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The Review of Politics 79 (2017), 413425.

University of Notre Dame


doi:10.1017/S0034670517000262
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Leo Strauss on Modern Political Science:Two


Previously Unpublished Manuscripts
Svetozar Minkov and Rasoul Namazi

The two manuscripts published here for the rst time were written by Leo
Strauss: the rst in 1956 and the second between 1957 and 1962. The rst, enti-
tled Lecture in Milwaukee: Michigan Midwest Political Science, was
written for the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Midwest Conference of
Political Scientists on May 4, 1956, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The second is
an unpublished passage of An Epilogue Strauss wrote for Essays on the
Scientic Study of Politics, published in 1962. Together these pieces improve
our understanding of both the context in which Strauss developed his critique
of the new political science and the audience to whom that critique was
addressed. These two texts are of biographical interest. They are biograph-
ical in the sense that they clarify Strausss thought and its evolution. The
Lecture in Milwaukee claries the context in which Strausss critique of
modern political science was born: confrontation with the political scientists
of the 1950s, here represented by Glendon Schubert who is not mentioned
in Strausss published writings. Without this lecture one might overlook the
reference to extrasensory perception in the ironical discussion of our
man in Missouri in Epilogue.1 The critique of Arthur Bentley, Bernard
Berelson, Harold Laswell, and Herbert Simon by Strausss students also
takes on new meaning if read in the light of this lectures references and
Schuberts published article. Aside from Strausss view of academia in the
1950s, his references in the lecture to the British Labour Partys policy
toward Nazi Germany, to postwar American disarmament, and to prison
reform and immigration policy in the United States provide rare and thus
important information about Strausss political views and judgment.

Svetozar Minkov is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Roosevelt University, 430 S.


https://doi.org/10.1017/S0034670517000262

Michigan Ave. AUD 843, Chicago, IL 60605 (sminkov@roosevelt.edu).

Rasoul Namazi is Postdoctoral Researcher at Committee on Social Thought,


University of Chicago, Foster 303, 1130 E. 59th St., Chicago, IL 60637 (namazi@uchi-
cago.edu).
1
Leo Strauss, An Epilogue, in Liberalism Ancient and Modern (New York: Basic
Books, 1968), 212. An Epilogue originally appeared in Essays on the Scientic Study
of Politics, ed. Herbert Storing (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1962), 30727.

413
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The most striking characteristic of the unpublished part of An Epilogue is


its rhetorical quality. It complements the famous last paragraph of the pub-
lished work in which Strauss states:
Only a great fool would call the new political science diabolic: it has no
attributes peculiar to fallen angels. It is not even Machiavellian, for
Machiavellis teaching was graceful, subtle, and colorful. Nor is it
Neronian. Nevertheless one may say of it that it ddles while Rome
burns. It is excused by two facts: it does not know that it ddles, and it
does not know that Rome burns.

It also shows the specic audience Strauss intends to address: uninitiated


and innocent but otherwise properly qualied youth, those who in the pub-
lished piece are described as the best men of the coming generation.2 One
can here see how Strauss viewed the future of the discipline and how he tried
to change it.
To understand the context in which Strauss delivered the Lecture in
Milwaukee, it is useful to know that the program for the Michigan
Midwest conference lists a round table The Role of Political Theory in
Political Science, II, at which two papers were presented: Power as the
Central Concept of Political Science by a friend and colleague of Strauss,
Hans J. Morgenthau; and The Theory of the Public Interest in
Administrative and Judicial Decision-Making by Glendon A. Schubert
(19192006), then a professor at Michigan State University and considered
one of the most inuential gures in the study of judicial decision-making.3
Strauss is not mentioned among the discussants of this panel but he presented
a paper entitled The Dilemma of Political Theory: The General Will vs. the
Regime earlier the same day in another round table, The Role of Political
Theory in Political Science, I. Strauss responds explicitly to Schuberts
claim that the public interest is determined solely by a process and has
no existence or content independent of that process. He may also have been
present during Morgenthaus and Schuberts lectures.4

2
Ibid., 204.
3
For a general introduction to Schuberts thought see Jeffrey A. Segal, Glendon
Schubert: The Judicial Mind, in The Pioneers of Judicial Behavior, ed. Nancy Maveety
(Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003); Fred Kort, The Works of Glendon
Schubert: The History of a Subdiscipline, Political Science Reviewer 4 (1974):193227.
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A revised version of Schuberts paper was published the following year as The
Public Interest in Administrative Decision-Making: Theorem, Theosophy, or
Theory?, American Political Science Review 51, no. 2 (1957): 34668. The paper by
Morgenthau seems to be a version of the argument made in Hans J. Morgenthau,
Dilemmas of Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 5487.
4
The program of the conference was obtained with the help of the executive director
of MPSA, William Morgan. Among Strausss students Harry V. Jaffa is mentioned as a
member of the program committee. The presence of Strauss at the round table is
attested by a report by Morton Frisch to Clifford A. Bates back in 1992.
LEO STRAUSS ON MODERN POLITICAL SCIENCE 415
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Strauss devotes most of his lecture to responding to a claim Schubert makes


about the character of the public interest. According to Schubert, most posi-
tivists agree that the public interest is a product of a process in which admin-
istrators and judges are unimportant. Schubert contrasts this positivist
understanding with that of a natural law theorist, who thinks that the
public interest is a thing of importance, independent of the decisional
process and absolute in its terms. Like a Platonic idea, Schubert suggests,
the public ofcial excogitates the true essence of the public interest by
means of a mental act of extra-sensory perception.
Strauss begins his response by criticizing the implied distinction Schubert
makes between positivist empirical political science and natural law
theory. Theory and empirical research in political science are closely
related, Strauss observes. Theory may be based on experience, it may
consist of reections on such experience, and its validity may be established
by experience. Likewise, it is generally admitted that empirical research is
based on theory. The question does not concern the necessity of theory, there-
fore, but what kind of theory. Strauss agrees with his behavioral colleagues
that good theory is theory that makes empirical research possible.
However, he adds, in opposition to positivists, that good theory must also
point to relevant problems; and relevance is not guaranteed by scientic
method but by comprehensive grasp of the subject matter.
Strauss thus agrees with Schuberts objection to unrealistic political
theory. However, he does not accept the distinction Schubert draws
between the public interest as the product not of the understandings of
administrators and judges but of a process which engulfs their individual-
ity, and the public interest understood to be a thing of importance, inde-
pendent of the decisional process and absolute in its terms, known by
means of a mental act of extra-sensory perception. On the contrary, he
points out, students of politics determine what is in the public interest
through a combination of sensory and nonsensory functions. In the rst
place, they recognize that there may be policies that would foster private
interests, such as selling contaminated food, which cannot be defended in
public. Second, they see that there are objectives that are generally agreed
to be in the public interest, such as defense, prosperity, and public health,
and that these goals are not irrational. To be sure, such general views are a
crude yardstick, insufcient for establishing what specic measures will be
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in the public interest at a given time; such a determination requires expertise


and practical experience. Neither public ofcials nor the electorate may, in
fact, recognize what is actually in the public interest. That is usually a
matter of controversy. But the fact that there is disagreement about what is
in the common interest does not prove that there is no such interestin
groups and married couples as well as in nations. The question whether
there is such a thing as the public interest does not simply divide realistic
factual positivists from idealistic natural law theorists. No one would char-
acterize Machiavelli as a natural law theorist, but he had an understanding
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of the common good that included independence from foreign domination,


law and order, and prosperity.
The primary issue for the study of politics is not then the issue dividing the
positivists and natural law theorists (concerning whether we can know what
is good or bad). The primary issue is between a preoccupation with the scien-
tic method and a chief preoccupation with subject matter. Behaviorial polit-
ical scientists now claim that we can obtain knowledge of politics only
through exact quantitative studies. However, Strauss objects, such quantita-
tive scientic studies depend upon prescientic, common-sense knowledge
of what an election or a public ofcial is and, indeed, how to distinguish a
human being from other sorts of being. And, he concludes, there is a connec-
tion between the relative unconcern with relevance and the contempt for pre-
scientic knowledge. Prescientic knowledge of political matters implies a
distinction between the important and the unimportant, it therefore draws
our attention to worthwhile themes of research.
At the end of his lecture Strauss speaks briey and rather allusively about
the reasons contemporary political scientists like Schubert have lost a sense of
what is truly important to study. All social facts occur within a context or
whole, but contemporary political scientists have lost sight of the relevant
whole, because they no longer understand the ancient Greek concept of the
regime. As a result of a fundamental change in political theory, which
Strauss does not explain here, that concept has been replaced by the
general will.5 He simply reminds his audience that the general will as a
will of society is necessarily directed towards the good of society or to the
common good or the public interest; hence, the general will takes the place
of the public interest; whatever sovereign people declare to be the public
interest, must be accepted as the public interest. It is determined by a
process, and the end of the story is Mr. Schuberts denition of public inter-
est. The public interest is no longer seen to have a specic content. As many
of the ideas discussed in this lecture are further elaborated in Strausss contro-
versial Epilogue, we believe it is reasonable to add an unpublished part of
that text to this lecture. The handwritten notes of the lecture in Milwaukee are
found in Leo Strauss Papers at the Special Collections Research Center,
University of Chicago Library, Box 18, Folder 13. The original typescript
which is the basis of the current edition as well as the unpublished portion
of An Epilogue are not to be found in Leo Strauss Papers; they are both
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from Leo Weinsteins private papers; we thank Professor Stuart D. Warner


for making them available to us. Spelling and punctuation have been stan-
dardized; titles are italicized; a few grammatical errors are corrected; foot-
notes are used to provide relevant information and identify Strausss
references; the numbers in square brackets represent the page numbers in

5
Strauss had explained more fully what the ancient Greeks meant by regime in
Natural Right and History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 13640.
LEO STRAUSS ON MODERN POLITICAL SCIENCE 417
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the typescripts. Errors are the responsibility of the editors. Copyright to the
texts belongs to the estate of Leo Strauss. We thank Professor Nathan
Tarcov, Strausss literary executor, for giving us permission to publish them,
and Professor Catherine Zuckert for helping us prepare the papers for publi-
cation in the Review of Politics.

Lecture Delivered at the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of


the Midwest Conference of Political Scientists, Milwaukee,
Wisconsin, 1956
LECTURE IN MILWAUKEE

MICHIGAN MIDWEST POLITICAL SCIENCE

[1] The distinction between theory and empirical research might be under-
stood to mean that theory is not empirical, a priori. This understanding is
not necessary. Theory may be based on broad, constant, uncontested experi-
ence, and consist of reections on such experience. Theory may be the attempt
to discover the fundamental reasons why political things have certain broad
characteristics attested by experience anywhere, e.g., the crude classication
of forms of government into rule of one, rule of a few, and rule of the many
may be said to owe its stringency to logic; but it would have been discarded
immediately as irrelevant if experience had not shown that the three forms are
politically possible since they are actual.
The necessity of theory is today generally admitted, I believe. All empirical
research is based on theory. Empirical studies in group politics derive their
inspiration from Bentleys The Process of Government, a theoretical work.6
Self-contained empirical research is a ction. The question concerns then
not the necessity of theory as such but the kind of theory. What distinguishes
good theory from bad theory? Good theory is theory that makes possible
empirical research. This is true but not sufcient. Not merely exactness, but
relevance as well is needed. Good theory must point to relevant problems.
It must not exclude a priori any relevant aspects of political life. It must not
be of such a nature as to force us to overlook the wood for the trees.
Relevance is not guaranteed by scientic method but by comprehensive
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grasp of the subject matter, by breadth, discernment, and perceptiveness.


I have read Mr. Schuberts paper. I notice within a certain distrust of the par-
ticular kind of theory, ethical theory, or natural law theory. I fully share
this distrust to the extent to which he has in mind such theories as prevent
a student of politics from seeing relevant political facts, e.g., theories which

6
Arthur F. Bentley, The Process of Government: A Study of Social Pressures (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1908).
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suggest that only virtuous men are elected to ofce whereas vicious men
invariably go to jail or to the gallows. These theories are as unrealistic as the-
ories which suggest that virtuegreat qualities of the mind and heartnever
play a role in life. But I cannot agree with Mr. Schubert on every point. He
says on page 51:
Most of the positivists agree upon one point: administrators and judges
are unimportant in the process which engulfs their individuality, and
the public interest is a product of the process. For the natural law theorist,
on the other hand, the public interest is a thing of importance, indepen-
dent of the decisional process and absolute in its terms. The public ofcial
excogitates the true essence of the public interest by means of a mental act
of extra-sensory perception.7

[2] I do not believe that this distinction is complete; the public interest is, I
think, the product of a process which includes sensory and nonsensory func-
tions located in judges and administrators or else the public interest is excog-
itated by means of extrasensory perception. Let us take some simple
examples. The student of politics perceives by means of sensory perception
that people are campaigning for pure food; on the other hand, neither he
nor anyone else has any sensory perception of public campaigns for contam-
inated food. On the basis of these sensory perceptions or the absence of them
he develops the hypothesis that a public campaign for contaminated food
cannot in reason be expected. Not being a babe in the woods he knows that
there are or may be interest groups which derive prot from selling contam-
inated food. But these people cannot dare to avow this fact. Since he has not
yet encountered any difculty in this interplay of sensory perception and
reection he becomes sufciently bold to generalize and to make the daring
hypothesis that there are maybe a considerable number of objectives of
groups or of individuals which cannot be publicly avowed or which are
not publicly defensible, e.g., he suspects that it would not be publicly defen-
sible to suggest that the United States immigration laws should be made not
in Washington but by some international authority, say in Geneva. He then
begins to wonder whether the broad overall objectives which are publicly
defensible are not identical with those things which are generally regarded
as a most massive and most enduring part of the public interest. He nds
that there are certain things which are generally regarded as national disas-
ters, and he nds this without any recourse to extrasensory perception:
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civil war, widespread juvenile delinquency, epidemics, large-scale unemploy-


ment, runaway ination, severe setbacks in foreign politics, not to speak of
military disasters. Making some effort at a sympathetic understanding of
ordinary folk, he may even realize that these generally held views are not irra-
tional. Having thus understood what people mean when they speak of public

See Schubert, The Public Interest in Administrative Decision-Making: Theorem,


7

Theosophy, or Theory?, 367.


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interest he realizes that this crude yardstick is, of course, insufcient for estab-
lishing denitely what specic measures will be conductive to the public
interest at a given timethat in order to establish this, much experience
and considerable expert knowledge may be required and that with all expe-
rience and all expert knowledge, many measures will still remain controver-
sial and may be decided by such irrelevancies as pressure groups and
antiquated notions. Still he cannot help noticing that if he does not keep in
mind this crude yardstick he cannot understand what political people are
aiming at or at least cannot afford completely to forget because there may
be a reckoning sooner or later. If his sensory experience extends to such
things as a policy of the British Labour Party in the early 1930s, he will
become aware of the fact that impending national disasters and their
obvious means for preventing them from happening are not always foreseen
by all people and, therefore, in particular they may not be foreseen by judges
and administrators. The disarmament of the United States in 1945 may have
been the only policy acceptable not only to judges and administrators but to
the large majority of the American people; this does not mean, obviously, that
that measure was to the interest of the American people. [3] He will be driven
to the conclusion that the proposition, the public interest is a product of a
process, may be in agreement with a certain a priori theory but is not sup-
ported by simple experience. This being the case it is by no means impossible
that from time to time a human being may become concerned with the public
interest not only in speech but in deed. If he will consider such an objective as
prison reform, he will nd people who are seriously concerned with prison
reform for no other reason accessible to sensory perception except that they
wonder whether it would not be better for everyone concerned if the
prisons were used for the purpose of rehabilitating the inmates. These
people do not have to be particularly unselsh; it is sufcient if they are
able to argue from this analogy: just as a man in his senses who has to live
with dogs would prefer the dogs not to be vicious to him, in the same way
a man in his senses who has to live with human beings would prefer the
greatest convenient diminution of malice and viciousness in his society.8
Our social scientist might come to feel that it is not necessary to refer to a
special group-interest in order to understand such a desire. He will be able
to see that the conclusion, There is no public interest, does not follow
from the premise, There is almost always controversy as to which measures
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are conducive here and now to the public interest. He will be able to see that
the existence of murderers, e.g., does not prove the nonexistence of the public
interest. For even if it were true that all murderers wish that murder is not to

8
See Plato, Apology of Socrates 25c526b2. Strausss reference to dogs rather than to
horses might be signicant. See Lorraine Smith Pangle, Virtue Is Knowledge: The
Moral Foundations of Socratic Political Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 2014), 26.
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be regarded as a punishable action whereas they may only wish that their
own murders should remain unpunished, it would be most important that
a move in this direction would not have the slightest chance of nding
public supportfor the simple reason that no possible cause whatever can
be made for the proposition that society would be better off if murder
would go unpunished. Finally he would begin to wonder whether the reason-
ing maintained to support the rejection of the notion of public interest, is not
fatal also to the notion of group interests; for he will nd out by sensory per-
ception that there is disagreement even in groups, even in married couples, as
to which measures are conducive to the group interest. Are there never any
members of corporations or labor unions whose loyalty to their group is
not above suspicion? What is good for the goose public interest would
seem to be good for the gander group interest.9
I have been attempting to show that the question regarding the notion of
public interest is controversial not only among positivists and natural law the-
orists but also between positivists and what we may call political realists. No
one would regard Machiavelli as a natural law theorist. He, and not Bentley,
and not even Karl Marx, originated the alternative to natural law theory. Yet
Machiavelli found out by his sensory experience, which included of course a
considerable amount of historical knowledge, and above all by his practical
experience that there is such a thing as a common good, the good of society
at large, in spite of the fact that society consists of antagonistic groups.10
Such crude, massive objectives as independence of foreign domination, law
and order (or a minimum of arbitrary use of violence by government), pros-
perity, glory are generally accepted popular things. These objectives are not
always actively pursued; society may be unaware of [4] them or they may
have despaired of ever getting them, or, despising life in this world on reli-
gious grounds, they may despise politics all together. But to put it crudely, lit-
erate societies which take politics seriously take the objectives mentioned
seriously. Awareness of these objectives is, of course, insufcient for solving
the problem of which specic measures are conducive to those objectives
here and now; but this very problem could not even exist as a problem
without the previous assumption of the overall objectives mentioned. Nor
does awareness of those objectives settle the question of precedence in case
of conict. But one cannot make an intelligent concession to necessity or intel-
ligent compromise if one does not know what one sacrices and why one sac-
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rices it.
The issue is, then, not exclusively and even primarily the one which is
pending between positivists and natural law theorists. The primary issue is
that between chief preoccupation with the scientic method and chief

9
See Strauss, An Epilogue, 219.
10
See Leo Strauss, Thoughts on Machiavelli (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1978), esp. 28, 84, 86, 235.
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preoccupation with subject matter. The primary objection to positivism is not


that it deprives the moral distinctions of their signicance and dignity. The
primary objection to positivism is that while it is concerned with exactness
it is insufciently concerned with relevance. There is a considerable dispro-
portion between the methodological effort and the investment of time and
money on the one hand and the results on the other. I take as an example
Berelsons Voting, an admirable book.11 In the last chapter he discusses the
political relevance of his ndings for the understanding of democracy. All
ndings relevant for this question are shown by Berelson to have been famil-
iar to Lord Bryce, Lord Lindsay, and others; to arrive at the important nd-
ings, there was no need for the tremendous effort. The usual answer to this
kind of criticism is this, Prior to exact quantitative studies, we did not
really knowwe merely guessed. This answer is based on the premise
that only scientic knowledge is genuine knowledge. I shall not go into the
question whether the allegedly scientic ndings are really more alive than
what very intelligent men of past and varied experience know from their
observation, and through their judgment. I limit myself to questioning the
fundamental premise: that prescientic knowledge has to be discarded as
prejudice or folklore.12 Over against this I contend that scientic social
science stands and falls by constant reliance on prescientic knowledge,
and that prescientic knowledge does not alter its character a bit in the
process of scientic study. The scientic social scientist who studies the pres-
idential elections of 1948 and 1952 starts from the premise that there were
presidential elections in these years and that a person was elected president,
i.e., an ofcial having varying functions, power, etc. His knowledge of these
trivial things is a basic assumption of his study; it is in no way different in its
cognitive character from what everyone else knows about these things and it
remains unaffected by any scientic social science inquiries. All social sciences
have to do with people; how to tell people, i.e., human beings, from other
beings is presupposed by social science. We may also say that scientic social
science is based on the premise that macroscopic knowledge of things polit-
ical, the knowledge possessed by the intelligent and informed citizens or
statesmen, [5] is in need of being rewritten as it were in the light of micro-
scopic or maybe telescopic knowledge of things political. The alternative to
this is a view that any possible renements achieved by microscopic or tele-
scopic techniques have to be rewritten into the macroscopic language of the
citizen in order to make sense or reveal their possible meaning.13 There is a
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connection between the relative unconcern with relevance and the contempt

11
The reference is to Bernard Berelson, Voting: A Study of Opinion Formation in a
Presidential Campaign (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954).
12
See Leo Strauss, What Is Political Philosophy?, in What Is Political Philosophy? and
Other Studies (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959), 23.
13
For macroscopic, microscopic, and telescopic, see Leo Strauss, Liberalism
Ancient and Modern (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), x.
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for prescientic knowledge. Prescientic knowledge of political matters


implies a distinction between the important and the unimportant; it therefore
draws our attention to the important, the politically important. It guides us
towards selection, the reasoned selection, of worthwhile themes of research.
We can also say that prescientic knowledge of things political is the only
guarantee against the danger that we overlook the wood for the trees.
Scientic studies are in danger of favoring concentration on partial, and
perhaps, minute phenomena, while making us lose sight of the context, the
whole within which they occur: e.g., in studying primary groups one may
easily minimize the fact that one never studies primary groups simply; one
studies in fact primary groups in mid-twentieth-century USA, or, more gen-
erally, primary groups in a democratic society of a certain kind. If the whole
within which the particular phenomena occur is not grasped clearly one is
bound to misinterpret the particular phenomena. Positivism cannot
completely overlook the whole. But it is compelled to minimize it by speaking
of habitual background or widely shared but unorganized interests;14 it
literally relegates the whole, from which all parts derive their meaning, into
the background.
All observable social facts occur within a context or a whole, belong to it, or
depend on it. This context or whole is frequently called society. But since
there are various kinds of societies within a society, people are compelled
to speak of the whole society in order to distinguish it from the partial soci-
eties. The meaning of the whole society becomes somewhat clearer if we
note that one whole society is separate from another whole society by
borders and that barriers owe their origins to wars or equivalents of wars,
i.e., to emphatically political action. For reasons like this it is preferable to
speak of the country rather than society. The country as human phenomenon
has necessarily a certain order, i.e., a certain distinction between high and low
in regard to both human qualities and persons. There is no good term for this,
for the countries as ordered in the sense indicated, in any language known to
me excepting Greek. The Greek term politeia, usually translated by constitu-
tion, actually means that which gives a country, or a city, its order, character,
or life.
The conception of the regime antedates the distinction between the political
and the sociological.15 It counteracts both the tendency to minimize the life of
the communities in favor of legal institutions as well as a tendency to mini-
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mize the importance of the legal order. It would seem that the more or less
passionate attack on traditional political science which we are witnessing
today is due to the following fact: owing to a fundamental change in political

14
The references are, respectively, to Bentley, Process of Government, 218; and David
Truman, The Governmental Process: Political Interests and Public Opinion (New York:
Knopf, 1951), 486.
15
See Leo Strauss, The City and Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 30.
LEO STRAUSS ON MODERN POLITICAL SCIENCE 423
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theory, political science has come to view the legal institution in relative iso-
lation; [6] a certain narrowing of the horizon has taken place; one expected to
counteract this by drawing more and more on insights peculiar to sociology.
Thus the ght that is still going on is a ght against a certain type of political
theory. It is easy to see, e.g., that the prevalent emphasis on group politics
derives its force from the neglected groups, which was due to the notion
that the political phenomena have to be accounted for by the interplay of
the state of the social whole on the one hand, and the mass of homogenous
individuals on the other. In other words, the present state of discussion is a
consequence of the fact that the concept of regime had become more or less
forgotten, and that it had been replaced by the concept of the general will.
The general will as a will of society is necessarily directed towards the good
of society or to the common good or the public interest (the general will
cannot err);16 hence, the general will takes the place of the public interest;
whatever sovereign people declare to be the public interest, must be accepted
as the public interest. The general will is in fact the will of the majority. The
majority may delegate various powers to various organizations; the end of
the story is Mr. Schuberts denition of public interest.

The Unpublished Passage of An Epilogue17


[1] Let us try to state the rst impression which an altogether uninitiated and
innocent but otherwise properly qualied youth is likely to receive from the
new political science. The world conjured by the new political science will
appear to him to be no less fantastic although much less charming than the
world of the Arabian Nights. In a way it is the same as the world with
which he is familiar but it now appears to be overlaid by a sort of fog or
rather smog. The new political scientists obviously intend to speak about
human beings and human affairs and even to speak about them if not
humanely at any rate as humanitarians. But for some reason they speak
about their themethe concern of feeling and generous heartsin a repul-
sive, not to say inhuman way which one could not call barbarian without
doing great injustice to the barbarians proper. Recoiling from such an out-
burst, we would tell our young friend that the world of politics is not
simply the world of feeling and liberal hearts but very frequently the world
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of cold calculators, hot and yelling demagogues, harsh tyrants, smooth oper-
ators, hard-boiled businessmen, and tough labor bosses. But he will scold us

16
See Leo Strauss, The Three Waves of Modernity, in An Introduction to Political
Philosophy: Ten Essays, ed. Hilail Gildin (Detroit: Wayne State University Press,
1989), 91.
17
The manuscript has no title. In blue pencil on the right-hand side of the manuscript
it is written originally intended for Epilogue. The phrase is not in Strausss
handwriting.
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for our lack of perceptivity, for our not seeing the difference between the lan-
guage used by those types and the language of the new political science:
however indelicate the former may be, it may be refreshing, for those types
frequently call a spade a spade. Or remembering from his extracurricular
readings the classic of the tough realism which sees nothing but hard and
harsh facts, he will be disgusted at us for our being obtuse to the massive differ-
ence between Machiavelli and his present-day followers. Whereas Machiavelli,
he will say, was graceful, subtle, and colorful, the teaching of his present-day fol-
lowers is graceless, gross, and drab; whereas Machiavellis new political [2]
science required a very great effort on the part of select readers after he was
dead, the contemporary new political science can be had by every contemporary
for the asking. As for drabness, the new political science conveys the impression
and sometimes it explicitly teaches that there is nothing to get excited about:
there are only differences of degree, not of kind; there are no either/ors, no
grand alternatives like tyranny and freedom. The radicalism of the either/or
is not only unwise or inhuman but simply impossible: all social action is inev-
itably gradual. There never was a revolution strictly speakinga burning of
what one has worshiped and a worshiping of what one has burned. Not red
and black, or red and white, or black and white but grey is the color of political
life and indeed of everything. Machiavellis grand cynicism has transformed
itself into a drab cynicism: the cynicism of Cesare Borgia into the cynicism of
a madam. His angry disgust barely permits our youth to permit us to draw
his attention to the liberal and hence altogether uncynical inspiration of the
new political science. He proves to have anticipated our objection. He boldly
asserts that the new political science, obsessed with the desire to level all impor-
tant differences, cannot even maintain the grand alternative by which it itself is
constituted, the alternative of tough realism vs. soft idealism or of smooth grad-
ualism vs. rugged radicalism: by admitting and even proclaiming the power or
right of values of every kind, it readmits every kind of radicalism as well as of
sentimentality into the political arena. Not only does the new political scientist
allow for the power of liberal impulses in political man; he himself is not
immune to them. He may pose as a tough-minded social engineer who
thinks of nothing but the quickest and cheapest solution to [3] any social
problem; claiming that this is part of the cheapness, he seeks for solutions
which involve the least human suffering; in fact, the overall objective is what
he calls a dynamic society in which the maximum of dynamism goes together
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with the minimum of suffering. For having identied suffering with dissatisfac-
tion, he does no longer demand the abolition of suffering, lest the social mech-
anism which is fed by wants come to a standstill. Our ward insists on calling this
effort sentimental and not humane because it stems from forgetting the fact that
man has not merely the duty to mitigate sufferings. He refers us to such practi-
tioners of the political art as Burke and Churchill: Burke spoke with contempt of
the humanitarians who recognize only the liberal virtues and reject the severe
and restrictive virtues; and Churchills highest political maxim binds together
the unwillingness to inict unnecessary woe with a delity to covenants and
LEO STRAUSS ON MODERN POLITICAL SCIENCE 425
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the honor of soldiers. The new political scientists do not admire and foster the
restrictive and the heroic virtues; they try to debunk them. This action extends
to the intellectual heroes as well. They despise the thought of the past in the act
of admitting that some of the great thinkers of the past had remarkable
hunches. Yet it is not given to man to live out his life without admiring
some men; hence the new political scientists replace the respect for what was
greatest in the past by mutual admiration of their publications. This admiration,
which in their opinion derives from their admiration of science, does not induce
them to recognize the exalted status of man, the only mechanism or organism
capable of science: rationality is the preserve of the scientic observer or engi-
neer; the observed or manipulated man is rational only in the sense that he
rationalizes, and thus blurs, what drives him or makes him run. Since scien-
tic man cannot be essentially different from nonscientic man[4] for there is
not even an essential difference between man and the brutesrationality in
every sense proves to be wholly baseless or unintelligible. Taking all these fea-
tures of the world of the new political science together, our angry young man
will be at a complete loss to understand as to how this world can be attractive
or of any interest to anyone. Hence he will become interested not indeed in that
world, not in the teaching of its creators, but in these creators themselves. While
shouting that none of them will be remembered, let alone be read, after he has
departed this world, nay, after he has retired, he will nevertheless say of them
what Nietzsche had said of their illustrious ancestors: they, in contradistinction
to their publications, are interesting; they wrongly claim to be the subjects who
adequately analyze political or social things but they can rightly be described as
worthy objects of political or social analysis: they are as characteristic a segment
of present-day culture as the reducers or creators of present-day popular culture
in the narrow sense of the expression.
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