitt published his most celebrated work, “The Concept of the Political,” as a long essay in the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik.[17] An expanded second edition appeared as a small book in 1932.[18]

For Schmitt, the political is founded on the distinction between friend and enemy, specifically, collective friendship and enmity, us and them. The political arises out of the existence of different peoples whose values and interests differ and thus can come into conflict, specifically existentially serious, life or death conflict. Liberalism is anti-political because it aims at the creation of a conflict-free world in which existentially serious diversity disappears.

Near the end of 1932, Strauss published his “Notes on Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political,” in the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik.[19] In this review, Strauss affirms the substance of Schmitt’s concept of the political and critique of liberalism, but he disagrees with their foundations. Although Strauss does not make this explicit, Schmitt’s views can be rather straightforwardly deduced from Nietzsche’s idea that the moral life depends upon the existence of a plurality of closed cultural horizons and his pagan-aristocratic critique of Biblical and bourgeois slave morality.

Schmitt, however, appealed to Hobbes as a foil for liberal democracy. Thus, Strauss argued, Schmitt’s critique of liberal democracy was insufficiently radical, for Hobbes is actually the true founder of liberalism. Although the Leviathan seems anything but liberal, the premises from which Hobbes seeks to deduce it are the basic principles of liberalism.

Thus, to mount a truly radical critique of liberal democracy, we have to think our way beyond Hobbes and the whole modern philosophical context. And Strauss gives no indication that this means moving back toward the Ancient pagans. Instead, if anything, it means moving in a “pagan-fascist” direction, i.e., toward Nietzsche.

Schmitt was deeply impressed by Strauss’s critique. According to Heinrich Meier, Schmitt admitted that Strauss had seen through him like nobody else.[20] Strauss helped Schmitt purge his thought of residual liberal premises, which surely eased his way to joining the NSDAP the following spring. Schmitt also eased Strauss’s way out of Germany, supporting his successful application for a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship that allowed him to leave Germany in the summer of 1932 for France and then England, where he wrote his classic study The Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes: Its Basis and Genesis, published by the Clarendon Press at Oxford in 1936.[21]

* * *

Given these connections, it is easy to see why Hannah Arendt, and later the Jewish exile community in France, regarded Strauss as a Nazi, for he shared many of the Nazis’ fundamental principles and influences.

Strauss admits as much in his 1933 letter to Karl Löwith (epigraph two, above), where he states that “. . . the fact that the new Right-wing Germany does not tolerate us [Jews] says nothing against the principles of the Right.” Evidently, Strauss shares the same basic Right-wing principles as the National Socialists. Strauss then goes on the describe the principles he lauds as “fascist, authoritarian, and imperial,” and to characterize appealing to the liberal idea of the inalienable rights of man as “laughable and despicable.” (I will deal below with Strauss’s claim that the principles of the Right provide a basis for objecting to anti-Semitism.) One does not need to squint between the lines to take this as Strauss’s confession that he was a kind of Nazi.

Nevertheless, I will argue that this view is fundamentally mistaken. Strauss was not a Nazi. Rather, Strauss merely resembles a Nazi because both he and the National Socialists are species of a wider intellectual genus, namely the Conservative Revolutionary milieu of post-World War I Germany, which included Heidegger and Schmitt as well as Oswald Spengler, Ernst Jünger, and Arthur Moeller Van Den Bruck, and behind them all, Nietzsche. Thus Strauss had no allegiance to “Nazi” ideas per se, but only to Conservative Revolutionary ideas that the National Socialists shared as well.

I will also argue that after he left Germany, Strauss systematically obfuscated the common Conservative Revolutionary roots of his thinking and National Socialism. My primary focus will be on Strauss’ 1941 lecture “German Nihilism.”


[1] Leo Strauss, Reply to Frankfurt’s “Word of Principle,” in The Early Writings (1921–1932), ed. and trans. Michael Zank (Albany: SUNY Press, 2002), p. 65; cf. Leo Strauss, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 2, Philosophie und Gesetz—Frühe Schriften, ed. Heinrich Meier (Stuttgart/Weimar: Metzler-Verlag, 1997), p. 300.

[2] Leo Strauss, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 3, Hobbes politische Wissenschaft und zugehörige Schriften—Briefe, ed. Heinrich Meier (Stuttgart/Weimar: Metzler, 2001), p. 625; I am adapting Susan Meld Shell’s translation from “‘To Spare the Vanquished and Crush the Arrogant’: Leo Strauss’s lecture on ‘German Nihilism’,” in The Cambridge Companion to Leo Strauss, ed. Steven B. Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 185–86.

[3]  Strauss, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 3, p. 435.

[4] Leo Strauss, “The Re-education of the Axis Countries Concerning the Jews,” The Review of Politics 69 (2007): 530–38, p. 538. This is the text of a lecture delivered on November 7, 1943, to the annual meeting of the Conference on Jewish Relations, the New School for Social Research, New York City.

[5] Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), p. 98.

[6] See, in particular, Leo Strauss, “German Nihilism,” [1940], Interpretation 26 (1999): 352–78; “The Living Issues of German Postwar Philosophy” [1940], in Heinrich Meier, Leo Strauss and the Theologico-Political Problem, trans. Marcus Brainerd (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); “What Can we Learn from Political Theory?,” [1942], Review of Politics 69 (2007): 515–29; and “The Re-education of the Axis Countries Concerning the Jews,” [1943].

[7] Leo Strauss and Jacob Klein, “A Giving of Accounts,” in Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity: Essays and Lectures in Modern Jewish Thought, ed. Kenneth Hart Green (Albany: SUNY Press, 1997), p. 60.

[8] Correspondence of Karl Löwith and Leo Strauss, trans. George Elliot Tucker, Independent Journal of Philosophy 5/6 (1988): 177–92, p. 183.

[9] Strauss, “A Giving of Accounts,” p. 460.

[10] Strauss, Reply to Frankfurt’s “Word of Principle,” p. 65

[11] Strauss, “The Re-education of the Axis Countries Concerning the Jews,” p. 538.

[12] On Husserl, see “Philosophy as Rigorous Science and Political Philosophy,” [1971], in Leo Strauss: Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, ed. Thomas L. Pangle (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983). See also “A Giving of Accounts,” pp. 460–61.

[13] Martin Heidegger, Phänomenologische Interpretationen ausgewählter Abhandlungen des Aristoteles zur Ontologie und Logik, Gesamtausgabe, vol. 62, Günther Neumann (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2005).

[14] Strauss, “A Giving of Accounts,” p. 461.

[15] Leo Strauss, “Existentialism,” ed. David Bolotin, Christopher Bruell, and Thomas L. Pangle, Interpretation 22 (1995): 301–20, a lecture delivered in February of 1955 at the Hillel Foundation (a Jewish campus organization) at the University of Chicago, and “The Problem of Socrates, ed. David Bolotin, Christopher Bruell, and Thomas L. Pangle, Interpretation 22 (1995): 321–38, a lecture delivered April 17, 1970 at St. John’s College, Annapolis. See also “The Living Issues of German Postwar Philosophy,” 1940 and “Philosophy as Rigorous Science and Political Philosophy,” 1971.

[16] Strauss, “A Giving of Accounts,” p. 461.

[17] Carl Schmitt, “Der Begriff des Politischen,” Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, vol. 58, no. 1 (September 1927): 1–33.

[18] Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, trans. George Schwab (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996).

[19] Leo Strauss, “Anmerkungen zu Carl Schmitt, Der Begriff des Politischen,” Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, vol. 67, no. 6 (August–September 1932): 732–49. Translations of Strauss’s “Notes” appear in the University of Chicago’s edition of The Concept of the Political and Heinrich Meier, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue, trans. J. Harvey Lomax (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), p. xvii.

[20] Meier, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss, p. xvii.

[21] Leo Strauss, The Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes: Its Basis and Genesis, trans. Elsa Sinclair (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1936).



  1. David
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Great article, much to agree with. I take it that you’ll disect “Why we Remain Jews?” in due course.

    Elisabeth Young-Bruehl is quite biased and hostile to Strauss in her Arendt biography. Years ago, I finally tracked down the unpublished notes of Arendt on which Young-Bruehl draws to character assassinate Strauss and surprisingly found that Arendt is much more sensitive and even complimentary about Strauss’s position than you would ever be led to believe from Young-Bruehl’s paraphrased summary in her biography. If I can find it, I’ll quote the relevant bits.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted January 28, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your kind words and for the information on Elisabeth Young-Bruel, Arendt, and Strauss.

      • David
        Posted January 29, 2013 at 3:21 am | Permalink

        I’ve found the unpublished Arendt paper which mentions Strauss and I’ll quote the relevant bit, though the whole lecture is itself interesting:

        “It would be unjust and a serious mistake if one would confuse these confused majority with another category which, though small, is fairly typical for a higher class of German-Jewish intellectuals. These who are to be found among scholars, do not feel entitled to advise the Allies about their future foreign policy, but have on the other hand, and rather privately decided never to forget and never again to set foot on German soil. As Leo Strauss, one of the outfit of the New School for Social Research, once put it: No decent self-respecting Jew with any sense of honor should ever again have anything to do with German politics or return to Germany, no matter what government the Germans choose to elect after the war. Germany, in their opinion, should become another Spain and a ban should exclude any Jew from the Jewish community who settles in Germany. They think, that no matter how they might explain Hitler’s rise to power and the terrible things which then have been done, the facts are too outstanding, too horrible, the responsiblity of the German people too clearly involved as that Jews for many generations to come could ever forget.

        This feeling, rarely expressed in clear terms, is so natural a reaction, that one may assert that there can be hardly a single Jew who has not been overwhelmed by it at one time or another. It is this feeling rather than any of the ideological forms and revenge plans in which it may be expressed that earns the above-mentioned self-appointed experts and advisers of the Allied foreign policy their great applause. Since this feeling itself is not yet political and since nobody tries a clear analysis of either the role of the Jews in Europe or the part played by anti-Semitism in National Socialism, it can easily be exploited by anybody. For an attitude of complete aloofness which cares only for one’s own personal dignity and honor may be satisfactory for a few scholars; it certainly cannot satisfy a larger public.”

        • Greg Johnson
          Posted January 29, 2013 at 6:29 am | Permalink

          This is actually relevant to the other discussion of Strauss in Young-Bruehl on p. 169.

    • Kaspar
      Posted January 29, 2013 at 4:45 am | Permalink

      Dear David,

      thanks for this information. I would be VERY interested in those remarks, and would appreciate it greatly if you were to share them with me. Perhaps you could write me an e-mail at [email protected]? thanks

  2. bluegrass
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    This essay really gets to the heart of the complex and elusive the Jewish Question. They’re parts of me prone to pessimism in the line of what I believed Hitler himself thought of the Zionist project: that it would prove an inevitable failure because the Jewish people by nature would never shed their border free world of global power in favor of traditional and grounded nationhood.

    Sadly, seeing that modern Jewish power still consists of this cover-all-the-bases strategy, with explicit nationalism and ethnocentrism in Israel going and in hand with implicit nationalism and ethnocentrism in traditionally western countries, it appears Hitler was right.

    Yet unless I’m seeing nothing but smoke and mirrors, it seems that the Jewish people themselves are grappling with the Jewish question in ways that few of their thinkers anticipated, or were denounced because it exposed Jewish hypocrisy in formulating multiculturalism. This idea being that the “silent holocaust,” or genocide through intermarriage and assimilation, which today may have more adherents in Israel than I had originally anticipated. Ron Unz gives an example of this when he wrote in his “the myth of American meritocracy” that Jewish ivy league students, once known for their prevalence as high-achievers in the philosophies and sciences, had long ago shed this heritage of intellectual competitiveness. Today they favor simply riding connections into an easy life managing the West’s lucrative but volatile financial machinations. They often take shiksa wives, even Asian ones, and their children could only be called ethnically Jewish with a far reach of the imagination.

    So will the JQ be solved by a great schism within the Jewish intellectual and political leadership? Such a split would in our current hyper-Judaic western climate, have political and social reverberations and consequences equaling the great schism of the Christian church. It would mean two separate Jewish people: the Israelite of an increasingly traditional, nationalist, and defensive nature vs the liberal and globalized Jewish population that calls the increasingly amorphous nation’s of the West their spiritual home.

    Does Rahm Emanuel care as much about Israel as say, Dan Senor? For the former, is being a feudal lord in a liberal cesspit more enthralling then secretly maneuvering the American political sphere to ensure the Zionist project? Can Dan “Israel first” Senor honestly look at this U.S. Nation and see a viable long term backer for the Jewish state in an increasingly shaky geopolitical arena?

    The Jewish elite laud the increasing brazillification/balkanization of America, but is Brazil a 1st rate world power keeping anti-Semitism in check through military force?

    As a plebe myself I’ll never actually know the answers to these questions, or whether I’m even asking the right ones. I’ll I can take comfort in is that everything is always 10x worse than what the mainstream says is canon, which means there will always be hope for the 14 words.

  3. NND
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    I read Counter-Currents everyday. This page have interesting articles, and not so interesting articles, and this one falls into the last categorie. Who cares about the ideas of a jewish who is the intellectual father of the Neocon movement??

    We have to fight the enemy, not study him. If the fight is in the “ideas” field, we have to promote OUR ideas, not try to see the “good side” of the enemy’s ideas.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted January 28, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Just ignore the stuff you don’t like. But be warned: there is going to be a lot more of it.

      • Daniel
        Posted January 28, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

        I am actually very impressed by this piece. I find Leo Strauss to be a fascinating figure, much more than the driveling idiots at the American Enterprise Institute and The Weekly Standard that would pose as his intellectual heirs. His relationship with Carl Schmitt (who’s The Concept of the Political I recently started reading) is of particular interest to me.

        I know that Paul Gottfried has a book out recently on Strauss. I haven’t read it, though it is my understanding that he ultimately concludes that Strauss is a defender of liberal democracy rather than the conservative revolution.

    • Jim Stark
      Posted January 28, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Permalink


      It might be your first inclination to want to ” just go after the enemy.” That’s assuming you know who the enemy is and where to find him. After all, it’s not as easy as just showing up to the local synagogue.

      The purpose of articles like this is to show who the enemy is, what he thinks, and how he operates, so you can predict where he will be in the future and what to do when you find him.

      The battle is more ideological at this point anyways, and I’m assuming that’s partly why you read CC regularly.

      Also, it’s necessary to rewrite history to portray the enemy in a more realistic light, so as not ascribe to them too much power and, hence, overestimate their abilities. Historical revisionism is partly a softening up of the enemy, so that he doesn’t seem so imposing. Not to mention just being a truer account of what has happened.

      I really enjoy these types of articles now, but I had the same reaction as you at first. They really are necessary and you need to learn to “respect” the enemy, so as to have the humility to defeat him. In this regard, I liked Michael O’Meara’s recent article, “How The Irish Became White” and Jonathan Bowden’s article, “The Communist Cell At Cambridge.”

      • SD
        Posted January 28, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

        Good points by Jim Stark. It’s always productive to study “the enemy.” Anything that broadens our perspective is a good thing.

  4. m
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    I look forward to part 2, of course. Two points to keep in mind: First, in general Strauss’ objection to religion was not so much theological as philosophical. That is to say, much of his work dealt with the theme of the possibility of knowledge, and its hierarchy of demonstration, including poetic manifestations, revelation (one here includes the testaments of the Greek oracles in addition to Jesus and the earlier Jewish prophets), and the philosophic. Strauss was always first and foremost in the camp of the philosophers.

    Second, as a footnote to a footnote (number 20), the work of Heinrich Meier has been subjected to its own critique, and we can cite Robert Howse, whose arguments must be confronted before one can make a reasoned judgement. His The Use and Abuse of Leo Strauss in the Schmitt Revival on the German Right is worth reviewing, and a copy can be found on line with a proper search.

  5. David Halevi
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting article. I wonder how Strauss reconciled his distaste for “universalism, i.e., the idea of a global moral and political order” with his enthusiasm for “imperial principles”. After all, the ancient pagan Roman imperium was nothing if not universalist.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted January 28, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      I’ll get to that. Basically, the only way that Jews can exist as a diaspora within Right-wing (authoritarian, hierachical, anti-liberal) societies is if these societies are also imperial, meaning multicultural, rather than exclusively nationalist. Like most Jews, Strauss basically wanted to have it both ways, meaning that he preached national exclusivity for his own people (whether in Palestine or in exile) while preaching that other peoples make themselves multicultural and permeable to Jewish colonization, subversion, and domination.

      • Mark Robinson
        Posted January 29, 2013 at 12:10 am | Permalink

        Like most Jews, Strauss basically wanted to have it both ways, meaning that he preached national exclusivity for his own people (whether in Palestine or in exile) while preaching that other peoples make themselves multicultural and permeable to Jewish colonization, subversion, and domination.

        I was a liberal philo-semite, but I learned exactly what you said by just watching them.

  6. kennewick man
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Interesting essay. I suppose Strauss left Germany for France in 1932, not 1942.

  7. Jaego
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” He later deeply regretted saying that once it went far and wide. It sent the wrong message and didn’t represent his real values. But Jews do really seem to believe it, at least relative to us. Their other values are for them alone.

    So is this closer to Nietzsche, Paganism, or Nazism? Probably Nazism, in it’s narrowest forms. Nietzsche and Paganism had their own forms of humanism, and to the extent they were Universal, it was Philosophic and not Political. The Pagans often saw each other gods as the same under different names. Of course, Alexander and later the Roman Empire were a falling away from this ideal since they tried to set up Universal States through conquest.

  8. rhondda
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    I read on another site that Strauss wanted to be a Pagan Fascist, but since he was jewish and therefore not eligible , he decided to destroy from within. Well, that last part, is my conclusion. Sort of like Ayn Rand idolizing the Nordic White male and doing everything in her power to seduce him to her way of thinking.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      Strauss was a Jewish “pagan fascist,” meaning a Nietzschean secular Zionist, which is just the Jewish version of German Racial Nationalism, that is to say, National Socialism.

  9. rhondda
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, I was struggling to come to that.

  10. Jef Costello
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Just read this wonderful article. But it’s been days and Part II has not appeared. What gives?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted February 5, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      The wheels of justice grind fine but slow. Patience, grasshopper. I have many things to juggle.

  11. james hamilton
    Posted February 14, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, excellent article. Are you aware of the book Leo Strauss & Nietzsche by Laurence Lampert? Or the 2 works Political Ideas of Leo Strauss & LS & the American Right by Prof Shadia Drury?

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