The Straussian deception: Part I
I came to right thinking and Right Scholarship through a long process of reading, thinking and observing, but the real impetus for my conversion was my deep dissatisfaction with the liberal worldview as manifested in the mainstream Canadian society of the 1990s. I felt that our culture was rootless, trivial, and geared towards eliminating the antagonisms, strivings, and sufferings upon which great cultural achievements have been built. This was being done in the name of tolerance and the recognition of cultural “difference.” Canada had become the world-centre of a pernicious cultural relativism that threatened to envelop the world and create a new ice-age of peaceable dullness. What was needed to stem the tide of endless compromise was a return to absolute values. We needed to regain our ability to distinguish between good and evil, good and bad, and truth and untruth.
Countless others, of course, have had similar feelings, and experienced similar conversions. In my case, it led me to Catholicism. Some others have embraced, instead, the neoconservative worldview, which was born in the United States in the 1950s. The differences between the two, although not immediately apparent, are stark. Any blurring of these differences could lead unwitting right-thinking people into adopting ideas that may have disastrous, and ultimately evil, consequences.
The German-American political philosopher Leo Strauss is the source from which most neoconservative ideas have flowed. The nature of Strauss’s teaching has become a matter of heated debate, due in large part to the alleged neoconservative architecture of the Bush Jr. regime, but I will skip that debate and state what I consider to be the essence of Strauss’s teaching. Strauss believed that philosophers (like himself) could only be assured of their own safety in non-progressive and non-revolutionary regimes. Therefore, he believed it was necessary for philosophers to perpetuate the myths or ‘noble lies’ that allow for social cohesion–particularly those of nationalism and religion. Shadia Drury’s now-classic book The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss is the best guide available for those interested in the roots of neoconservatism, even though Drury’s polemical style leads her to commit some serious academic sins.
In the 1980s, those who were becoming concerned with the politicization of the university found a champion in Allan Bloom, a Straussian disciple whose surprise bestseller The Closing of the American Mind (1987) offered an eloquent and damning evaluation of the state of higher learning in the US. What many didn’t realize is that Bloom did not see the formation of a new, more open academic culture as a solution to this problem. As a follower of Strauss, he secretly sought to lay the foundations of a new educational model that would limit the cultural horizon of America’s youth. Students in the humanities and social sciences would receive cultural knowledge in the form of stereotyped representations of the past calculated to inspire cultural cohesion. Nationalism, religiosity and militarism–the things our decadent liberal societies thirst for–would be fueled, at least in part, by the universities. Students displaying exceptional philosophical intelligence, however, could be introduced into the Straussian club, and told the secret truth that nationalism, religiosity and militarism are merely social vitamins that keep society from falling into decay. The good life is the philosophical life of comfort and contemplation, and philosophers (or in other words, select professors) can only live this way by becoming sophisticated parasites supported by a stable society with a thoroughly unphilosophical populace.
To be continued . . .