As Anne Norton writes in Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire (which I highly recommend), “Bloom, far more than Strauss, has shaped the Straussians who govern in America. Bloom taught both the most powerful and the most vociferously ideological of the Straussians.” That does not include the Claremont Institute folks, though — they descend from Jaffa, not Bloom. They’re the “West Coast Straussians” and don’t always see eye-to-eye with “East Coast Straussians” like Bloom. It’s like Biggie and 2Pac.

There are further divisions among Straussians as well, just to complicate things more, and not all followers of Strauss are neoconservatives — there are a few left-Straussians and at least one Misesian-libertarian Straussian. There’s an emerging Catholic Straussianism, too: “We’re not yet famous enough to merit Ann Norton’s or Shadia Drudry’s critical attention,” says Catholic Straussian Peter Lawler in his recent book Stuck With Virtue, “but watch out!” Watch out is right.

I’m as guilty as most anti-Straussians of blurring the distinctions between the various subcultures, but it’s quite fair to say that there is a main stream of Straussian thought, of which East and West groups are tributaries, and that it’s statist, belligerent, and neoconservative — if I may be a little redundant. ~Daniel McCarthy

Mr. McCarthy continues to do an excellent job of making sense of the bewildering array of Straussians and their ideas. I appreciate the links to my previous posts and the generous comments he has made about my forays into the “debate,” though I fear my frustration with the sheer implacability and fairly cheap debating tactics of some of the Claremont folks has probably made my arguments worse than they should have been.

A few points before really retiring from polemics and politics for the heart of Orthodox Holy Week (which, unfortunately, I had said I would do before this fracas started, and in which intention I have signally failed). Friends have pointed out that there is much more to Strauss than some of his disciples convey (there would have to be!), and, as Mr. McCarthy reminds me here, there are undoubtedly Straussians of various political persuasions who could offer worthwhile criticisms of traditionalism and what I will call conservative historicism (to distinguish it from the idolatry of History or belief in inevitable “forces” of History) without resorting to accusations of nihilism or moral relativism each time someone mentions contingency and historical evolution.

Blogging is a ridiculous venue for intelligent discussions, as the last several months have revealed with perfect clarity, but I remain hopeful that this “place” is more than simply either an echo chamber for reinforcing my own assumptions or a bullhorn for yelling at enemies. As a way of possibly getting out of these kinds of dead-end arguments, I would recommend readers to take a look at ISI’s new American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia to try to understand the claims of the vying parties from sympathetic perspectives. For instance, as Mr. McCarthy notes, here is a citation from the entry on Prof. Ryn in the comments section of Mr. McCarthy’s earlier Strauss post.

I have just received my copy of the encyclopedia today, and I have to say I was overwhelmed with the breadth of the coverage and the intelligence of the entries. It is a handsome volume and very fair-minded in the treatment of all its subjects, an accomplishment all the more remarkable especially given the last five years of intensified conservative internecine rhetorical warfare. The editors, Bruce Fohnen, Jeremy Beer and Jeffrey Nelson, are to be commended on an amazing work.

I am not optimistic that reading the necessary entries would actually encourage much understanding between hardened opponents (many of whom are probably convinced that they already know everything they need to know about the “other” side), but it might save us from whiny posts like this one.