Review: Smith, Reading Leo Strauss

September 26, 2006
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The purported links between the political philosophy of Leo Strauss and the neoconservative ideology of the Bush Adminstration has dramatically increased interest in Strauss’s work. Yet, as Steven B. Smith argues in his recent book, Reading Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy, Judaism, this association has done as much to obscure as expose the essence of his thought. Writing in the Times Higher Education Supplement, reviewer John Dunn has given his candid approval of Smith’s book for its timely project to dispel such popular misconceptions about the life and work of this fascinating thinker. From the review:

It is interesting to consider how far any thinker is responsible for the ways in which others interpret him; and Strauss himself was often too maddeningly evasive in the ways in which he chose to express himself to escape all responsibility for being widely misunderstood. But whatever he meant to commend, it can scarcely have been the political touch of George Bush with the world beyond the borders of the US. By now, Strauss’s teachings have been transmitted through several different academic generations and offered, among many others, to numerous complete idiots and some moderately evil people. They have also traveled far beyond the US, not least to France, Japan and now, unnervingly, to the People’s Republic of China. There is everything to be said for Smith’s purpose of turning back to the master and attempting to recover just what he really did believe.

Read an excerpt from the book.

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