LIBERALISM: Ancient and Modern by Leo Strauss

LIBERALISM: Ancient and Modern

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A collection of essays and lectures by an esteemed conservator of classical social thought. Professor Strauss begins with liberal education. He defines it as ""listening to conversations among the greatest minds""; the obligation and privilege of a minority; a ""counterpoison"" to mass culture. The book as a whole presents an almost inconsistent range of modulations of the concept ""liberal."" Sometimes it seems to mean simply ""good."" But Strauss' view of democracy as mob rule comes through clearly, in the tradition of Aristotle through the Federalists. To the onslaught of the Philistines he opposes the tradition of republicanism, philosophizing, and ""gentlemanship."" On these subjects he is tiresomely longwinded and self-conscious. But there are some nice apothegms too (rule for teaching; always assume there is one silent student ""far superior to you in head and heart""). The essays on Plato, Lucretius, Maimonides and Marsilius of Padua are of special interest only; not so the discussion of Spinoza and the ""theological-political"" predicament of liberal Jews. Strauss' critique of modern political science fails to recognize that for better or worse crude positivism has been superseded. . . . The heavy-handed style and content make this a take-it-or-leave-it book, rather than a provocative one; but for those who take it, it's a rich compendium.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1968
ISBN: 0226776891
Publisher: Basic Books