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Leo Strauss: The Political Philosopher as a Young Zionist

Jerry Muller
Jewish Social Studies
Vol. 17, No. 1 (Fall 2010), pp. 88-115
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/jewisocistud.17.1.88
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Page Count: 28
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Leo Strauss: The Political Philosopher as a Young Zionist
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Abstract Recent scholarship on the young Leo Strauss has tended to overlook, downplay, or misunderstand the significance of Strauss's Zionism for the development of his interest in the nature of political life, not least because it fails to note the influence of political Zionist thinkers, especially Leon Pinsker and Theodor Herzl, on his assumptions. Strauss's Zionism was resolutely secular and critical of the influence of religious Orthodoxy, cultural Zionism, and liberal humanitarianism, all of which he saw as threats to a sober assessment of the Jewish condition in interwar Europe. The challenge for Zionism, as Strauss conceived it, was to acquire a realistic conception of politics, one that took into account the ineluctability of particularist identities and interests and the role of power in human affairs. Because of the deficiencies of the Jewish tradition, it was a body of knowledge that had to be learned from the gentiles, from Nietzsche back to Plato.

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