Leo Strauss on Democracy, Technology, and Liberal Education

By Timothy W. Burns

Subjects: Political Philosophy, Political Theory, History Of Philosophy, Education, Religion And Politics
Series: SUNY series in the Thought and Legacy of Leo Strauss
Hardcover : 9781438486130, 201 pages, November 2021
Paperback : 9781438486147, 201 pages, July 2022

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Table of contents



1. Democracy and Liberal Education

2. An Aristocracy within a Democracy: "Liberal Education and Responsibility"

3. "German Nihilism"

4. "The Liberalism of Classical Political Philosophy"

5. Concluding Reflections on Moral-Political Reasoning in Contemporary Liberal Democracy


The first book-length study of Leo Strauss' understanding of the relation between modern democracy, technology, and liberal education.


Liberal democracy is today under unprecedented attack from both the left and the right. Offering a fresh and penetrating examination of how Leo Strauss understood the emergence of liberal democracy and what is necessary to sustain and elevate it, Leo Strauss on Democracy, Technology, and Liberal Education explores Strauss' view of the intimate (and troubling) relation between the philosophic promotion of liberal democracy and the turn to the modern scientific-technological project of the "conquest of nature." Timothy W. Burns explicates the political reasoning behind Strauss' recommendation of reminders of genuine political greatness within democracy over and against the failure of nihilistic youth to recognize it. Elucidating what Strauss envisaged by a liberally-educated sub-political or cultural-level aristocracy—one that could elevate and sustain liberal democracy—and the roles that both philosophy and divine-law traditions should have in that education, Burns also lays out Strauss' frequent (though often tacit) engagement with the thought of Heidegger on these issues.

Timothy W. Burns is is Professor and Graduate Program Director of Political Science at Baylor University. His books include Philosophy, History, and Tyranny: Reexamining the Debate between Leo Strauss and Alexandre Kojève (coedited with Bryan-Paul Frost), also published by SUNY Press.


"Timothy Burns's Leo Strauss on Democracy, Technology, and Liberal Education is one of the best studies yet of the thought of Leo Strauss. The appeal of Burns's book is that it takes up Strauss's reflections on our modern civilizational crisis. It aims to show how Strauss can help us understand the deepest sources of that crisis and how we might navigate if not overcome it." — Pietas