Alexandre Kojève has been an often subterranean influence on twentiethcentury thought. With his profound interpretation of Hegel he became a key reference for such varied thinkers as Jean-Paul Sartre, André Breton, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Leo Strauss. He returned to prominence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as the surprise inspiration for Francis Fukuyama’s notorious thesis in The End of History.
In The Notion of Authority, written in the 1940s in Nazi-occupied France, he uncovers the conceptual premises of four primary models of authority and examines the practical application of their derivative variations from the Enlightenment to Vichy France. This foundational text, here translated into English for the first time, is the missing piece in any discussion of sovereignty and political authority, ready to take its 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, while in the context of his biography its significance resides in the fact it captures his puzzling intellectual interests at a time when he retired from the profession of philosophy and was about to become one of the pioneers of the Common Market and the idea of the European Union.
This fascinating discussion of authority from the enigmatic Russian-born philosopher is newly translated by Hager Weslati.