Leo Strauss and the American Founding

Thomas G. West, "Leo Strauss and the American Founding," The Review of Politics, Vol. 53, No. 1 (Winter 1991).


Strauss devoted his life to the recovery of classical political philosophy. The incentive for this enterprise was what Strauss called “the crisis of the West.” That crisis “consists in the West’s having become uncertain of its purpose” which was to establish the good society on the basis of reason and science. Twentieth-century his- tory revealed that the progressive spread of democracy throughout the world was hardly assured. Moreover, the “good society” of Western liberalism no longer looked unquestionably good. Modern philosophy eventually concluded that reason itself was to blame: not only could reason not establish the good society; it could not even say what the good society is.’

The crisis of the West is visible in America in the educated classes’ abandonment of the principles of the Declaration of Independence.