Philosophy and Politics at the Precipice : Time and Tyranny in the Works of Alexandre Kojève book cover
1st Edition

Philosophy and Politics at the Precipice
Time and Tyranny in the Works of Alexandre Kojève

ISBN 9781412865418
Published September 7, 2017 by Routledge
234 Pages

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Book Description

Philosophy and Politics at the Precipice maintains that political philosopher Alexandre Kojève (1901–68) has been both famously misunderstood and famous for being misunderstood. Kojève was famously understood by interpreters for seeing an "end of history" (an end that would display universal free democracies and even freer markets) as critical to his thought. He became famously misunderstood when interpreters, at the end of the twentieth century, placed such an end at the center of his thought. This book reads Kojève again – as a thinker of time, not its end. It presents Kojève as a philosopher and precisely as a time phenomenologist, rather than as a New Age guru. The book shows how Kojève’s time is inherently political, and indeed tyrannical, for being about his understanding of human relation. However, Kojève’s views on time and tyranny prove his undoing for making rule impossible because of  what the book terms the "time-tyrant problem." Kojève’s entire political corpus is best understood as an attempt to rectify this problem.

So understood, Philosophy and Politics at the Precipice provides fresh perspective on the true nature of Kojèvian irony, Kojève’s aims in the Strauss–Kojève exchange, and how Kojève at his best captures a philosophical, phenomenological time, one that marks some of the most dynamic and unique events of the twentieth century.

Headlines have largely erased the notion that history has ended. Philosophy and Politics at the Precipice, on the other hand, provides the philosophical justification for arguing that the end of the last millennium was not an end and that, for his view of time, Kojève remains a thinker for the times ahead.  

Table of Contents



By Way of Introduction

Chapter 1: Man, Time, and A Man in His Times on the Precipice

On Meeting Kojève

The Double Dare from a Modern’s Modern

The Double Dare …

… from a Modern’s Modern

Chapter 2: Kojèvian Time Phenomenology and the Time-Tyrant Problem

The Nature and Importance of Time Phenomenology

Self-Worth and the Origin of Kojèvian Time

Kojève’s Time as Related to Space

The Story of Master-tyrant and Slave as Seen in Kojève’s Time Phenomenology

Kojève’s Time-Tyrant Dilemma

Kojève’s Master-tyrant Outside Human Time

Kojève’s Master-tyrant Outside Animal Time

Kojève’s Time-Tyrant Problem in the Context of Kojève’s Philosophy

Sparing the Double Dare from Double Talk: The Plausibility of Kojève’s Reading of Time into Tyranny

Chapter 3: Time Phenomenology In and On Kojève

Reenter Kojève’s Time

Temptations in Reading Kojève: Timeliness and the End of Time

A Kitchen in Sokolniki: Contours of the Present Human Time

The Either/Or of the Time-Tyrant Problem

The Case Study of Napoleon

The Descending Napoleon

The Ascending Napoleon

The Legacy of the Time-Tyrant Dilemma: A Kojèvian "Politics" Based on Universality

Kojève’s Samurai

The Struggle for Possession of the Universal: the Time-Tyrant Problem as the Fulcrum of the Strauss-Kojève Exchange

Chapter 4: Attempt of Kojève’s Thinkers to Resolve the Time-Tyrant Problem

The Importance of Kojèvian Ideas

In a Manner of Speaking: Kojèvian Circularity – the Script of the Dual, the Instantaneous and the Total

Speaking Of and About Master-Tyrants: Kojève’s "Top Down" and "Bottom Up" Response

"Top Down" Revelation

"Bottom Up" Dialectic

Audition One: Revelation and the Kojèvian Wise Man

The Wise Man as Revealing

The Wise Man As Revealed

The Wise Man Transformed to Philosopher in the Face of the Master-Tyrant: The Case Study of Socrates and Thrasymachus

Audition Two: the Philosopher’s Role in Dialectic and the Conundrum of Kojèvian Desire in Human Time

Kojève’s Nuclear Culture of Two and the Strauss Critique of Homogeneity

Kojève’s Escape from the Time-Tyrant Dilemma: a Renege of the Double Dare Through Encounters with Nature

Chapter 5: In the Shadow of War: The Beginning of Kojève’s Answer to the Time-Tyrant Problem

Wartime and Evolution in Kojève’s Corpus

The Turn in Kojève’s Outline

Droit as Time Proceeds

Practical Implications of Kojève’s Turn in the Outline

Chapter 6: As Sand-Patties Become Sand Castles: Enter Kojève’s Bourgeois Tyrant

The Move Toward a Master-tyrant at Work

Kojève’s Broad Understanding of the Political through the Jurisprudential

Kojève’s Noble and Ignoble Political Animals

Chapter 7: Kojève’s Return to Conventional Politics – at an Unconventional Time

Of Kojève’s Time First, Of Kojève’s Times Second

A Reprise: Inside-Out Time Phenomenology in the Post-War Kojève

Politics Beyond Desire for Desire: Time and Kojèvian Authority

Instructions to the Chief and the Conundrum of Implementation in the "Germ" of the End State

The Time of the Introduction Reexamined: A Bifurcated Present to Match a Bifurcated Master-tyrant

Of Wise Men Reconsidered and Reread: The Strauss-Kojève Exchange as a Final Futile Attempt to Pair the Master-Tyrant with a Thinker


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Gary M. Kelly is an attorney and political scientist. He has advised over twenty-five developing countries on behalf of multilateral institutions. He has taught political economy and theory and in the United States, Eurasia, and North Africa. His recent research and writing includes work on Kojève, Rousseau, and Gilson.


"Kelly’s study of Kojève aims to correct two generations of misinterpretation. It is unique because: (1) he provides the first comprehensive analysis of Kojève’s writings that includes material published after the famous lectures on Hegel delivered during the 1930s, and (2) it proceeds from the inside, from Kojève’s phenomenology of time, to the outside, to history as a concluded sequence. The theorists of modern tyranny, of which exemplars from Karimov to Chavez, from Atlantic to Pacific across many time zones, will have to come to grips, even if they cannot come to terms, with Kelly’s controversial Kojève. For those few capable of enjoying Kojève’s Glasperlenspiel, this book is something no one could anticipate: a new interpretation!"

--Barry Cooper, University of Calgary