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Comments by rootless_e
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On “The perfect speech…

For the first, I have been struck by that tone in Strauss before - it seems consistent with the longing for unrestrained authority (and unrestrained power) that is common on the right. If you don't see it - fine. I'm not suggesting this observation as a summary of his life's work.

For the second: Locke is attempting to elucidate the meaning of what he believes to be divine revelation. But Plato and Machiavelli are not God - their contradictions, lapses, confusions, are most likely to be explained by their status as people. As a philological or historical exercise, extracting some hidden messages may be of interest, but this has a conclusive weight in understanding politics/philosophy much in the same way that numerology has for those who do not have faith in the divine origin of the text,

BTW: those interested in Machiavelli might want to find out about Zhuge Liang, the Legalists, and other Chinese political theory/strategy in which the issues of e.g. establishing the authority of a new regime are treated extensively and often very perceptively.

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That's an excessively generous assessment. Longing for the strong hand of Roman imperium (as does Justice Scalia) and expressing skepticism about liberal democracy are not really the same thing.

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I'm not arguing for Strauss as some sort of Evil Plotter - in fact, if he had stayed in Germany to learn about the virtues of Imperial Authority in some gas chamber the Neo-Cons would have found any number of other sources that fit their purpose. Ayn Rand perhaps lacked some academic cred, but that story of the elect that need to manage the rabble always has some adherents - hell, just take some Hermann Hesse and add latin. I just note that Strauss's contempt for the rabble, his doctrine of the elect few and their esoteric knowledge, etc, was a nice purified right wing substitute for the Trotskyite Vanguardism that the first generation of neocons found to be no longer profitable or prestigious. Whether this is what Strauss intended is not something I have an opinion on.

I do find Strauss's writing style repellent all that secret meaning crap to be ridiculous. The claim in the fragment you cite is silly - just read Pericles speech in Thucydides - a brilliant speech that is slipshod and full of loose threads and clearly produced by someone who did not think that rhetorical tricks were beneath him. The speech that approaches perfection is fully human, poetic, often sentimental and often contradictory. The stern master impatiently and contemptuously barking out orders is a sad and creepy ideal. We've seen that story play out too many times. And it's not that skepticism about Democratic systems is something unacceptable. What's unacceptable is fascism, the self-appointed elect, the dictatorship of the savants (and who came up with that phrase - if we are going to be pedantic?), the idea that some group of nitwits from U. Chicago or anywhere else can consider the masses to be cattle or expendable chess pieces.

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I retroactively retract "supported the nazis" and replace it with "sympathetic to the far right and nationalistic authoritarianism"

See letter quoted below.

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" If they are merely “nasty clowns,” then why are they even worth discussing? I don’t mean that question merely rhetorically. Why do the neocons matter, and why is whatever they’re supposed to have derived from Strauss connected to it?"

There is nothing about being a nasty clown that makes one harmless. The moronic and hapless quality of Wolfowitz and Kristol's thinking did not make them less dangerous to the people of Iraq. The confused nature of Stormfront ranting doesn't mean that given the right circumstances they could not do a lot of damage.

As for what the neo-cons got from Strauss, they are pretty much upfront about it. For example: http://reason.com/archives/2001/10/17/the-voice-of-neoconservatism

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Careful around fires, all that gas may be flammable.

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http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/06/hbc-90005094

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article5010.htm

and

And, what concerns this matter: the fact that the new right-wing Germany does not tolerate us says nothing against the principles of the right. To the contrary: only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible with seemliness, that is, without resort to the ludicrous and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l’homme(5) to protest against the shabby abomination.(6) I am reading Caesar’s Commentaries with deep understanding, and I think of Virgil’s Tu regere imperio… parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.(7) There is no reason to crawl to the cross, neither to the cross of liberalism, as long as somewhere in the world there is a glimmer of the spark of the Roman thought. And even then: rather than any cross, I’ll take the ghetto.
-- Strauss from http://balkin.blogspot.com/2006/07/letter_16.html

As for Strauss's larger body of work, I confess to a lack of interest. I just note that this longing for/to-be an impatient and controlling master is something I have seen before in Strauss's work and it strikes me as grotesque.

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Strauss did not write that in outer space, as a being outside the current of human history. He wrote it as a German Jew who supported the Nazis until it became clear that there would be no exceptions for him and as the intellectual inspiration for the nasty clowns of the neo-con movement. I don't know how one can read that passage and not think of the pretensions of the Nazis and Neo-Cons to superior judgment and reason or to Heidigger's bizarre post-war claim that "Concerning 1933: I expected from National Socialism a spiritual renewal of life in its entirety ". In 1933 - another intellectual intoxicated by sadism.

As for the passage itself, like much of Strauss's writing, exhibits this creepy longing for mastery. Strauss here is not discussing good writing by human beings, something that at best will be limited, flawed, and partially correct. Instead he fantasizes about The Master, stern, guided by reason "which knows how to persuade and which knows how to forbid", disdainful, impatient- CONTROLLING. It's 50 Shades of Gray for "intellectuals".

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Strauss always reads to me like he is begging for the Master to give him a good whipping and make him behave.

" Fascist mentality is the mentality of the subjugated "little man" who craves authority and rebels against it at the
same time" W. Reich.

On “The Theory of O

But O's "original supporters" were a very mixed bag -which is why he was able to win the election. In the milieu of "left" blogs, one may not notice that the disappointment story extends to all sorts of other people - for example, I have heard Teamster supporters of the Keystone oil pipeline express a feeling of betrayal in the same language, but on alternate beats, as environmentalist opponents.

You can't win election on a reform platform without exciting hope - and thus invariably creating some disappointment. What strikes me though is how so many Americans regard themselves as the true base.

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Obama's "original supporters" were not the "progressives". I was very impressed during the 2008 campaign to meet so many people who were moderates, previously apathetic, and even defectors from the evangelical right.. Didn't see to many "leftists" making calls and/or knocking on doors. The invented past in which the people who supported Kucinich or Edwards suddenly appointed themselves the Obama base is quite curious.

Also "pushed" - what does that mean? "make militant speeches in the context of legislative defeat"?

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