In The Notion of Authority, written in the 1940s in Nazi-occupied France, Alexandre Kojève uncovers the conceptual premises of four primary models of authority, examining the practical application of their derivative variations from the Enlightenment to Vichy France.
This foundational text, translated here into English for the first time, is the missing piece in any discussion of sovereignty and political authority, worthy of a place alongside the work of Weber, Arendt, Schmitt, Agamben or Dumézil.
The Notion of Authority is a short and sophisticated introduction to Kojève’s philosophy of right. It captures its author’s intellectual interests at a time when he was retiring from the career of a professional philosopher and was about to become one of the pioneers of the Common Market and the idea of the European Union.
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KOJEVE’S PHENOMENOLOGY OF AUTHORITY: or “Philosophy of Law”: Putting this text in its relationship to Kojeve’s other works looks like the following:
Notion of Authority: written 1942, French pub. 2004, Eng. pub. 2014
Outline of a Phil. Of Right: written 1943, French pub. 1980’s, Eng. pub. 2001
Intro to Hegel: French pub. 1947, Eng. Pub 1969
The “notion of authority” was never intended for public availability and publication. Instead Kojeve wrote it to circulate among his “philosophy-of-law” friends in French government. It essentially is a 100 page policy-paper to stir conversation between his political friends. Because it is simply a 100 page treatise and not a book-project; a great deal of necessary material has been left out. You will have to have a very in-depth understanding of his position in his book on “introducing Hegel”; almost to the point where...
Kojeve's interpretation of Hegel made famous in his 1930's lectures and the book resulting from them, "Introduction to the Reading of Hegel" became justly world famous. I for one was also stunned by its arguments, insights, and way of understanding what everyone agrees is a challenging text. That book with its philosophical anthropology at its center focussing on the master/slave dialectic opened everyone's eyes even though subsequent commentator's modified their admiration. By the standard of that book, "The Notion of Authority' reads like the class notes of a superior student. Maybe it isn't fair to compare the two books. However, anyone exposed to the former masterpiece of philosophical analysis will be disappointed in the "Authority" book. It is Kojeve and therefore has inescapably merit as well as one's simple curiosity about one piece of his other work.
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