Monday, March 15, 2010

Enmity and Tyranny, part 3: Strauss's Machiavelli as an antidote to Schmitt's Spinoza


         On the surface, as a defender of the ancients, Strauss grandly  attributes to Machiavelli the founding of the modern world.  Machiavelli somehow lowers the horizon of philosophy, argues for forcing fortune, eliminates the seemingly rare or accidental quality of the best regime for the ancients, moves toward making a low calculation of power common.   But this story is elliptical, even for Strauss,  in two ways.  First,  Strauss thought Machiavelli close to Plato and Xenophon on the role of a philosophical tyrant, a legislator who was advised by a philosopher, using God to put over authoritarian policies (see Strauss, Thoughts on Machiavelli, pp. 291, 293).  Second, with Nietzsche, in 1932, Strauss attributed modernity to the Jewish prophets and their fascinating identification of the poor with “true,” “holy” and “friend,” their hostility to the “world” dominated by the rich and the aristocrats (See Enmity and Tyranny, part one here).  Machiavelli is, as it were, a proxy for the earlier role of the prophets.

       But perhaps  with the experience of Nazi genocide which Strauss at the very last understood, he recoiled from stating this explicitly.  He was still sympathetic to true national socialism or true nihilism, but without the anti-Jewish murderousness (see here and here). 

         I had initially thought that Strauss’s emphasis on Machiavelli was sheerly admirable, a gesture against the anti-Jewish viciousness of Schmitt.  I enjoy finding decent things politically in Strauss (they are surprisingly rare), and added this to his letter to the National Review in 1957, criticizing from the standpoint of conservatives (again, he does not say that he himself is a conservative), the journal's anti-semitism.  I still think the emphasis on Machiavelli rather than Spinoza is an important merit in Strauss, but one which is more clouded by his dark view of modernity and its connection to the prophets than I had previously understood.  Still putting Machiavelli to the fore as the progenitor of the last men served for Strauss as a useful proxy for the Jewish prophets, one which grew more important to him at the end of World War II and subsequently. 

         It is not clear , however, that he changed his 1932 view.  Machiavelli could have been, in this respect, a vehicle for the Prophets and even I suppose for the Christians whom Machiavelli mocked and blasphemed (his view antedates Nietzsche and is something Strauss found amusing and sympathetic).   But the connection Strauss implies between Christianity with its emphasis on the poor and Machiavelli is not obvious.  Seemingly misguided, Strauss gives no argument for it.  One would have to track both his early hints and later views on Machiavelli carefully to see whether and how Machiavelli really leads to “the last men” as opposed to providing, esoterically, an account of the philosopher-tyrant.  Are the two themes conjoined in Strauss (one exoteric, the other hidden) or is the hidden message about Machiavelli the dominant one?  

        In this context, one might consider Harvey Mansfield and Carnes Lord, both Republican activists, who support, as Harvey puts it, the tyranny of the bold, war-making leader – Bush.   Correspondingly, Lord was an undersecretary of state in the Reagan administration.  Both explicitly invoke Machiavelli.  Thus, the leader must shape politics, Lord avers in The Modern Prince (2003; currently, Professor at the Navel War College).  Like Mansfield and Strauss, Lord is utterly fixated on the dangers of “feminization,” namely peace, contrasting the ostensible virtues of “manliness,” Such manly men have destroyed the American economy, reduced America largely to a war complex, and in Mansfield’s case, done heroic work in the defense of brutality, stupidity and torture.  The putative negative side of Machiavelli for these two – and perhaps for Strauss* – is not obvious.

          Strauss had had intimate contact, through advice, teaching and admiration, with Schmitt.  He was, very likely, aware, to some extent, of Schmitt’s anti-semitism.  His 1928 Spinoza’s Critique of Religion would be the source for Schmitt’s musings on the role of Hobbes and Spinoza in modernity.  But even there, however fascinated Strauss was by Hobbes, Strauss saw both Hobbes and Spinoza as variants on Machiavelli, the former as the (proximate) founder of the modern current.  In contrast, Schmitt, a Catholic anti-Nietzschean, did not grasp Strauss’s or Nietzsche’s identification of the prophets as the cause of  modernity.   Instead,  following Strauss’s 1928  commentary, he fixated on the “outsider” Spinoza as the source of the modern world.  One might say that Schmitt missed the root of Strauss’s more subtle anti-semitism in his rejection of the prophets.  The latter was the cause of their common sympathy for the National Revolution.    Nonetheless, however grandiose and un-argued Strauss’s view of Machiavelli is, Strauss’s Machiavelli admirably serves as an antidote to Schmitt’s anti-semitic venom about Spinoza.  Here is the last section of “Enmity and Tyranny”:

        3.  “Great Men” and Anti-Semitism: Hobbes, Spinoza and Machiavelli

      In The Concept of the Political  (1928), Schmitt hailed Hobbes as the theorist of war to the death between individuals in the state of nature, a mirror of his own view of politics. This marks a second stage of Schmitt’s – and Strauss’s – confrontation with Hobbes.

          Though calling Hobbes “by far the greatest political theorist,” Schmitt ignores his starting point in individual reasoning about death.  Like Strauss, Schmitt believes that a point of view emphasizing individuals is itself a sign of decadent “liberalism.”  Instead, Schmitt stresses Hobbes’s state of nature in the international sphere, each regime threatened by others with death.  In contrast, Strauss rightly points out that Hobbes was not an advocate, like Schmitt, of international enmity.  Instead, he was the “bourgeois” or “liberal” theorist of the transformation of a state of nature of individuals, by agreement of all who fear violent death, into a state of civilization, ruled by a Leviathan, a “mortal god,” who guarantees the physical security and economic comfort of each.  Here, Strauss improves Schmitt’s scholarship:

        If it is true that the final self-awareness of liberalism is the philosophy of culture, we may say in summary that liberalism, sheltered by and engrossed in a world of culture, forgets the foundation of culture, the state of nature, that is, human nature in its dangerousness and endangeredness.  Schmitt returns, contrary to liberalism, to its author, Hobbes, in order to strike at the root of liberalism in Hobbes’s express negation of the state of nature.  Whereas Hobbes in an unliberal world accomplishes the founding of liberalism, Schmitt in a liberal world undertakes the critique of liberalism.[i]

If one wants to understand Strauss’s later anti-democratic emphasis on “nature” in Natural Right and History, one should listen carefully to this observation.[ii]

       In his 1938 The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes, however, Schmitt reverses his ground.  In a third stage of argument about Hobbes, Schmitt starts from Hobbes’s recognition of individuals and focuses on the relation of the English patriot Hobbes and “the Jew” Spinoza in the emergence of liberalism.  In effect, Schmitt adopts Strauss’s criticism of his second understanding.  Now he celebrates a near political and religious unity of the Leviathan: Hobbes’s solution to the “theological-political problem.”  Yet Schmitt then underlines a subtle “flaw” in Hobbes, his skepticism about religion and the sovereign’s religious commands which will, in the hands of others, create a gash in Leviathan’s belly and allow a modern understanding to drain his life away.

      On this version of Schmitt’s argument, Hobbes establishes a genuine moral underpinning for the mortal god.  Protection of individual security motivates obligation to the state (protego ergo obligo).[iii]  But for all Strauss’s rhetoric that Hobbes founds liberalism, Hobbes’s emphasis – securing the life and privacy of each person is a great moral good – intimately connects, as Schmitt realizes, to “total,” authoritarian aspirations.  Contra Strauss, Hobbes initiates a modern thought about individuals in a state of nature to argue for a pre-modern, authoritarian conclusion. Schmitt and even Strauss aver that Hobbes is the “most political” thinker. 

          More obviously, however, Hobbes is a profoundly anti-political thinker, seeking the suppression of dissent and debate in the authority of Leviathan, the overweening of dangerous individual freedom of thought in the command of “the mortal god.”  Though the state protects each individual’s security and economic prosperity in Hobbes, all other goods, including political and religious freedom of conscience and dissent, are, as a public matter, wiped out.  In 1932, Strauss and Schmitt start from states; both despise liberalism and lack a sense of ethics.  Their non-individual starting point is, once again, anti-liberal and anti-modern; yet Schmitt and Strauss end up with a post-modern though anti-liberal emphasis on a “total,” that is, fascist or authoritarian state. 

          In 1938, however, Schmitt transforms his earlier stress on the political as war – and Hobbes’ state of nature as its highest expression –  into a moral emphasis on Hobbes’ provision of  internal security for each individual.  By this time, the Nazis had removed Schmitt as Prussian state councilor.  They had promised the security of “Aryans”; Schmitt had discovered, however, the horrifying irony that under fascism, no one – not even Carl Schmitt - is safe.[iv]  In contrast to his earlier adulation of Hitler, his 1938 book, amazingly, does not mention the “Fuehrer” or the Nazis.  Hobbes, he notes, invokes the “Leviathan” but three times in his lengthy book.  Schmitt emphasizes the medieval “jewish-cabbalistic sources” of the image, its hidden meanings.  Perhaps Schmitt himself offers esoteric messages.  As David Dyzenhaus and Jan-Werner Mueller suggest, perhaps one such meaning is that the Nazis have failed in their Hobbesian obligation to provide security.[v]

         Hobbes presents his theory as an example of geometric or deductive reasoning from axioms.  His moral emphasis, however, leads to a fundamental contradiction of which neither Schmitt nor Strauss is aware.  Each individual’s fear of violent death establishes a common justice or a common good – a Leviathan to protect them.  But they must then, Hobbes asserts, accept all the Leviathan’s commands, including religious ones, as law: only obedience to the Leviathan’s words can provide security against individual slights, resentments, and murderousness.   But suppose such laws threaten their existence.  When locked up, says Hobbes, they can rattle their chains; in war, they may run away.  But why can they take only these steps?  Avoiding violent death is Hobbes’s core moral value, the starting point of the argument.   Hobbes contradicts himself: a Leviathan cannot become a tyrant, and if he does, his commands are dust.   In this respect, Locke’s argument is more consistently Hobbesian: when the tyrant acts like “a lion or tiger,” he may be killed by popular revolution like any threatening beast in the jungle of nature. Nonetheless, a refusal to submit to state murder, on Hobbes’s argument, presages Lockean revolt; his vision has a decency absent in Schmitt or Strauss. 

       Yet Schmitt experienced Hobbes’s contradiction personally and viscerally.  As State Councilor, he had licensed the SS; now only Hermann Goering’s protection saved him.  Still, in 1938, Schmitt offers only esoteric criticism of Hitler.  His conception does not contain Hobbes’s tension, his emphasis on individual fear of death.  He organized – and could organize – no revolt against tyranny.[vi] He could not even hint at it.  Far from a “concept of the political,” Schmitt (and Strauss) disarm the political, despise individual conscience, and disable revolt against tyranny.

      Worse, the 1938 account of Hobbes amplifies the stridency of Schmitt’s anti-semitism.   He accuses “outsiders,” the Jews, of driving a wedge between the state and religion, and “draining the life out of” the Leviathan.  For Hobbes, the Leviathan determines civil and religious law.  Yet Hobbes offers a wonderfully skeptical chapter on miracles.  His favorite term for such events is “strange,” a “strange deviation of nature.”[vii] But what is strange or “immediate” like the first rainbow one sees often becomes familiar or “ordinary” in nature:

     Seeing Admiration and Wonder is consequent to the knowledge and experience wherewith men are endued, some more, some lesse; it followeth, that the same thing, may be a Miracle to one, and not to another.  And thence it is, that ignorant and superstitious men make great Wonders of those works, which other men, knowing to proceed from Nature (which is not the immediate, but the ordinary work of God,) admire not at all: As when Ecclipses of the Sun and Moon have been taken for supernaturall works, by the common people; when nevertheless, there were others, could from their naturall causes, have foretold the very hour they should arrive.[viii]

      Only the Leviathan’s command can make public agreement of these clashing views; otherwise, according to Hobbes’s mistaken psychology, the slightest disagreement or indignity will lead to war to the death[ix]:

       For if the Law declared be not against the Law of Nature (which is undoubtedly Gods Law) and he undertake to obey it, he is bound by his own act; bound I say to obey it, but not bound to believe it: for mens beliefe, and interior cogitations, are not subject to the commands, but only to the operation of God, ordinary or extraordinary.[x]

       Note that the law of nature here – self-preservation – undercuts obedience when the Leviathan threatens the subject.  But as Hobbes emphasizes, private belief and “interior cogitations” are each “man’s” own. This according to the Catholic Schmitt who believes in miracles – and the total state’s ostensible “right” to determine individual belief – is the gash.  But following Schmitt’s argument, one might ask, does not Hitler’s state then have the same right?  Does not Schmitt’s criticism of Hobbes render incoherent Schmitt’s esoteric criticism of the Nazis?  One may insist on protection (and self-defense); the state commands all public expressions including forbidding any notice of the absence of protection (or self-defense).   Amusingly, Schmitt’s esotericism is even more bizarrely self-refuting than Strauss’s.[xi]

        As a metaphor for what would Spinoza would call the political theology of the  king’s power, Hobbes emphasizes Moses and God’s covenant with him as a legislator:

       At Mount Sinai, Moses only went up to God; the people were forbidden to approach on paine of death; yet were they bound to obey all that Moses declared to them for Gods Law.  Upon what ground, but on this submission of their own,  Speak thou to us, and we will heare thee, but let not God speak to us, lest we dye? By which two places it sufficiently appeareth, that in a Commonwealth, a subject that has no certain and assured Revelation particularly to himself concerning the Will of God, is to obey for such, the Command of the Common-wealth: for if men were at liberty to take for Gods Commandements, their own dreams and fancies, or the dreams and fancies of private men; scarce two men would agree  upon what is Gods Commandement.[xii]

        Hobbes designs the Leviathan to suppress all “dreams and fancies of private men” which lead, on his account, to civil war; yet this extinction is only public or formal, not real.   “I conclude therefore, “ says Hobbes, “that in all things not contrary to the Morall Law (that is to say, to the Law of Nature,) all Subjects are bound to obey that for divine Law, which is declared to be so, by the Laws of the Commonwealth.”[xiii]  Note again the caveat – the law of nature requires each individual to defy his own violent death at the hands of the state.  Beyond this, Hobbes permits complete internal freedom of religion so long as the individual publically adheres to the will of the sovereign.  

       In contrast, Spinoza makes the founding principle of the state an individual’s freedom of thought and expression.   He keeps Hobbes’s idea that the sovereign decides and obligates in public expression; still, his new formulation leads, for Schmitt, to the development of the anti-Christ: a secular culture based on individual freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. For Spinoza, ”transvaluing,” as it were, Hobbes’s values, the “true purpose” of the state is freedom.  Taking individuals more seriously, he gives Hobbes’ account a different, democratic emphasis:

         …peoples’ free judgments are very diverse and everyone thinks they know everything themselves, and it can never happen that everyone will think exactly alike and speak with one voice.  It would have been impossible therefore for people to live in peace, unless each one gave up his right to act according to his own decision alone.  Each one therefore surrendered his right to act according to his own resolution, but not his right to think and judge for himself.  Thus no one can act against the sovereign’s decisions without prejudicing his authority, but they can think and judge and speak without restriction, provided they merely speak or teach by way of reason alone.[xiv]

         They can also act in elections.  About piety and religious freedom of expression, Spinoza  argues: only public ceremonies are bound by the sovereign’s command –“the highest form of piety is that which is practiced  with respect to peace and tranquility.”[xv]

          In Schmitt’s anti-semitic idiom, however,

         Only a few years after the appearance of the Leviathan, a liberal Jew noticed the barely visible crack in the theoretical justification of the sovereign state.  In it he immediately recognized the telling inroad of modern liberalism, which would allow Hobbes’s postulation of the relation between external and internal, public and private, to be inverted into its converse.  Spinoza accomplished the inversion in the famous Chapter 19 of this Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, which appeared in 1670.  Already in the subtitle of his book he speaks of the libertas philosophandi [freedom of philosophizing]. He begins his exposition by maintaining that in the interest of external peace and external order, the sovereign state power can regulate the public religious cult and that every citizen must accommodate himself to this regulation.  Everything that refers to religion receives its legal validity, vim juris, only through the command of the state’s power.  The state’s power, however, determines only the external cult.  Hobbes laid the groundwork for separating the internal from the external in the sections of the Leviathan that deal with a belief in miracles and confession.  The Jewish philosopher pushed this incipient form to the limit of its development until the opposite was reached and the leviathan’s vitality was sapped from within and life began to drain out of him.[xvi]

        Contrasting the English patriot, Schmitt attributes corruption – the gutting of Leviathan - to “Jews” as “outsiders” and “spectators”: 

        Spinoza’s treatise is dependent on Hobbes.  But the Englishman did not endeavor with such a proviso to appear out of context of the beliefs of his people but, on the contrary to remain within it, whereas the Jewish philosopher, on the other hand, approached the religion of the state as an outsider, naturally provided a proviso that emanated from the outside.  Hobbes focused on public peace and the right of the sovereign power: individual freedom of thought was an implicit right open only as long as it remained private.  Now it is the reverse: individual freedom of thought is the form-giving principle, the necessities of  public peace as well as the right of the sovereign power having been transformed into mere provisos.  A small intellectual switch emanating from the nature of Jewish life accomplished with the most simple logic and in the span of a few years, the decisive turn in the fate of the leviathan.[xvii] 

            In describing the contrast, Schmitt is right; for Hobbes, freedom of religion and thought is implicit, an unstated right which still publically affirms the greatness of Leviathan; in Spinoza, these principles, including freedom of speech, are form-giving principles. In explanation and assessment, however, Schmitt is a monster. That he blames the “Jews” even in a text which does not adulate Hitler underlines a fundamental contribution to the climate of genocide.[xviii]

            At the beginning of his book, Schmitt tells of the “medieval-cabbalistic” interpretation of Leviathan in which Leviathan and Behemoth, the sea monster and the land monster, go to war.  By covering Behemoth’s mouth and nose with his fins, Leviathan chokes him, a metaphor, Schmitt interestingly comments, for naval blockade.  Many fall.  “Jews,” Schmitt avers, find it “kosher” to consume the flesh of the corpses of strangers.  “Jews,” he adds, fear heathens’ sexual vitality:

           According to such Jewish-cabbalistic interpretations, the leviathan represents the ‘cattle upon a thousand hills’ (Psalms, 50:10), namely the heathens.  World history appears as a battle among heathens.  The leviathan, symbolizing sea powers, fighting the behemoth, representing land powers.  The latter tries to tear the leviathan apart with his horns, while the leviathan covers the behemoth’s mouth and nostrils with his fins and kills him in that way.  This is, incidentally, a fine depiction of the mastery of a country by a blockade.  But the Jews stand by and watch how the people of the world kill one another.  This mutual ‘ritual slaughter and massacre’ is for them lawful and ‘kosher’ and they therefore eat the flesh of the slaughtered peoples and are sustained by it. …Looked at from the perspective of the Jews, each [Leviathan, Behemoth] is an image of heathenish vitality and fertility, the ‘great Pan’ that Jewish hatred and Jewish feelings of superiority have transformed into a monster:[xix] 

            Schmitt fixates on the image “ritual slaughter” which he later imposes on the crucifixion of Christ.[xx]  His are not simply the ravings of a non-IQ testing, pre-eugenics, “medieval” Catholic bigot.   As the most distinguished law professor in Germany and Prussian State Councilor, Schmitt Nazifies the law.  At an October 3-4, 1936 conference which Schmitt organized on “Das Judentum in der Rechtswissenschaft” (Judaism in Jurisprudence), Schmitt proclaimed:

     The addition of the word and the designation ‘Jewish’ is no formality, but rather something essential because, after all, we cannot prevent the Jewish author from using the German language.  Otherwise the purification of our law literature will not be possible.  Whoever writes ‘Stahl-Jolson’ today has brought about more thereby in a genuinely scholarly and clear way than the lengthy expositions against the Jews which move in abstract phrases and by which not a single Jew feels affected in the concrete.

In a breath of Nazism/dark “Catholicism,” Schmitt adds:

     If for objective reasons it is necessary to cite Jewish authors, then only with the addition ‘Jewish.’  The healing exorcism will set in already with the mere mention of the word ‘Jewish.’[xxi]

     In his inaugural address, Schmitt passionately invokes Hitler’s words against 

“Jews” and “Bolsheviks”:

     But the most profound and ultimate meaning of this battle and thus also of our work today, lies expressed in the Fuehrer’s sentence: ‘In fending off the Jew, I fight for the work of the Lord.’ 

(Hitler powerfully affects Christianity here; how much deeper is Schmitt’s “Catholicism”?[xxii]) As an official of the Reich, Schmitt names “single Jews” to be “affected in the concrete” as Hitler’s genocide would.  His release at Nuremburg was wrong.  He was technically guilty of preparing – making more precise - the way for mass murder.  He handed out yellow stars in the “legal” literature.[xxiii]

          As Meier rightly emphasizes, Schmitt kept these views – though not publically – after World War II.[xxiv]  He hunted Jews to “unmask them.”  Friedrich Stahl, an assimilated Jew who had changed his name from Jolson to avoid bigotry, had been an influential conservative defender of the Prussian monarchy, often cited by Schmitt in the 1920s.  But now, Schmitt does not care what Stahl actually thought.  Instead, he paints “Stahl-Jolson” as one of the shifting “masks” of an “enigmatic,” “demonic” fellowship:

            It is completely wrong to make him out to be an exemplary, conservative Jew compared with other, later Jews, who unfortunately were no longer so.  Therein lies a dangerous failure to appreciate the essential insight that with every change of the general situation, with every new period of history, a change of the general behavior of the Jews,  a change of masks possessing demonic enigmaticness also occurs so quickly that we grasp it only with the most careful attention; by comparison, the question about the subjective credulity of a particular participating Jewish individual is altogether uninteresting.[xxv]

This underlying belief disregards evidence and is irrational.  In this context, one wonders how Schmitt interpreted the “subjective credulity” of  “the Jew Strauss” with whom he had engaged in so complicated a dance, from whom he had learned much?[xxvi]

       Following Schmitt, however, Strauss asserts a bizarre “great man” thesis about the emergence of socio-political ages. As Stephen Holmes suggests, there are many reasons to doubt Strauss’s thesis about Machiavelli spawning the modern world:

    The discovery of America, the Reformation and the religious civil wars, the invention of the magnetic compass, gunpowder, the telescope and the printing press, the emergence of state bureaucracies – none of these factors can be reduced to Machiavellianism, though all had a decisive impact on the contours of modernity.  To say that Machiavelli single-handedly unleashed acquisitiveness on the modern world , is to rule out, with little justification, a whole series of other causes for the rise of the modern commercial ethos.[xxvii]

As is often the case, Strauss adduces no argument in defense of his position.  But what motivates its un-argued vehemence?

         In conversations/correspondence, both Schmitt and Strauss emphasized the role of Hobbes in the creation of modern liberalism and more strikingly, his founding – what Schmitt, once again, names “decisionism” – of their authoritarianism.  Guarded toward his deferential young student and occasionally a friend of individual Jews, Schmitt hid much of his anti-semitism.  In Heidegger, the anti-semitism, though accompanied by personal viciousness toward his teacher and his own students, was superficial[xxviii]; in Schmitt, it is his hidden view.  As a reactionary believer that the prophets ultimately created the “last men,” Strauss was predisposed to accept or ignore Schmitt’s abstract anti-semitic insinuations, even though he would have found Schmitt’s later anti-semitism appalling.  In any case, Strauss and Schmitt shared an enthusiasm for the Leviathan.  A creative scholar but not an original philosopher or thinker – all the distinctive concepts such as “the enemy” and “the state of exception” are Schmitt’s - Strauss oriented himself toward Schmitt’s “great philosopher” thesis. 

       Politically, Strauss shared Schmitt’s distaste for Spinoza’s politics; Strauss’s Spinoza’s Critique of Religion downplays Spinoza’s ideas of freedom of thought and speech or democracy.  But where Spinoza had corrupted the  modern world for Schmitt,[xxix] the subtle Machiavelli, for Strauss, introduced the transformation that led to modernity: Strauss’s Machiavelli deflects Schmitt’s Spinoza.[xxx]  When Schmitt became a Nazi, Strauss learned bitterly that Schmitt no longer responded to his letters.  To answer an incipient genocidal interpretation helped motivate Strauss’s insistence on an alternate “great man.” 

         As the central contrast between Strauss and Schmitt, Heinrich Meier pits political philosophy (Strauss) against “political theology” (Schmitt).[xxxi] This (meta)theoretical or type of perspective contrast disguises the way in which they are, absent Schmitt’s anti-semitism, twin reactionaries in politics.   The opposition about which “great man” spawned modernity, coupled with the racist venom Schmitt injects in his account of Spinoza (as well as Moses Mendelsohn and “Stahl-Jolson”), is more revealing politically, morally and intellectually. Whatever the defects of Strauss’s interpretation of Machiavelli, its role as an antivenin for Schmitt is admirable.

          Yet even in the scholarly interplay between Strauss and Schmitt, Strauss first learned profoundly from Schmitt’s emphasis on Hobbes’s decisionism and  authoritarianism.  In 1922, Schmitt again refers to Stahl respectfully,[xxxii]  The 1920s pamphlets or long essays are conceptually striking and evince little trace of the anti-semitism brought out by his union with the Nazis.  Perhaps Schmitt’s anti-Jewish ferocity came not so much from his “Catholic” prejudice, but from his relation to Hitler.  In that case, he adopted a duplicitous Catholic “mask” for his Nazism in his post-World War II Glossarium.  

          In any case, in the 1920s, what Schmitt admires as “concrete sovereignty of the state” is personalism and lawlessness.  At this time, Schmitt eschews Hobbes’s emphasis on the fear of death of each individual and the common reasons to embrace the Leviathan.

         On Schmitt’s view, Hobbes was caught up in the vision of science and geometry of the 17th century.  Still, he praises, in an elliptical authoritarian vein, Hobbes’s “soberness of healthy common sense” about “law”:

        He illustrated this with one of those comparisons that in the soberness of his healthy common sense, he knew how to apply so strikingly.  Power or order can be subordinate to another just as the art of the saddler is subordinate to that of the rider; but the important thing is that despite this abstract ladder of orders, no one thinks of subordinating the individual saddler to every rider and obliging him to obey.[xxxiii]

Ironically, Schmitt’s comment about Hobbes’s “healthy common sense” would only strike an authoritarian.  This is nothing like, though Schmitt’s claim draws its force from, Hobbes’s appeal to each individual’s common sense in avoiding violent death by opting for Leviathan.

         Perversely given his insane hatred of “Jews,” Schmitt developed his later view of Hobbes and Spinoza from a close study of Strauss’s Spinoza’s Critique of Religion (1928).  After World War II, the American authorities confiscated Schmitt’s copy of the book with his library and sold it.  Purchased initially by Karl Loewith, Schmitt’s copy of Spinoza’s Critique eventually came into the possession of Heinrich Meier.  In a handwritten note, Meier reports, Schmitt calls his 1937 reading a “second encounter” with Strauss:

   1st encounter: Spring 1932,  2nd encounter: Summer 1937,  3rd encounter: (1st re-encounter): July 1945 (impetus: the conversation with Eduard Spranger 6-30-45).[xxxiv]

There is something almost slapstick -  perhaps only Mel Brooks might have imagined it - in Schmitt’s venomous “theology”: Schmitt developed his anti-semitism by wrestling often favorably with the interpretation of a Jew…

       Yet Schmitt’s emphasis in Political Theology on authoritarianism and “common sense” also reappears in Strauss’s more careful account of Spinoza’s Critique of Religion.  Strauss contrasts Hobbes’s straightforward or “positive” development of the Leviathan out of the rational need of each individual to protect himself from violent death with Spinoza’s nonpolitical, in Strauss’s terms “metaphysical” account. Repeating Schmitt, Strauss speaks of “the actually much more concrete-minded and sober Englishman, with his regard for sound common-sense” [xxxv] (perhaps his account of Spinoza’s “metaphysical” conception of right also draws on conversations with Schmitt). Schmitt’s conception of Hobbes as a patriotic English theorist – as an “insider” in contrast to the “outsider Jew” -  expresses, in turn, the force of Strauss’s account, with an injection of vehement anti-semitism.  Yet Schmitt’s 1922 words on Hobbes’s “sober common sense” weighed on Strauss six years later.  Having adopted this view in scholarship, Strauss then refined it.

        Ironically, however, Schmitt’s “political theology” resembles Spinoza’s much more than Hobbes’s.  The esoteric meaning of Schmitt – his irrational (in his own terms, revealed and unprovable to others), anti-Jewish “theological” discourse – technically refutes his notion of the “political” (the real enemy, avers Schmitt, is the “Anti-Christ,” and behind every “error,” even Hitler’s, is a “Jew”).  But in terms of reasons, even Schmitt’s original idea of the political is not grounded like Hobbes’s.  The notions of “enemy” and “state of exception” are but an induction from the fact that war and violent revolution (political change in a broad sense) are common historical events to the idea that they are necessary to “humanity”’s future.  Schmitt tricks up  this idea with admiration for bellicosity as the genuinely “human” and truckling toward kings and tyrants as a companion religiosity.  There is a “common sense,” a rationality and, more importantly, a decency in Hobbes which Schmitt lacks.

        Meier remarks on  two underlinings in Strauss’s text by Schmitt.  The first is on Spinoza’s conception of right:

        [Spinoza] does not define natural right in terms of man, but only applies to man a concept of natural right otherwise gained.

        Every individual – not only every human individual but every individual simply – has as much natural right as it has power.  For the power through which individuals exist and act is not their own nor does it arise out of their essence, but is the eternal power of God himself.  In God, in the original source of all power and of all right, power and right are one and the same, and since all natural beings are determined by God to exist and to act in the peculiar manner in which they exist and act, since the eternal power of God is effective in their power, power and right are one and the same in all the natural things too.[xxxvi]

Altering Hobbes, Spinoza suggests, humans have the power and hence the “right” to do what is necessary for “self-preservation.”[xxxvii]

       Strauss comments:

       From what has been established regarding the opposition between Hobbes and Spinoza, it follows that Spinoza has no possibility at all of understanding after the manner of Hobbes the germination of the pacific attitude, of honesty, from men’s concern to preserve their lives, thus no possibility of understanding the social contract.  Spinoza too discusses the case adduced by Hobbes – the promise extracted by the robber.  His decision is entirely different.  Since the right of a man is identical with his power, he has a perfect right to break every promise if breaking his promise seems to him advantageous.  The right to break a promise is given with the power to break it.[xxxviii]

      Note, however, that Spinoza’s theological understanding among men becomes the corrupt principle: might equals right. [xxxix] On Meier’s report, Schmitt comments that this is “the most audacious insult ever to be inflicted upon God and man.’[xl]  Yet Schmitt does not disagree with the error – the denial of justice - in Spinoza’s formulation. [xli] Contradicting his own notion of “right,” however, Spinoza was a path-breaking democrat and advocate of freedom of thought in the 17th century, one who paid a heavy price in ostracism and public silence[xlii]; in contrast, Schmitt’s is a far more extreme, religiously-ornamented authoritarianism or genocidal “might makes right” view all the way down.[xliii] If Spinoza’s view “is the greatest insult to God and man,” what then is Schmitt’s?

         Second, in an interestingly careless (for the later exoteric Strauss) effort to provide “context,” Strauss includes a footnote of Colerus’s gossip about Spinoza which fuels  Schmitt’s bizarre account of Leviathan and Behemoth:

      ‘…When he sought some other diversion, he would catch a few spiders and have them fight one another; or he caught a few flies, tossed them onto the spider’s web, and greatly enjoyed watching this combat, even laughed at it.  He also enjoyed taking his magnifying glass and observing the midges and flies through it, and engaged in his investigations.’

Strauss invokes a tradition of revulsion here, but – tone-deaf – attempts to conjure Spinoza’s “pleasure as a spectator”:

        If one speaks in this context of cruelty (as does Schopenauer), it is meaningless;  but even to speak of ‘scientific interest’ (as does Freudenthal) is to misjudge the level of the pleasure experienced by Spinoza; not the mere lex naturae  but the summum naturale ius which belongs to all events, and therefore also to the victory of the stronger, is the correlate of the pleasure felt by Spinoza as spectator; the actors are the large fish and the small fish, the rulers and their subjects, whose power and struggle are modes of the eternal necessity of God.[xliv]

Schmitt comments: “atrocious” (and perhaps includes Strauss in the judgment).[xlv]  But the intelligence of Schmitt’s verdict is undone by his subsequent murderousness; Schmitt threw living human beings onto the Nazis’ “web.”

         In The Lesson of Carl Schmitt, Heinrich Meier comments on the subtle Schmitt-Strauss interaction only in three long footnotes.[xlvi] Unlike the earlier book on Strauss and Schmitt, Meier’s footnotes are solely for the cognoscenti, an elliptical “dialogue” with esoteric resonances for both Meier and Schmitt.  Yet this later interaction reveals far more of the substance of the Strauss/Schmitt relationship – of the irony of Strauss’s adulation of Schmitt and absorption of Schmitt’s authoritarianism, of the horror of Schmitt’s anti-semitism and the irony of his studying and “transvaluing” the interpretation of a Jew near to his own – than Meier’s Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss and The Concept of the Political[xlvii] alone reveals. 

        Now Meier explores the fact of Schmitt’s anti-semitism more deliberately than any other author.[xlviii]  But perhaps as an admirer of Schmitt as well as Strauss, he is reluctant to criticize it more than stylistically, around the edges – for instance, he says Schmitt’s comments on naming “Jew” lawyers are “ugly.” For so smart and theoretically inventive a political and legal theorist, what Schmitt reveals about himself in responding to Strauss’s interpretation of Spinoza is sad.  But Strauss’s adulation of Schmitt is tragic (in 1933, he wrote breathlessly, “Allow me, Professor, to submit that the interest that you have shown in my studies of Hobbes represents the most honorable and obliging corroboration of my scholarly work that has ever been bestowed upon me and that I could ever dream of“[xlix]). 

         During World War II, Strauss recoiled at the horror of Nazism, saying that Jews could have no interest in the Germans.  But justified revulsion need not lead to thought.  Strauss, as we have seen, long favored the “National Revolution.”  As I have underlined, Strauss reshaped Nietzsche about Jews to the Right; he admired  the Kings and hated the prophets.  His anti-semitic enthusiasms provided a screen for Schmitt. Still, that Schmitt’s Nazism did not provoke in Strauss a fundamental reassessment of authoritarianism – something deeper than adoration of Churchill’s statesmanship in World War II – reveals the fundamentally dogmatic or unphilosophical character of Strauss’s core politics.

        In his copy of Spinoza’s Critique of Religion, Schmitt refers delphically, according to Heinrich Meier, to a “3rd encounter: (1st re-encounter): July 1945 (impetus: the conversation with Eduard Spranger 6-30-45).”[l]   A “famed philosopher and teacher,” as Schmitt names him, Spranger contrasts Schmitt’s writings which are “spiritual” (geistvoll) and “transparent” (durchsichtig) with his “personality” and “being” as murky (truebe) and occluded (unklar), and raises the affecting question of who Schmitt is (“Wer bist du?  Tu quis es?).[li]  Schmitt does not say much about his being, only that it has the stillness of the river Mosel (“tacite rumore Mosella”).  Famously if enigmatically, he then suggests that his case is one of a “bad, unworthy but authentic Christian Epimetheus.” [Es ist der schlechte, unwuerdige und doch authentische Fall eines Christlischen Epimetheus][lii]

          In Greek myth, Epimetheus and his brother Prometheus were Titans, assigned by the gods to populate the earth with animals and men. But  Epimetheus exhausted the gifts on animals, leaving Prometheus’s creation, man, helpless.  Epimetheus is a figure of improvidence, regret and excuse.  But the clever Prometheus stole fire from the workshop of Hephaestos on Olympus.  In a paradigm of sexism, the enraged Zeus sent Pandora, the first woman, with a jar of evil spirits to marry Epimetheus – who did so despite Prometheus’s warnings - and trouble men.[liii]  Schmitt’s naming of his own being – a Christian Epimetheus - is neither flattering nor reminiscent of the still Mosel.[liv] Epimetheus is a wastrel and a fool.

        In joining the Nazis, Schmitt had tried to postpone, as an eschaton, the last judgment, and had done things that he regrets (“bad, unworthy”), but were, nonetheless, honest.  He does not mention Strauss in this essay, though he does indicate that the conversations with Spranger may have led to “a third encounter.”  One can only guess at what Schmitt’s note  meant, perhaps that Schmitt had done “unworthy” things toward the Jews, participated in what was, as German defeat neared, deportation and mass murder. To say his actions were bumbling though “authentic” and “Christian,” does not recognize the crime. Alternately, perhaps Schmitt had relied on Strauss’s thoughts, but not acknowledged him (the faithlessness about scholarly inspiration Strauss reacted to in 1933).  That could have been an Epimethean error occasioned by his decision for Nazism.  If so, republication of Strauss’s “Notes” with the translation of The Concept of the Political would have made some amends.[lv] This stage in the relationship seems more “occluded” than Schmitt’s “being.”

       In addition, Schmitt’s imprisonment at Nuremberg dulled such regrets.  His Glossarium written in the late 1940s, revives his ferocious anti-semitism, which he plans, “Pandora”-like, to visit again upon the world (he allowed the Glossarium  to be published only posthumously in 1991).  Schmitt never came to terms with his eccentric relationship with Leo Strauss.

       Similarly, neither Strauss nor his followers have confronted clearheadedly his relationship with Schmitt.  For those Straussians who insist on Strauss’s brief, exoteric affirmations of constitutional democracy (ones immediately qualified or undercut by Strauss), his shift mainly to the Greeks[lvi] and “the art of writing” gives a hope that Strauss “when he became Strauss,” is different politically from the Strauss of the early 1930s.  But nothing in this scholarly or meta-political transcendence overcomes Strauss’s career-long admiration for war and Empire, disgust for the “last men,” or zeal for authoritarian politics. As I have argued elsewhere, Strauss found for these early sympathies esoteric counterparts in Plato’s idea that a tyrant becomes a philosopher-king (or philosopher-tyrant) who rules, although wisely, without laws.[lvii] 

       In addition, Schmitt’s revival on the post-War German Right  led by Armin Mohler, his student, features a sharper enmity toward the Soviet Union (parallel to the standard conservative reception of Strauss’s On Tyranny), an increased emphasis on religiosity (Catholicism or “Christian Democracy”) as part of a flight from defeated, overtly irreligious fascism or Nazism (this is one sense of Strauss’s “theological-political problem” realized, for example, in the recent unity of American Straussians and neoconservatives with Evangelicals[lviii]), an insistence on the West as an “Abendland” (an evening land, a land of cultural decadence – one thinks of Allan Bloom and “the last men”),  and strengthened authoritarianism (or “executive power”).[lix]  For instance, the journalist Winfried Martini worked closely with Schmitt in denouncing the “softness” of West German democracy.[lx]

       In this context, one might listen carefully to Nathan Tarcov’s insistence in this volume that Strauss recommends a tougher policy toward evil than liberals.  Strauss expresses realism, as Tarcov suggests, but also, as he may not hear, authoritarianism. Furthermore, Strauss’s students, Robert Goldwin and Herbert Storing, translated authoritarianism into “prerogative” and “executive power,” making it palatable on the American Right.[lxi] These four features of the Schmitt revival in West Germany parallel the recent influence of Leo Strauss, through his political followers, in the Reagan and Bush administrations.  The belligerence against an Islamic enemy – one far removed in Iraq and possibly Iran from Osama Bin Laden and September 11th – evokes eerie parallels with The Concept of the Political  (the neoconservative trashing of internal enemies, the adoption by Stephen Cambone, assistant Secretary of Defense, of the term “lawfare”[lxii] – war through the perversion of law – and Alberto Gonzalez’s Gleichschaltung of the Justice Department carry this parallel perhaps a step further than Strauss).  Subtract Schmitt’s anti-semitism – concealed because of his and his followers’ post-War silence about his Nazism - and the parallels between Schmitt on the post-War German Right and Strauss on the American Right are ominous (though Cheney and the American Right have had a far more deadly impact).[lxiii] The historian Jan-Werner Mueller rightly speaks of the “practical political theology in authoritarian shape” evoked by the German Right[lxiv]; this point equally applies to the influence of the political Straussians in the Bush-Cheney administration in the United States.[lxv] 

      Except for the most extreme forms of torture,[lxvi] the Obama administration has adopted many features of Bush’s notion of executive power. In the words of Yale 
constitutional lawyer Jack Balkin, it has made of these polices a “bipartisan legal regime.” It does so, because to allow investigations of Bush crimes from torture to the perversion of the Justice Department, would result in many high officials going to jail.  But the price of this “pragmatic” cover-up is a terrible one. The era of habeas corpus may have passed in American law. The restoration of torture awaits but a new crisis, a new President. In the movement to elect Obama, ordinary people fought for decency. Yet the influence of Schmitt and Strauss in “the state of the exception” now threatens to override the rule of law for Republicans, Democrats, and ordinary citizens as well.


[i] Strauss, “Notes,” pp. 101-02.  Meier cites Schmitt’s moderated enthusiasm for Hobbes   in the 1933 edition.

[ii] Despite an exoteric, opening sentence about Jefferson’s memorable expression – “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, Strauss affirms at p. 122 the classical idea of natural right: “inequality.”  See Gilbert, “Do Philosophers Counsel Tyrants?”

[iii] Schmitt mentions this “feudal idea” for lord and peasant but does not stress it in The Concept of the Political, pp. 52-53. In contrast, Hobbes emphasizes this notion for each individual.

[iv] Marx’s opening of the Eighteenth Brumaire in which the second Napoleon’s troops, defending “the family, religion, property, and order,” shoot down individual capitalists on their balconies captures what Schmitt discovered.

[v] Jan-Werner Mueller, A Dangerous Mind: Carl Schmitt in Post-War European Thought    (Yale, 2003), p. 41.

[vi] His 1962 Theory of the Partisan, however, suggests a guerilla revolt against globalization (“the universal and homogeneous state”).

[vii]  Hobbes, Leviathan, ch 37, p. 470.

[viii]  Ibid, p. 471.

[ix] Gilbert, Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy? (Princeton, 1999), ch. 4,

[x]  Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 26, p. 332.

[xi] There is a self-refuting sanctimony shared in the esoteric conversations of Kojeve, Strauss and Schmitt.  In Berlin in 1968, Kojeve spoke to hundreds of radical students, apparently recommending only that they read the Greeks, and sought out a meeting with the “one German who can think,” Carl Schmitt. 

[xii]  Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 333. Schmitt omits Moses.

[xiii] Idem.

[xiv] Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, ch. 20, paragraphs 6 and 7.

[xv] Ibid, par. 8.

[xvi] Schmitt, The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes (CT:Greenwood Press, 1996), p. 57

[xvii] Schmitt, ibid, pp. 57-58.  In Glossarium, p. 290, Schmitt reiterates this judgment: “Salus ex Judaeis?  Perditio ex Judaeis?  First of all, enough of these pushy Judaies!  When we [Christians] were divided among ourselves, the Jews sub-introduced themselves.  So long as that has not been grasped, there can be no salvation.  Spinoza was the first to sub-introduce himself.”

[xviii] Dietrich Bonhoeffer underlined the tight link between jews (“first they came for the jews and I said nothing”) and everyone else (“then they came for me and there was nobody left to protest.”). 

[xix] Ibid, pp. 8-9.

[xx] Schmitt drew from pre-modern anti-semitism.  For instance, in 1912, the Tsarist regime tried “the Jew” Beilis for “ritual child-murder.”  The Bolsheviks led a campaign against this outrage.

[xxi] Both of these passages are courageously cited by Meier, Lesson,  p. 154.  Yet Meier can bring himself to speak only of “the ugliest tirades he would ever publish” (p.  154)  and,  more aptly, the “terror-filled tradition of Christian anti-Judaism” (p. 153).  Note, however, that what is “ugly” is not necessarily wrong, and that terror, for example against criminals,  is not simply a bad thing. Perhaps directing the Carl Siemens Stiftung and a man of the Right himself, Meier cannot bring himself to speak of genocide.  The other alternative for a very intelligent follower of Strauss and Schmitt is that these passages have some esoteric meaning…But Meier is closely allied with Straussians.  This possible interpretation reveals the danger – an encouragement to an incoherent “subtlety” cultivated by both Strauss and Schmitt and an error of judgment about a dark matter - for anyone who undertakes to report favorably on them.

[xxii] A widely practiced vulgar Catholicism pursued by some Popes is, among other things, anti-semitic and murderous, however. 

[xxiii] I do not believe that executing monsters is helpful to overcoming fascism.  In this, I admire Bishop Desmond Tutu, No Future without Forgiveness, who traces the importance of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in healing the earth.  But Schmitt was guilty of crimes against humanity…

[xxiv] Meier, Lesson, p. 154.

[xxv] Cited in Meier, Lesson, p. 152, n. 37.

[xxvi] In post-War letters to Mohler, Schmitt refers to Strauss respectfully as a “weighty author” on Leviathan and mentions On  Tyranny. Carl Schmitt, Briefwechsel mit einem seiner Schueler (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1995), pp. 422-23, 171.

[xxvii] Holmes, The Anatomy of Anti-liberalism (Harvard, 1993), p. 84.

[xxviii] For instance, Heidegger removed the dedication to Edmund Husserl from Sein und Zeit (Being and Time).

[xxix] Meier, Lesson,  p. 152, n. 7. 

[xxx] In Spinoza’s Critique of Religion, pp. 226-28, Strauss already has the embryonic view of Machiavelli as the engenderer of Spinoza (and perhaps the modern world) which he would fully develop in the United States:

    “[Spinoza’s] analyses of political facts take their bearings partly by actual institutions of various states, and partly by the political reflections of the ‘most ingenious Machiavelli’ (and other publicists).  Even Spinoza’s realistic program came into being under the influence of the art of the Florentine of which he thought so highly, and which gave the decisive impulse to Spinoza’s political theory- indeed, one may even trace that program directly to the programmatic statement of Machiavelli in Chapter XV of Il Principe. It would seem that Spinoza was impressed by the opposition there established between what is imagined and what is factual, between life as it is and life as it should be, and by the equation of moral demands with the unreal, which is, as such, unworthy of consideration.”

[xxxi] Meier, Lesson, p. 173.

[xxxii] Schmitt, Political Theology, p. 33.

[xxxiii] Ibid, p. 34.

[xxxiv] Meier, Carl Schmitt, p. 110, n. 128.  Meier’s work grows out of the arcana of Schmitt’s relationship to Strauss.

[xxxv] Strauss, Spinoza’s Critique of Religion, trans. E.M. Sinclair (New York: Schocken, 1965), p. 236. [cited hereafter as Spinoza’s Critique].

[xxxvi] In this book, Strauss does not offer an esoteric reading of Spinoza.  Perhaps this is one of the passages to which he refers in the concluding sentence of his 1962 Preface: “I understood Spinoza too literally because I did not read him literally enough.” Spinoza’s Critique, p. 31.

[xxxvii] Strauss, Spinoza’s Critique, pp. 231-32.  Meier, Lesson, p. 117, n. 48.

[xxxviii] Strauss, Spinoza’s Critique, p. 235. 

[xxxix] In chapter 16, par. 2, of the Theological-Political Treatise, Spinoza invokes an even more explicitly might makes right formulation than Strauss’s: “For example, fish are determined by nature to swim and big fish to eat little ones, and therefore it is by sovereign natural right that fish have possession of the water and that big fish eat small fish.  For it is certain that nature, considered wholly in itself, has a sovereign right to do everything that it can do, i.e., the right of nature extends as far as its power extends.”

[xl] Meier, Lesson, p. 152, n. 78.

[xli] Strauss also is highly tempted by Thrasymachus’s notion that justice is the advantage of the stronger, at least, as Plato says in the Seventh Letter and has the Athenians Stranger say in the Laws, in all existing cities.  Here is a difference of Strauss and to a lesser extent Plato with Socrates’s great discovery of the question: what is justice?

[xlii] At the end of  his 1962 introduction to Spinoza’s Critique of Religion, Strauss suggested that the had not read Spinoza literally enough.  Perhaps this contradiction expresses some exoteric intention, in Strauss’s idiom on Spinoza’s part.  But one cannot remove the democracy and the public significance so easily from Spinoza’s argument (even in 1928, as he would often, Strauss largely ignored its decent political character).  It is doubtful that this genuine contradiction in Spinoza’s argument results from a practice of hidden writing.

[xliii] Contrast serious Christians, the martyred Pastor Niemoller or the heroic attorney James Helmuth von Moltke, with Schmitt’s bigotry.

[xliv] Strauss, Spinoza’s Critique, p. 302, n. 302.  See also my “John Mearsheimer’s Contextualism about Leo Strauss, part 2,” democratic-individuality.blogspot.com, February 5, 2010.

[xlv] Idem.  Meier elicits the same story of Leviathan and Behemoth from Schmitt’s Land und Meer (1942) with the obsessive addition that “Jews,” like spiders, “feast” on the prey and make “beautiful tents” from the hair: “But the Jews, they [ostensible medieval cabbalists] say further, stand on the sidelines and watch the battle.  They eat the flesh of the animals that kill each other, skin them, build beautiful tents out of the fur, and celebrate a festive, millineal banquet.  That is how the Jews interpret world history.”  Meier, Lesson, p. 156.

[xlvi] Mainly, this relationship is embodied in the way Schmitt read Strauss intently at different times, since Strauss may not have read the 1938 book on Hobbes and, apparently, has no remarks on it. Meier,  Lesson, p. 110 n. 128, 117 n, 148 and 152 n. 77.

[xlvii] In the German subtitle, Meier refers to a “conversation among the absent.”  Since the Nazis enforced Strauss’s absence, that seems adequate.  J. Louis Lomax, the American translator, inaccurately subtitles his book: “the hidden dialogue.”  Though misguided - Strauss got no chance to respond to Schmitt’s anti-semitism directly - that “Straussian” locution reflects Meier’s intent in the book.  Strauss did, however, as I have emphasized, celebrate Machiavelli as an esoteric or inexplicit answer to Schmitt’s Spinoza, but this is not Meier’s point.

[xlviii] See, however, Carl Gross, Carl Schmitt and the Jews

[xlix] Strauss to Schmitt, March 13, 1933 in Meier, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss, p. 123.

[l] Meier, Carl Schmitt, p. 110, n. 128.

[li] Carl Schmitt,  “Gesprach mit Eduard Spranger,” in Ex Capitivate Salus: Erfahrungen der Zeit 1945/47 , Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1950, 2002, p. 9.

[lii] Ibid, pp. 10, 12.  Meier, Lesson, ch. 4.

[liii] The analogy with Eve – and a deep religious distrust of and controllingness over women – is striking.

[liv] Of the Mosel, he also uses the word “nachgiebig” – pliable – which does not fit the river but does fit a Christian Epimetheus.  Meier, Lesson, ch. 4 omits foolishness and pliancy.

[lv] Meier, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss, p. 8, n. 7

[lvi]  In 1923, he already suggested that the leader of the “pagan-fascist” Zionist group, Walter Moses, had a Greek vision of politics (one of a wise ruler dominating others).  See Leo Strauss, The Early Writings, trans. Michael Zank,  GS 2:   and my “Leo Strauss’s 1923 celebration of ‘pagan-fascism’’ at democratic-individuality.blogspot.com, http://democratic-individuality.blogspot.com/2010/01/leo-strausss-1923-celebration-of-pagan.html, January, 2010.  The difference as with hidden writing is much more limited than those who see an epochal break in Strauss’s vision might hope.

[lvii] Gilbert, “Do Philosophers Counsel Tyrants?”

[lviii] See my “Leo Strauss’s 1923 celebration of ‘pagan-fascism’’ at democratic-individuality.blogspot.com, op. cit.

[lix] Mohler stressed “Presidentialism,” an analogue of Cheney’s “commander in chief power.”  Mueller, A Dangerous Mind, p. 140.

[lx] Martini and Hanno Kesting invoked the Portuguese dictator Salazar’s estado novo.  Interestingly, in his “Restatement,”  On Tyranny, p. 188,  Strauss overtly acknowledges Salazar’s “beneficial tyranny.”  See Gilbert,  “Do Philosophers Counsel Tyrants”  for an analysis of this as the esoteric message of Xenophon’s Hiero.

[lxi] Goldwin, “Locke” in Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, eds., History of Political Philosophy (University of Chicago, 1963).  Storing, “The Presidency and the Constitution” in Joseph Bessette, ed. Toward a More Perfect Union (American Enterprise Institute Press, 1995).

[lxii]  Cambone worked on a Ph.D. on the American founding with Strauss’s student Harry Jaffa at Claremont.

[lxiii] The House Minority Report on Iran-Contra, often emphasized by Cheney, was written for him by a student of Strauss and Walter Berns, Michael Malbin.

[lxiv] Jan-Werner Mueller  A Dangerous Mind, pp. 138-39. Emigrating to America, Strauss could not have gotten appointed to a University position as a fascist, let alone a sympathizer of the German National Revolution; he was even more delphic about his politics.  As a Jewish refugee from Nazism, the New School appointed him, and Hans Morganthau, another German-Jewish refugee and chair of the University of Chicago political science department, helped him to move there. 

[lxv] Some of Strauss’s students at Chicago also studied with Albert Wohlstetter, the influential, mathematical nuclear strategist who played a central role at the Rand Corporation.  Alex Abella, Soldiers of Reason.  Paul Wolfowitz, Abram Shulsky and Francis Fukuyama all worked at and wrote analyses for Rand.  The Wohlstetter/Rand influence is separate from and helped particularize Strauss’s. See also my “John Mearshemer’s contextualism about Leo Strauss,” part 2    .

[lxvi] Thanks for this point to Steven Wagner.


*As I have emphasized here, Strauss, unlike Mansfield, might well not have supported the overconfident and fantasy-based American neoconservative crusade to reshape the Middle East by war.

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