Revolt Against Modernity

Leo Strauss, Eric Voegelin, and the Search for a Post-Liberal Order

Ted V. McAllister

Eric Voegelin and Leo Strauss are two of the most provocative and durable political philosophers of this century. Ted McAllister's superbly written study provides the first comprehensive comparison of their thought and its profound influence on contemporary American conservatism.

Since the appearance in the 1950s of Strauss's Natural Right and History and Voegelin's Order and History, conservatives like Russell Kirk, Irving Kristol, and Allan Bloom have increasingly turned to these thinkers to support their attacks on liberalism and the modernist mindset.

“McAllister has performed a real service in delineating so clearly the civic dimensions of Strauss’s and Voegelin’s thought.”

Washington Times

“This is a thoughtful book that not only usefully maps out some of the more obscure and neglected territory in twentieth-century intellectual history, but itself constitutes, to some extent, an inquiry into the problems and pathologies of modernity, and of contemporary American conservatism.”

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Like so many conservatives, Strauss and Voegelin rebelled against modernity' amorality—personified by Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche—and its promotion of individualism and materialism over communal and spiritual responsibility. While both disdained the reductionist "conservative" label, conservatives nevertheless appropriated their philosophy, in part because it restored theology and classical tradition to the moral core of civil society.

For both men, modernity's debilitating disorder revealed surprising and disturbing relations among liberal, communist, and Nazi ideologies. In their eyes, modernity's insidious virus, so apparent in the Nazi and communist regimes, lies incubating within liberal democracy itself.

McAllister's thorough reevaluation of Strauss and Voegelin expands our understanding of their thought and restores balance to a literature that has been dominated by political theorists and disciples of Strauss and Voegelin. Neither reverential nor dismissive, he reveals the social, historical, political, and philosophical foundations of their work and effectively decodes their frequently opaque or esoteric thinking.

Well written and persuasively argued, McAllister's study will appeal to anyone engaged in the volatile debates over liberalism's demise and conservatism's rise.

About the Author

Ted V. McAllister is Edward L. Gaylord Chair and associate professor of public policy at Pepperdine University. An intellectual historian, he has lectured frequently on the nature and future of American conservatism and is one of the series editors for Rowman & Littlefield’s book series, American Intellectual Culture.

Additional Titles in the American Political Thought Series