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Leo Strauss, and Public Intellectual Culture

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In 2003 Jenny Clay Strauss, daughter of the German Jewish historian of political philosophy Leo Strauss and herself a professor of classics, wrote to the New York Times to protest articles that presented her father “as the mastermind behind the neoconservative ideologues who control United States foreign policy.” She went on: “He reaches out from his 30-year-old grave, we are told, to direct a “cabal” (a word with distinct anti-Semitic overtones) of Bush administration figures hoping to subject the American people to rule by a ruthless elite.” In “A Cabal We Deserve: Leo Strauss, the Straussians, and Public Intellectual Culture,” Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft explores the meanings of conspiracy theories surrounding Leo Strauss and the Straussians. What values of transparency in democratic governance, what attitudes towards lying in politics, animate them? What ideas about conservative as opposed to progressive intellectuals? And what expectations for public intellectual life in a democratic society are bound up with all this talk of conspiracy?

This talk is part of the Conspiracy & Democracy series.

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