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The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss Paperback – October, 1990

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Paperback, October, 1990
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Shadia B. Drury is Professor of Politics at the University of Calgary.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (October 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312042094
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312042097
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,478,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 43 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on May 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
As the author states in her original introduction, understanding Strauss for the lay reader is virtually impossible, because he purposely obscures his ideas. According to Straussians, devoted acolytes of Strauss, the truth, at least as they see it, is far too disturbing for mere mortals to accept. Only god-like, elite philosophers can deal with harsh reality. Strauss engages in what are termed esoteric and exoteric (safe) writings. The purpose of this book is to shed some light on the esoteric writing.

Basically Straussians are anti-democratic in the sense of recognizing natural equality among men. Instead they subscribe to the domination of the strong over the weak - the reality of the natural world. To them, a stable social order requires that elites endorse and feed a diet of religion, deceit, and shibboleths to the common man to hide their reality-based agendas.

In a new introduction, the author makes clear that the neo-conservatives of the Bush administration are dominated by Straussians. It is interesting that she recognizes that philosophical elites require simple-thinking, true-believers of societal platitudes to carry out their radical policies - the very epitome of which is George Bush. Constant, chauvanistic war mongering is essential to keep the population in a non-thinking fervor, while more calculating elements like multi-national corporations can proceed with their agendas relatively unimpeded. The current and non-ending war on terror is a perfect vehicle to suspend analysis of policies and actions. However, it is disturbing when the elected leaders of a nation actually believe their own propaganda and convince others of its veracity.

This book, while demystifying Strauss to some extent, is itself not an easy read. But before one plunges into Strauss, it is a good place to start.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By greg taylor VINE VOICE on August 31, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Shadia Drury's book (hereafter called PILS) is a useful if overblown critical evaluation of Leo Strauss's work. PILS requires a lot of work. In order to really get something out of it, you must be have at hand several of Strauss's books (Natural Right and History, The City and Man, Thoughts on Machiavelli, On Tyranny and What is Political Philosophy are the minimum requirements) and you must be willing to constantly check what she is saying about Strauss against what is contained in those books.
Why would you do this? I came to the realization while reading PILS that even though it overstates its arguments which results in a straw man, that almost every argument that can be made for or against Drury can be made for or against Strauss. For example, I have argued that Strauss's interpretations of Locke, Machiavelli or Plato have to be taken seriously if for no other reason than it not easy to create a completely consistent, well-referenced version of these thinkers that is based on the entirety of their writings and on thin air. That same argument applies to what I see as the straw man Strauss that Drury has concocted. You cannot fault her for not having read enough of Strauss's writings or for coming up with textual evidence to support her view.
However, I believe that she is mistaken and that her mistakes begin on the first page of her book. First, she states in her Preface to the 1988 Edition that she is not going to regard Strauss as largely an historian of ideas but as a philosopher "with a unique and disturbing set of ideas that he is reluctant to state clearly" (p. lix). Prof. Drury has no intention of taking Struass's own self-understanding seriously.
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47 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Bill Barger on August 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Shadia Drury's book originally was a cool and brilliant analysis of the Strauss dogmas, restrained in its criticism. This new edition is preceded by an even more brilliant 57-page preface which emphatically exposes the radicalism Strauss transmitted to his students. They now surround President Bush. His catastrophic policies show that Strauss' near-fascist teachings have infected their advice to him. Absolutely a must read for everyone who wants to know the political doctrines behind our present disaster in Iraq. Sartre88
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23 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Scott on October 31, 2003
Format: Paperback
Unlike the previous review by Mr. Landon, I will say some thing about the book and Leo Strauss (as opposed to the Bush Administration). Professor Drury has created a kind of cottage industry out of critiquing Leo Strauss--a strange enterprise when one considers her obvious antipathy towards Strauss and his followers. Nevertheless, someone needs to tweak the Straussians--it is just too bad that it is someone who has as strong of passions over Strauss as his followers. Thus, we don't get a balanced view of Strauss's work. What we do get is polemic. We learn that Strauss is an anti-democratic elitist and an uncompromising critic of modern liberalism. We learn that Strauss thought all modern philosophers (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau etc) to be fools, while ancient thinkers were breathtakingly wise. Of course there is a grain of truth to each of these contentions, but what is missing is the rest of the picture.
Drury rightly criticizes Strauss's conception of the esoteric and exoteric nature of texts. This is the strange contention that texts have two meanings: an esoteric or submerged meaning that only the truly adept will discover and that contains unpalatable truths, and an exoteric or surface meaning that will do less to offend authorities and common sensibilities. Strauss was too enamored of this practice in his reading of texts, though it does make more sense with a text like Plato's "Republic". In that text Thrasymachus challenges Socrates to prove that virtue would be valued simply for its own sake (even if it brought ruin onto the virtuous man). An adept reader will realize (as no doubt Plato did) that Thrasymachus's challenge wins the day (as Socrates's reply turns on several myths--a methodology that Socrates disavows earlier in the text).
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