Monday, June 8, 2015

Leo Strauss

“Always assume that there is one silent student in your class who is by far superior to you in head and in heart.” This is the counsel Leo Strauss, among the most consequential teachers and scholars of political philosophy in the 20th century, offered a comment to an advanced graduate student who had asked for a general rule about teaching.

Although generally unknown to the wider population. Leo Strauss, a rightist has been one of the two or three most important intellectual influences on the conservative world view. Some call him the neoconservative Pope while others remember him as one of the leading political philosopher of 20th century.He produced fifteen books and many essays on his subject. According to his admirers, Strauss earned a place among the angels by promoting Greek-inspired rationalism and a liberalism. A teacher who encouraged his acolytes to disregard both scholarly probity and morality in favor of a Nietzschean "will to power" and "master-slave morality". Most critics call him Machiavellian, a Nietzschean and a nihilist.Like Nietzsche and Machiavelli he believed that the humankind was naturally evil.He like Nietzsche believed that men are not created equal and that the few are meant to rule(Natural aristocracy). A philosopher inspired by the philosophy of Nietzsche and Heidegger. At first glance, a University of Chicago professor who spent most of his life pondering old books would seem an unlikely master-thinker for the policy wonks, career bureaucrats, and pundits who make up Washington's unelected elite. Above all he was a respected and passionate  teacher of philosophy and political science.

 Strauss held that politics was a central human activity, but he also believed that "all practical or political life is inferior to contemplative life." He participated in the battle of ideas not by issuing political manifestos or angling for bureaucratic power, but by writing recondite and difficult books. Leo Strauss is increasingly recognized as one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century and his book are translated into many languages. His research stimulated significant developments in the study of ancient and modern political philosophy, American political thought (especially the founding), classics and Greek studies, Jewish studies, and Islamic studies, among other fields. He is widely known for defending natural right, especially in its classical form, against the challenges of relativism and historicism, reopening the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns in political philosophy, emphasizing philosophy as a way of life, sharply criticizing value-free social science, stressing the centrality of the theological-political problem, and distinguishing between the exoteric and esoteric teachings of writers of the past. Strauss published penetrating interpretations of writings by a wide range of philosophers, going far beyond the conventional canon of figures studied in the field of Western political theory, including not only Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Cicero, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Nietzsche, Weber, Montesquieu and Carl Schmitt, but also the Bible, Aristophanes, Xenophon, Lucretius, Al-Farabi, Judah Halevi, Maimonides, Lessing, Moses Mendelssohn, Herman Cohen, and Heidegger. His political thought was mostly shaped by Machiavelli , Hobbes, Nietzsche , Plato and Aristotle.

A typical Strauss volume is a densely packed commentary on a classic text like Plato's "The Laws" or Machiavelli's "The Prince," festooned with footnotes drawing on an array of hard-won languages from ancient Greek and Latin to medieval Arabic.Strauss set forth the core of Medieval enlightenment in his writings on Maimonides and Alfarabi.The core was a Platonic solution to the political problem of philosophy which has been carried forward by Platonists of Hellenistic period such as Cicero and Philo.  Yet while the extent of Strauss's influence is wide, his writings are frequently obscure, and his legacy is hotly disputed by admirers and critics alike. Certainly, Strauss was no ordinary Republican idea-maker: Steeped in ancient philosophy, he had dark forebodings about democracy, religion, technology, and nearly everything else that can claim the allegiance of the contemporary conservative (or liberal, for that matter). 

Leo Strauss , a leading political philosopher of 20th century and known to many as a thinker of the right.

Born in 1899 to an Orthodox Jewish family in Germany, Leo Strauss learned at an early age that religion and philosophy are always vulnerable to the threat of political persecution.  As an undergraduate at the University of Marburg, his mentor was Hermann Cohen, a philosopher whose reconciliation of Kant's philosophical ethics and biblical morality seemed to suggest that there was no contradiction in being a German Jewish liberal. These political and philosophical problems fused together in the 1930s, when the Nazis came to power-and won the applause of Heidegger .In 1921 at University of Hamburg, Strauss completed his dissertation, “The problem of Knowledge in the Philosophical Doctrine of F.H. Jacobi,” under the direction of Cohen's student, Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945). Strauss's dissertation considered the implications of Jacobi's notion of revelation for the problem of knowledge. Although Strauss would come to regard his dissertation as “a disgraceful performance,” the question of the meaning and status of divine revelation would continue to occupy him throughout his life. Strauss spent 1922 in Freiburg where he attended Edmund Husserl's lectures on phenomenology. Like a number of others, who would soon become famous philosophers in their own right, such as Emmanuel Levinas, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Karl Löwith, and Hannah Arendt, Strauss was quickly taken with Husserl's student, Martin Heidegger, who, he later wrote, impressed him as no other contemporary thinker had.

Strauss believed that Martin Heidegger possessed the greatest mind of the 20th century. But unlike those Heidegger admirers who excused the philosopher's flirtation with Nazism as a mere personal failing, Straus believed it showed that modern philosophy had gone deeply astray. Orwin explains: "Strauss's question always was, What was it about modern thought that could have led Heidegger to make these disastrous practical misjudgments?" In Strauss's mature work, he would argue that Plato and Aristotle were wiser than modern thinkers like Machiavelli and Heidegger. He is especially noted for seeking to revive the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns. In a number of books Strauss calls for a return to and a renewal of ancient political philosophy, and in particular that of Plato. This exultation of ancient thought wasn't merely a nostalgic celebration of the good old Greek days. As the political theorist Stephen Holmes observes, Strauss believed that classical thinkers had grasped a still-vital truth: Inequality is an ineradicable aspect of the human condition. 

Leo Strauss as student.

In Strauss’s case, he admired the sense of spiritual unity that was promulgated in these German youth groups and it was that sort of nationalist or spiritual element that was appealing to him. He wrote a book on Spinoza published in 1930 and left Germany in 1932 on a Rockefeller Foundation grant for research on Thomas Hobbes and medieval Jewish and Arabic studies in Paris and London. He was thus in Paris when the Nazis took power. However, Strauss should not be confused with the anti-Nazi refugees who soon arrived in the French capital, because at this time he was a committed anti-liberal, in the German sense of anti-liberal, which is to say, among other things, an anti-parliamentarian. Also in 1932, he wrote an extended review of a book by the German legal and political theorist Carl Schmitt entitled The Concept of the Political, in which Schmitt articulated his notion that the core of the political problem is the distinction between friends and enemies. Schmitt later became a member of the Nazi party and a leading figure in the main legal organization of the Third Reich. In Strauss’s review, he criticized Schmitt from the political right. He argued that “the critique introduced by Schmitt against liberalism can be completed only if one succeeds in gaining a horizon beyond liberalism. In such a horizon Hobbes completed the foundation of liberalism. A radical critique of liberalism is thus possible only on the basis of an adequate understanding of Hobbes.”His point was that Schmitt was, in his criticisms of liberalism, working within the bounds of liberal society because liberalism had become so dominant that it was difficult see beyond it anymore, and it was thus necessary to go back to Hobbes to see what was there before. What was there before was a very strong sense of the absolute dichotomies of good and evil. For Strauss, Hobbes represents the foundation of liberalism and modernism in the claim that these notions of good and evil are nominalist, they simply do not exist in anything other than our judgment about them. 

 Strauss wrote to  Karl Löwith in May 1933, five months after Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor and a month after implementation of the first anti-Jewish legislation, that “Just because Germany has turned to the right and has expelled us,” meaning Jews, “it simply does not follow that the principles of the right are therefore to be rejected.  To the contrary, only on the basis of principles of the right—fascist, authoritarian, imperial [emphasis in original]—is it possible in a dignified manner, without the ridiculous and pitiful appeal to ‘the inalienable rights of man’ to protest against the mean nonentity,” the mean nonentity being the Nazi party.  In other words, he is attacking the Nazis from the right in this letter.  He wrote that he had been reading Caesar’s Commentaries, and valued Virgil’s judgment that, “under imperial rule the subjected are spared and the proud are subdued.”  And he concluded, “there is no reason to crawl to the cross, even to the cross of liberalism, as long as anywhere in the world the spark glimmers of Roman thinking.  And moreover, better than any cross is the ghetto.”  

Two months later, in July 1933, he wrote to Schmitt—he did not realize that Schmitt had joined the Nazi party, or seemed not to fully understand what the regime was about in terms of its anti-Semitism—asking for help in getting entrée to Charles Maurras, the French right-wing Catholic leader of the Action Française. What all of this suggests is that in the 1930s Strauss was not an anti-liberal in the sense in which we commonly mean “anti-liberal” today, but an anti-democrat in a fundamental sense, a true reactionary. Strauss was somebody who wanted to go back to a previous, pre-liberal, pre-bourgeois era of blood and guts, of imperial domination, of authoritarian rule, of pure fascism. Like Schmitt, what Strauss hated about liberalism, among other things, was its inability to make absolute judgments, its inability to take action. And, like Schmitt, he sought a way out in a kind of pre-liberal decisiveness. I would suggest that this description of fascist, authoritarian, imperial principles accurately describes the current imperial project of the United States. Because of this, examining the foundational elements of Strauss’s political theory helps us to see something important about our current situation, independently of any kind of Straussian direct influence, although there is certainly some of that.

Heinrich Meier's critical book on Strauss and Schmitt

  In 1935, Strauss published a book on Hobbes as well as a book entitled Philosophy and Law. The latter, on Maimonides and other Jewish themes, is the book in which he announced the discovery of what he called “the forgotten kind of writing,” to which his daughter referred. This entailed writing for different kinds of audiences simultaneously. Strauss had been working on Maimonides and he came to the conclusion that in order to understand Maimonides he had to understand the writers to whom Maimonides was relating and that led Strauss to Alfarabi, the medieval Islamic philosopher. In these authors, and in Machiavelli and Spinoza, and ultimately in Plato, Strauss thinks that he discovered something about the way that they wroteThat is, the philosopher has to conceal what he is actually doing.The suggestion here is that philosophy always has to go underground, to conceal itself in some way because philosophy deals with truth while society is based on opinion and truth subverts opinion. This is the basis of what Strauss calls a “philosophic politics.”.In Philosophy and Law Strauss makes use of Nietzsche while not making Nietzsche's role explicit.Strauss like Nietzsche was the defender of the cause of philosophy and the cause of reason in the world.He like Nietzsche was an advocate of enlightenment and rationalism.

In his book On Tyranny, about which I will have more to say below, he explains:

In what then does philosophic politics consist? In satisfying the city that the philosophers are not atheists, that they do not desecrate everything sacred to the city, that they reverence what the city reverences, that they are not subversives, in short that they are not irresponsible adventurers but good citizens and even the best of citizens. This is the defense of philosophy that was required always and everywhere, whatever the regime might have been.

What is particularly interesting about this to me is that while he described this quite clearly in the middle 1930s, in his study of Alfarabi and Maimonides, he did not himself start to write in this mode until he came to the United States in 1936. This is an issue concerning Strauss that people gloss over too easily. The question, starkly posed, is why did Strauss himself start to write in this esoteric/exoteric manner only after he came to an “open” society, to the United States? It is often said that Strauss’s discovery was somehow situated in terms of the Nazi regime and its repression, but that does not explain why he would only revert to this kind of writing when he came here. I suggest that Strauss’s political position, which he articulated in the letter to Löwith and in his critique of Schmitt, never fundamentally changed, but when he came to the United States it had to take on a more prudent presentation. Strauss’s criticisms of liberal-democratic societies did not stop at liberalism but went all the way through to the core—he was, in other words, far more reactionary than many contemporary critics suggest.  

The notion of esoteric and exoteric writing means that one has to read writers, as Strauss put it, “between the lines,” and he developed a very elaborate system of reading, which included silences, things that are not included in the text, and obvious errors or thematic points that appear to pop up out of nowhere. I do not want to get into this conception of writing too much, but to characterize it a little bit, Strauss held that the great books were written by authors who had complete and total control of their texts. Thus there are no errors, no false starts, everything is very tightly, beautifully constructed so that the initiated can pick up on little mistakes, little openings in the text and find their way in. Strauss himself adopted a system of using a great many interrelated footnotes and references and of quoting people whose position he would not overtly take while pointing to the fact that that was his position by other clues in the text, among other techniques. It is almost impossible to avoid the term Talmudic to describe the way in which he read and later wrote books. Two of his books are particularly instructive.

In 1937 Strauss accepted a visiting lectureship in history from Columbia University. The following year Strauss became a visiting researcher at the New School for Social Research, home to many European émigrés. Strauss's position at the New School became permanent, and he remained there for ten years.Leo Strauss is especially noted for seeking to revive the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns. In a number of books Strauss calls for a return to and a renewal of ancient political philosophy, and in particular that of Plato. Strauss follows Nietzsche and Heidegger in seeing a crisis of nihilism at the heart of modernity which opens up the possibilty of a return to a principle forgotten or lost sight of within modernity. Again, like Nietzsche and Heidegger, Strauss would see that the recovery of this lost principle involves a return to the ancients who are now able to speak  to us free from the distorting effects of modern assumptions. However, in striking contrast to Nietzsche and Heidegger, Strauss turns not to the pre Socratics, but to Plato and Aristotle precisely. Strauss found special access to Plato in writings of Alfarabi,Alfarabi's Plato is Strauss's Plato.He considers Nietzsche and Heidegger the modern architects of Western metaphysics.Strauss has recently been referred as closet Nietzschean or Heideggerian, so it is important to be clear about how Strauss's position is to be distinguished from theirs.

Strauss read Nietzsche as contending for highest against Plato himself.Strauss once said "he was lucky to have lived in the present period, because the most comprehensive and deepest account of the whole has been given to us by Plato, and the most comprehensive criticism of that account has been given to us by Nietzsche".

Strauss believes that historicism arises in modernity because modernity is premised on a "conquest of nature"namely, the conception that human activity can transform nature, that it can produce a reality that is other than and superior to the natural condition of man. The radical historicism and relativism that belongs to Nietzsche and Heidegger is simply the most complete "conquest" of nature, the final result of Machiavelli's transformation of political philosophy.

The decade that Strauss spent at the New School was arguably the most productive, and certainly the most pivotal, of his intellectual career. In his first years at the New School, Strauss published the seminal essays that would become the book Persecution and the Art of Writing. In these essays, Strauss argued that, when reading certain pre-modern thinkers, it is necessary to read between the lines. The possibility of persecution gives rise to a certain type of writing that allows one set of the readers, the majority, to receive one message while allowing a second set of readers, the philosophical elite, to take away another message. While this type of writing is often referred to as “esoteric,” it is more properly understood as “exoteric,” that is, writing that outwardly veils a secret teaching of some sort. For Strauss, Maimonides, Judah Halevi, and Spinoza were all exoteric writers. Despite the profound differences between them, Maimonides and Spinoza both outwardly teach that philosophy and revelation are reconcilable with one another. Yet, according to Strauss, the careful reader will notice that their respective arguments actually suggest the opposite: that philosophy and revelation are in fact irreconcilable. Halevi, on the other hand, outwardly teaches that philosophy and revelation are irreconcilable. But whereas Halevi's dismissal of philosophy in the face of revelation seems to suggest that philosophy is not a challenge for revelation, Strauss argues that the careful reader will notice that Halevi's argument in fact suggests the opposite: that philosophy is not just a challenge for revelation but a supremely dangerous challenge.

 During his New School years, Strauss also delved more deeply into ancient philosophy to explore the themes of persecution and writing. Strauss's fourth book, On Tyranny: An Interpretation of Xenophon's “Hiero,” was published in 1948. In this study, Strauss offers a close reading of the rhetoric of Xenophon's dialogue, which highlights, on Strauss's reading, the tension between the philosophical quest for truth and the requirements of society.  

Strauss’s warning that modern society is heading toward a kind of tyranny is not directed only toward Hitler and Stalin, toward fascism and communism; he is talking about the development of Western civilization generally: the diffusion of modern science and technology, the spreading of education throughout the entire population, the foundation of democratic claims in the notion of popular sovereignty. This is the beginning of the end of a certain notion of the political, of a certain relation to the world that Strauss wants to reinvigorate. The tyranny that he is talking about when he is writing in 1948 is the tyranny that he experiences, or thinks he experiences, in the West. It is under the threat of that tyranny that he adopts this dual form of writing and this book is itself the great example of that form.  

As Strauss understood it, political philosophy is the face that philosophy turns to the public. It is the way that philosophers address the public to convince them that they are not subversive at the same time that they are embedding another kind of message to those who will understand. Strauss went to Chicago in 1949, where he taught for twenty years, and it was there that he established his reputation. Upon joining Chicago's faculty, Strauss gave a series of lectures on “Natural Right and History,” which would be published in 1953 under the same title. Natural Right and History remains Strauss's best-known American work but its basic worry is an extension of his early doubts about the ability of twentieth-century philosophy to respond to the challenges of political and moral relativism. In the United States, and in the department of political science at Chicago, Strauss criticized what he took to be the moral relativism upon which the social sciences rested. He begins the book with an analysis of Max Weber, one of the principle founders of the academic discipline of social science, and attempts to show a direct line leading from Weber's positivism to historicism, which Strauss defines as the view that “all human thoughts or beliefs are historical” . He then contrasts modern conceptions of natural right, beginning with Hobbes, with ancient conceptions, beginning with Plato. The former, argues Strauss, ends in historicist relativism, in which there are no moral, political, or scientific standards beyond particular historical contexts. Natural Right and History asks, though does not answer, the question of whether it is possible to return to some concept of nature for understanding who we are as human beings and therefore to some notion of absolute moral standards. Strauss was also an important member of  Committee on Social Thought( the famous PhD-granting committee at the University of Chicago) where he gave legendary lectures on philosophy of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Hobbes, Nietzsche, Machiavelli, Locke, Rousseau and Montesquieu.

Strauss published two other books and many essays in his later years. In 1958 he published what is likely his most controversial study, Thoughts on Machiavelli, in which he pronounced Machiavelli's “anti-theological ire” the source of modernity. After retiring from Chicago, Strauss taught at Claremont Men's College in California for a year and then joined his old friend Jacob Klein (1899–1978) at St. John's College in Annapolis as a scholar in residence. Strauss died in 1973. The Argument and Action of Plato's “Laws” was published posthumously in 1975. At the time of his death, Strauss had also been at work on studies of Nietzsche, Thucydides, and Xenophon. A number of important collections of Strauss's essays have since been edited and published by some of his former students.

Despite Strauss's remoteness from practical politics, he was considered to be one of the most influential men in American politics. One of the main reasons of such influence was his students or followers, number of conservative intellectuals, with a special interest in political philosophy and American constitutional history, who are called Straussians.The Straussian network is really an amazing thing. Any political theorist or anyone who has been around political science departments has seen it at work. Long before attaining public attention, the Straussians were often ridiculed for their cult-like qualities: they speak and write the same way, they write the same books on the same themes over and over again, they dress alike, they are almost all men, they went to the same schools—those sorts of things. It thus comes as a shock to discover that Leo Strauss may turn out to be the most influential political theorist of the last  fifty years in the United States with respect to the exercise of political power.If the Straussians were only one academic school among others, that would be one thing. But in the mid-1980s some commentators suddenly realized that they had begun to follow the lead of their liberal academic neighbors in heading for Washington, D.C. At that time, it was noticed that something strange was going on in the Reagan administration. The first sign of this was in an article by Stephen Toulmin, a historian of science, in the New York Review of Books in 1984, in the middle of a review of a book on Margaret Mead. Toulmin used Mead as an example to which he compared the then-current State Department policy planning staff, where, he said, they had more people who were acquainted with the writings of Leo Strauss than they were with the cultures that the State Department has to deal with. 
Strauss said the way of the philosopher is the way of Socrates; of the pursuit of wisdom, of the good in itself. But the way of the world is the way of Thrasymachus. And the argument for justice that Thrasymachus makes in Plato’s Republic is that justice is helping friends and hurting enemies. And this is in fact the moral compass that Straussians adopt in the world. It accounts, partly, for the network that they have constructed. And when the friends are philosophers then that is a really good thing, but if they are not philosophers, well, that is the way the world works anyway—you help friends, you hurt enemies. It is a form of realism, but it is realism in the hidden interests of wisdom. Now, this attitude and this kind of language do not only derive from Strauss, but it is notable the degree to which this administration, in particular, has articulated the world in terms of friends and enemies from September 11th on. That is the way the world has been divided by this administration, and it does what it can for its friends, regardless of what regime they may have, and it does what it can to its enemies, or what the administration perceives as its enemies, domestic and foreign.
The trickiest element in the current rhetorical structure of things is “tyranny.” As in the case of “regime,” one perked up one’s ears with the sudden ubiquity of the term tyranny. The term had not been used in contemporary political discourse until recently. Academic political science and public political discourse had used terms such as authoritarian or dictatorship or despotism to describe varieties of political domination throughout the last century. For the last half of it, the category of totalitarian was added. Despite Strauss’s effort in 1948, it is only now that tyranny has entered the speechwriters’ lexicon, and it seems clear that it is the work of Strauss’s descendants. 

This is the most complicated part of Strauss’s thinking and the most important in terms of understanding the current political situation. In the passage quoted above, Strauss referred to an ancient teaching on tyranny with which he contrasted a problematic modern tyranny. In the ancient teaching, which is the teaching with which he wishes to identify himself, it is possible for the wise man to move a tyranny toward its best possible form. That is, there are tyrannies and there are tyrannies; there are really bad ones and relatively good ones. The good ones are ones in which the tyrant rules beneficially for his subjects, but does so beyond the law. And Strauss says in his book, through the words of Xenophon, the author of the Hiero, that the rule of a good tyrant is better than misrule under law, so that tyrannical rule can be superior to constitutional rule or to the rule of misguided political elites. It is simply not the case that Strauss is entirely hostile to the notion of tyranny; he is hostile to the modern notion of tyranny, which is articulated in the passages already cited and then is further articulated by Strauss in his response to Alexandre Kojève’s review of his book.  
In Strauss’s post-Nietzschean view, the modern form of tyranny leads necessarily to a flattening out of experience, to the so-called “last man.” Society eventually becomes uninteresting when it is permeated by technology and science and a generalized level of education, the flattening out of experience that Tocqueville partly anticipated for democratic societies and which Nietzsche railed against. Strauss held out the hope, under those circumstances, for some rebellion, for acts of courage or honor to reverse this trend, this so-called tyranny. For Strauss, tyranny is a problem in the modern sense, not in the ancient sense, and I would suggest that his admiration for Churchill and Lincoln is because they actually mirror, to some degree, the ancient notion of the tyrant, especially Lincoln, who sidestepped the Constitution during the Civil War.

Straussians love Lincoln and they love him for a couple of reasons, one of which is that he was not reluctant to set the law aside when he felt it was necessary. But they also venerate Lincoln because he quite consciously set about the business of constructing a mythology about American identity, a patriotic mythology. Lincoln made the claim, in his Lyceum speech in 1838, that those who had had the experience of fighting for the establishment of the country in the Revolution were dying out as a generation and that future generations would have to revive this experience through myths and stories that they told about this founding generation. And that is what Straussians do in terms of American culture, primarily through the myth of the Founding Fathers, the notion of this aristocratic elite that established America and the way that it is established. So Lincoln is a very important figure for them because he resorted to tyrannical measures when he had to and because he sought to mythically restore heroic virtues. 

As for Churchill, who was also something of a tyrant, the issue is somewhat different. Churchill stood up to Hitler, and Hitler is a representative of the bad kind of tyrant. It is embedded in the Straussian notion of the vulgar that they are thoughtless readers but they can see things, you can construct images—Strauss develops this out of Plato’s notion of the noble lie—that it is easier for people to see constructions and through then to glimpse the principles that lie behind them. And so what was important about Churchill was his image as a figure representing this opposition; that one could then begin to raise the question of good and evil by having this figure confronting Hitler, and then you label Hitler as evil and Churchill as good and you are into that dialectic of good and evil, which is so important to Strauss, and such a fundamental element of what he understood the political to be about; that is about struggle, about this sort of confrontation. So when Jenny Strauss Clay says her father was opposed to all kinds of utopianisms, and then she cites the Nazi and Communist ones, there is more to it than that. For some, there is the utopia of a peaceful world, a Kantian sort of utopia, of an end to conflict, of a resolution of grievances through peaceful means. For Strauss, that eliminates the struggle that is at the core of the political and which is necessary to be going on in the political realm while philosophers can be busy doing whatever it is that philosophers do.

Neoconservatives as media calls them are in my opinion mostly Straussians but what gets Leo Strauss in trouble is the image of these neocons as warmongers. Indeed Strauss believed in Nietzschen ideas that few elite deserve to rule masses but neither Nietzsche or Strauss justified this aristocracy by means of war or cruelty but rather by natural order (refer to Nietzsche's master-slave morality).Like Nietzsche and Machiavelli he believed that humankind was naturally evil.Nietzsche's political philosophy is also similar to Aristotle's and Plato's political ideas (ruled by the elite or aristocrats).Strauss privately admired Nietzsche.If we are to fully understand Strauss, we must recognize that his greatest intellectual debt is to Nietzsche.Strauss's writings on Nietzsche are very condensed.Strauss's essay 'A Note on the Plan of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil' is not only one of the most penetrating and most consistent account of Nietzsche's philosophy, it reveals the extent to which Strauss's own ideas have their foundations in Nietzsche's thought.Strauss's Nietzsche is the best Nietzsche yet, the one nearest to the still almost secret Nietzsche of Nietzsche's great books.

Liberalism is itself fearful, in most instances, of popular power, of—for want of a better term—the power of the people. The big event in Allan Bloom’s life, aside from meeting Strauss and writing a best seller and becoming rich, happened at Cornell University, while he was teaching there, when armed black students took over the student center. In many respects, Straussian cultural criticism is a reaction against the counter-cultural and political movements in the 1960s, including the student movement. But there has been a liberal reaction to that, too. And a liberal discourse that talks about the need for civic education, that talks about the need for a patriotic discourse—Wesley Clark’s campaign talk about the need for a “new American patriotism” is an example—is really moving in the same area as the Straussian discourse. And there are some crossover types, as well. 

 Notable people who studied under Strauss, or attended his lecture courses at the University of Chicago, include Hadley Arkes, Seth Benardete, Allan Bloom, Werner Dannhauser, Murray Dry, William Galston, Victor Gourevitch, Harry V. Jaffa,Roger Masters, Clifford Orwin, Thomas Pangle, Stanley Rosen,  Susan Sontag, Warren Winiarski.Harvey C. Mansfield, though never a student of Strauss, is a noted "Straussian" and in fact Mansfield said in his interview that it was Leo Strauss that he most idolized and calls Leo as his true teacher. Richard Rorty described Strauss as a particular influence in his early studies at the University of Chicago, where Rorty studied a "classical curriculum" under Strauss. Nathan Tarcov, Professor of Political Science and member of Committee on Social Thought at University of Chicago is currently the one of the few leading scholars on the study of Leo Strauss.Tarcov is also the director of Leo Strauss Centre based at the University of Chicago and the Centre's website contains lectures of Leo Strauss in audio and written format which everyone can access.