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Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America Hardcover – December 29, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"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 College

"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

"[The only book that] specifically offers a right-wing critique of this German-Jewish émigré professor who is so often assumed to be a right-winger himself ... Paul Gottfried's book... is sufficiently magnanimous that it may lead readers to a new appreciation for Strauss."
Daniel McCarthy, The University Bookman

Book Description

This book offers a strikingly original interpretation of Leo Strauss, his "political philosophy," and the connection of both to the American conservative movement. There is nothing essentially "conservative" about what Strauss or his leading disciples have taught about politics or morals. Their reading of texts does not prefer antiquity to modernity. Strauss and his most prominent students offer a very contemporary-looking reading of pre-modern texts. They have also bequeathed to the current Right a combination of welfare state democracy and liberal internationalism as a foreign policy.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 194 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (December 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1107017246
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107017245
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,768,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Grant Havers on March 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I can think of no other scholar alive today who can rival Paul Gottfried's encyclopedic knowledge of conservatism. For over 30 years, Gottfried has written several books and numerous articles on conservatism in the American and European traditions. (Many of these have been written in French and German as well as English, a testimony to his mastery of the necessary languages.) No one matches the erudition and study that Gottfried has devoted to conservatism.

Yet Gottfried has not only forged an impressive oeuvre on this subject. He has also courageously and brilliantly challenged all the distortions that pass for conventional wisdom on the meaning of conservatism today. For this reason, his new book on Strauss is a necessary as well as significant contribution to the literature. The vast majority of established conservatives in both politics and academe today in North America and beyond have uncritically accepted Strauss and his numerous followers as "true" conservatives, and, in turn, have endorsed their reinvention of conservatism (often known as "neoconservatism") as the real McCoy. In turn, most leftist critics of Strauss portray him and his epigones as right-wing radicals. Gottfried's book on Strauss firmly rejects both charges and makes a powerful and trenchant case against the popular belief, promulgated by Strauss's friends and detractors, that authentic conservatism is identical with wars for American hegemony abroad.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By W. W. Mcdonald on March 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Anyone familiar with Prof Gottfried's work knows that he has frequently engaged in bitter debates with the Struassians and complained that they were responsible for some of the professional setbacks in his long career as a prolific writer and academic. They have prevented him from attaining appointments at prestigious academic institutions and ignored his many scholarly publications. Therefore, one would expect this book to be a bitter indictment of Struass and the Struassians. However, this is not the case at all. Instead, Gottfried avoids polemics in this impressively researched work. The documentation for this study, though, is so overwhelming, drawing from sources in at least five languages, that many readers may find it a hard slog. The book is intended for readers already well versed in modern European social and political thought.

Gottfried obviously respects Strauss as a scholar and recognizes him as a major thinker who has had a considerable impact on politics and political thought. He is less charitable, though, with many of Strauss's epigones who he criticizes as pale copies of their master and too dogmatic and narrow.

Since Gottfried is writing for an academic audience rather than the general public, it is doubtful that this book will be widely read. However, I predict that it will be eventually acclaimed as a significant critical assessment of Strauss's work and impact on academics, journalists and political figures.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By B. Cathey on April 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In many ways, Paul Gottfried's latest volume on Leo Strauss is a kind of fitting summation of much of his earlier, path-breaking work on multiculturalism. In his earlier trilogy on that topic he traces carefully the development and inherent problems in multiculturalism and its many-faceted effects on American and European society. In this present, incredibly rich volume, he discusses with precision and ample documentation the thought of the late philosopher Leo Strauss, and how his disciples now dominate the so-called "conservative" movement. As Gottfried did earlier in his seminal study, Conservatism in America, he demonstrates with calm equanimity that the legacy of Strauss and his followers has been a brand of thinking that has steered much of American thought away from the tenets of an earlier conservatism as expostulated by a Russell Kirk or Mel Bradford. This has had, secondarily, very significant implications for American politics and culture, and Gottfried indicates what these implications have been and are.

This is a remarkable volume, one that demands attention from acute observers and historians of American and European culture and political history. It is well-written and encyclopedic in scope, a critical book for an understanding of our historical and intellectual milieu.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jeff R. Nyquist on June 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Paul Gottfried, who is known for writing such books as The Conservative Movement and Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt, has written a new book titled Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America. From the titles of his previous books it is obvious that Gottfried has been studying the American Right and conservatism for quite some time. Of course, it must be a dismal study; for how many authentic conservative thinkers might we have (given that Leftist ideas prevail on every side)? One might ask, with regard to conservatism, what remains to be conserved? Consider the state of America: marriage is no longer an enforceable contract in most states; homosexual marriage is increasingly accepted; family life has collapsed with more than half the children born to American women under 30 being outside marriage. It would appear that conservatives have nothing left to conserve. This could not have taken place without the failure of so-called "conservative thinkers." In fact, many who are considered conservatives must not have been so. This is Gottfried's claim about Leo Strauss and many of Strauss's followers (like the late Allan Bloom, who wrote The Closing of the American Mind). They are not conservatives, he says. In fact, Professor Strauss was a Cold War liberal. The illusion of supposed conservatism, for scholars like Strauss and for politicians like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, is that the political spectrum in America has shifted so far to the Left that liberals are today mistaken for conservatives.

According to Gottfried, Strauss was probably an agnostic who understood the utility of religion and who flattered himself that the great philosophers were secret infidels in the same spirit as himself.
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