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Cambridge University Press (CUP) is not generally in the habit of publishing monographs by extreme right-wingers hailing from obscure liberal arts colleges in rural Pennsylvania. What then explains its publication of Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America: A Critical Appraisal by Paul Edward Gottfried, the Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College?

The key must lie in the book's subtitle, "A Critical Appraisal". Leo Strauss has become a bête noire of the academic Left, being portrayed as the chief ideologue of the Iraq War, even though he died in 1973. For them Strauss is the evil genius behind the most sinister ideology of our age, neoconservatism, and the spiritual godfather to hate figures such as former US Deputy Defense Secretary and World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.

Gottfried is also highly critical of Strauss and even more so of his followers, but comes at it from a very different angle. For the Left, Strauss is an ultra-elitist reactionary who rejected modernity, believing that the masses must be duped and harnessed through the construction of politically expedient myths. For Gottfried, Strauss is a dangerous believer in liberal internationalism and a modernist who rejects custom and tradition. It seems that for CUP any stick to beat Strauss will do.

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Scott Locklin
October 1st, 2012
11:10 PM
It's evident you haven't read anything by Paul Gottfried, including his book, which is excellent *and* fairly sympathetic to Leo Strauss. As for "anti-Zionist, anti-democratic, anti-populist, paleoconservative Hegelian elitist..." well, he's a paleoconservative elitist at least. 2/6 is worse than random chance.

Michael Mosbacher
September 12th, 2012
11:09 AM
I didn't think I was using Hegelian as a "pejorative term", simply stating Prof. Gottfried's position - anymore than describing Gottfried as a paleoconservative or as an elitisit is pejorative. Also Prof. Havers is right that opposing "neoconservative misadventures like the Iraq War does not logically lead to the conclusion that he has failed to support Israel" - but in Gottfried's case he clearly opposes "neoconservative misadventures" and also Israel, and even more so Israel's neoconservative supporters in the US.

Grant Havers
September 11th, 2012
4:09 PM
As a reader and sympathetic reviewer of Paul Gottfried's recently published study on Leo Strauss, I honestly wonder whether Mr. Mosbacher even read this book before he wrote this nasty polemic against its author. I assume that Cambridge UP published Gottfried's study because the author is a widely respected expert on conservatism; in fact his encyclopedic knowledge of the subject is unrivaled by any living author in academe today. As a longtime reader of Leo Strauss and his students, I can also testify that his book is very fair and judicious in treating Strauss as a brilliant political philosopher who, in his own words, deserved several doctoral degrees. The fact that Gottfried discusses at length Strauss's embrace of right-wing Zionism in Weimar Germany reflects the author's commitment to understanding the historical context from which Strauss emerged; it doesn't make Gottfried an anti-Semite Semite! Gottfried's opposition to the neoconservative view of America as a propositional nation dedicated to liberty and equality for all, which Strauss himself insisted was the only way to understand the republic, also does not make him an enemy of Israel. The fact that Gottfried opposed neoconservative misadventures like the Iraq War does not logically lead to the conclusion that he has failed to support Israel or her right to defend herself (as he has argued elsewhere). One can stand up for Israel without being a neoconservative. Finally, I am mystified by Mosbacher's use of "Hegelian" as a pejorative word to describe Gottfried. Is he suggesting that anyone who appreciates this brilliant German philosopher is an evil person? One would then have to count Emil Fackenheim, Theodor Adorno and, yes, even Leo Strauss as wicked figures for daring to admire this dead German thinker. Professor Grant Havers Department of Philosophy Trinity Western University (Canada)

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