Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You Don't Have to Read Strauss to be a Straussian

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

In Lawrence Martin's book, Harperland, he relates a conversation he had with Harper's chum John Weissenberger, about Leo Strauss. Weissenberger suggests that Harper never mentioned the man. (p. 124)

He's probably right.

Gerry Nicholls, Harper's VP when he was president of the National Citizens Coalition, confirms this, saying instead that he was more of a follower of Friedrich Hayek.

But you don't have to read Leo Strauss to be a Straussian, anymore than you have to read the Bible to be a Christian.

Neoconservatism is a political theology, where the principles are already laid out in the dogma of the movement.

After reading everything I could find on the subject (and still looking for more), I've come to the realization that breaking down Stephen Harper and his movement, is really quite simple.

- It's a religion based on corporatism
- It uses hidden language in an attempt to become all things to all people (calculated ambiguity)
- It holds a strong belief in the necessity of war as a "Clash of Civilizations"

The idea originated with Nazi Carl Schmitt, though I don't believe he espoused corporatism. But what Schmitt did admire about Nazism, was that to him it embodied "inner truth and greatness."

It was political theology, rather than political philosophy, which might suggest something more organic. And he, like Harper, hated Liberalism.
Schmitt's own mortal enemy is liberalism, which he demonizes as the pacifistic, all-tolerating, rationalist-atheist antithesis of "the political" conceived as he defined it. Liberalism is thus complicitous with communism in standing for the withering away of the political. (1)
Too much democracy was a dangerous thing. Only an authoritarian movement with control of the masses could satisfy mankind. And peace was overrated, domestic or foreign.
Schmitt proposed an answer ... that was provocative to the point of appearing perverse. Whereas according to an understanding that could claim to be self-evident, political society exists to promote peace among men, Schmitt argued that the essence of the political is polemic ... he argued that the human beings are divided, and woe to them if they should ever cease to be divided, over the issues that go to the heart of humanity's existence. (1)
Hence divisive politics.

And in foreign policy:
The beasts fight and kill in order to satisfy the lowest craving, which is for preservation. It belongs only to human beings to make war, not only to kill but to die, for a high cause and ultimately for the highest cause, which is their faith. Schmitt can agree with those who have perceived the human record as a history of bloodshed, but far from interpreting the fact as a sign of God's neglect or punishment, he sees it as an evidence of God's providence. (1)
I believe that the neoconservative movement did not base it's theories on the teachings of Leo Strauss, but on those of Nazi Carl Schmitt. However, confessing to that would not have made their actions so acceptable.

Scmitt himself would probably not go along with many of the elements of the modern manifestations of this idea. It is a contrived theology, that has enjoyed enormous success financially for "the chosen", but at a devastating human cost.

There is another element (many actually) to this movement that may have been prophesied by one of Strauss's colleagues, Hannah Arendt in her book Totalitarianism.

After speaking of how "elites" while seduced to the Nazi movement, the never ending attack on intellectuals took it's toll.
The consistent persecution of every higher form of intellectual activity by the new mass leaders springs from more than their natural resentment against everything they cannot understand. Total domination does not allow for free initiative in any field of life, for any activity that is not entirely predictable. Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty. (2)
We see the evidence of this with the Tea Party, who now claim that they did not join forces with the Republicans, but prefer to think of it as a hostile takeover. Sarah Palin is the perfect candidate for president, as "the best guarantee of loyalty." She will not falter from the political theology of neoconservatism. (And she's as thick as a brick).

They are already having an impact. As the benefits are running out for millions of unemployed Americans, they are calling for spending cuts on social services, while demanding that Obama goes ahead with further Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

The religion of corporatism is creating a nation of loyal idiots, and our current government is in lock step, in both domestic and foreign policy.

Stephen Harper may not have read Leo Strauss, but he is a card carrying Straussian nonetheless.


1. Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue, Translated by J. Harvey Lomax, University of Chicago Press, 1995, ISBN: 978-0-226-51888-6, Forward ix-xii

2. The Origins of Totalitarianism, By Hannah Arendt, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968, Pg. 37

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