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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Alexandre Kojève’s Hegelianism And Politics

I became interested in Alexandre Kojève’s interpretation of Hegel's philosophy after reading the essays in which Leo Strauss describes the philosophical differences between them. Kojève was a Marxist (possibly a Stalinist) and Strauss was a conservative (possibly a neoconservative); the two liked to discuss philosophy and politics, though they disagreed on several issues. I am reading Kojève’s lectures on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit—the book is called Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit (edited and translated by Allan Bloom)—it has seven of Kojève’s lectures which were originally compiled by Raymond Queneau. In his Introduction to the book, Bloom gives a fine assessment of Kojève’s contribution to Hegelian scholarship:

“But looking around us, Kojève, like every other penetrating observer, sees that the completion of the human task may very well coincide with the decay of humanity, the rebarbarization or even reanimalization of man… one wonders whether the citizen of the universal homogeneous state is not identical to Nietzsche's Last Man, and whether Hegel's historicism does not by an inevitable dialectic force us to a somber and more radical historicism which rejects reason. We are led to a confrontation between Hegel and Nietzsche and perhaps, even further, toward a reconsideration of the classical philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, who rejected historicism before the fact and whom Hegel believed he had surpassed. It is the special merit of Kojève to be one of the very few sure guides to the contemplation of the fundamental alternatives.”

Robert Scruton, however, is not as kind to Kojève as Strauss and Bloom are. In his article on Fukuyama, Scruton describes Kojève as a life-hating Russian, a self-declared Stalinist, a dangerous psychopath, and a drummer boy for end of history. Scruton notes in the article that Fukuyama borrows his thesis that history has worked towards its end from Kojève.

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