Arendt and Strauss

A&L Daily and LRC have both linked to this essay in Books and Culture recently, which is well worth a read. Two quick excerpts, the latter germane to recent discussions of Strauss:

Gliding through the salons of postwar Manhattan, Arendt shared dinner and conversation with Lionel Trilling, Dwight Macdonald, and Daniel Bell, and endured a marriage proposal from an infatuated W. H. Auden. But she also suffered the likes of like Irving Howe, Norman Podhoretz, and Sidney Hook, the latter an especially self-important pedant who thought Arendt was afraid to debate him.

She appears to have been genuinely uninterested in acquiring or counseling power, another virtue increasingly scarce among our "public intellectuals." Witness her long-running feud with fellow-émigré Leo Strauss, who became a colleague of Arendt's at the University of Chicago. Besides rebuffing his amorous advances (what minor nightmares they must been), Arendt saw in Strauss' careful attitude toward the Nazis all the signs of a sniveling opportunist, especially when, as a Jew, he could hardly expect any favors. In the 1960s, Arendt became a grossmutter of sorts to many student radicals, while Strauss helped concoct the intoxicating blend of powerlust and esoterica that evolved into neoconservatism. His intellectual spawn now occupy editorial offices, university faculties, and the Bush Administration, and their Platonic noble lies, having issued in a needless and protracted war in Iraq, have stoked the flames of hatred and recrimination throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds. Having seen the Master in action, Arendt would have known what to make of the Straussian cabal of sycophants and mediocrities.

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One thought on “Arendt and Strauss

  1. Kino Nick February 24, 2008 / 5:53 am

    Maybe if Strauss had been as robustly anti-Nazi as Heidegger he would have been more successful with Arendt.

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