The Corner

Re: Strauss

Jonah, I agree with you that Shadia Drury’s take on Strauss is ludicrously jaundiced. She dismisses the idea that Strauss could have been a defender of liberal democracy as a lie somehow proven by the fact that Strauss was an admirer of Plato and Nietzsche. That is ridiculous. Strauss and his followers have an essentially Tocquevillian view of democracy, which they see as admirable, yet nonetheless subject to weaknesses that need to be counteracted by drawing on elements of non-democratic traditions. Allan Bloom said he’d drawn the basic framework of The Closing of the American Mind from Tocqueville, and Harvey Mansfield is a translator of, and profound commentator upon, Tocqueville. Although a great defender of liberal democracy, Tocqueville was a product and admirer of Europe’s aristocratic tradition. It’s easy to imagine a Drury-like attack on Tocqueville. How could a defender of liberal democracy be an admirer of Europe’s aristocracy and a critic of the French Revolution? Tocqueville’s pose as a democrat is merely a lie disguising his true aristocratic sympathies. Etc. In fact, some people do feel this way about Tocqueville. They can’t see that democracy does in fact have weaknesses and does in fact have something to learn from non-democratic ways of life. But Tocqueville and Strauss are right. For a concise statement of the Strassian view of democracy, see this piece by Peter Berkowitz.


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