Allan David Bloom provoked a firestorm of controversy in the United States with the publication of The Closing of the American Mind in 1987. His spirited critique of the effects of relativism on university students touched off a long debate about the methods and content of higher education. Bloom was the son of Allan and Malvina (Glasner) Bloom, both social workers and both Jewish immigrants. By 1946, the family had moved to Chicago, where Bloom enrolled in a liberal arts program with a strong emphasis on the classic texts of Western civilization at the University of Chicago.
After earning his Ph.D. from the university in 1955, he remained as a lecturer in liberal arts until moving to Yale University in 1962, where he taught political science for a year. In Chicago, Bloom had been profoundly influenced by the head of the university’s political science department, the German émigré Leo Strauss (1899-1973). Of central concern to Strauss was the nature of the political regime necessary to promulgate the unchanging virtues elucidated, in part, by Plato and whether such a regime was truly compatible with democratic pluralism.
Bloom’s first book, a translation of a long letter on politics and the arts written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1758, was published in 1960. His second book, a collection of essays on William Shakespeare called Shakespeare’s Politics, was written with Harry V. Jaffa and published in 1964, the year Bloom received tenure at Cornell University. Another translation, this time of Plato’s Republic, followed in 1968. Bloom emphasized that his was a literal translation so that the reader would not mistake the ancient Greek conception of virtue with the rather flaccid modern notion of “values” that mar other, sloppier translations....
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