This essay examines the French reception of the Carl Schmitt's thought, specifically its Hegelian strand. Beginning with the early readings of Schmitt's thought by Alexandre Kojève and Georges Bataille during the mid-1930s, it attends to the partial adoption of Schmitt's friend/enemy distinction and his theories of sovereignty and neutralization in Kojève and Bataille's Hegelian writings, as well as to their critical responses. The essay then turns to examine the reading of Kojève by the Jesuit Hegelian résistant Gaston Fessard during the war, a reading specifically intended to delegitimate Vichy as a “slave-prince,” resistance to whom would be legitimate. The final section returns to Bataille and his 1948 book The Accursed Share in order to propose that his Maussian understanding of the Marshall Plan suggested an overcoming of the friend/enemy distinction, a suggestion that was later made explicit in a 1957 talk by Kojève at Düsseldorf before Schmitt and a group of his supporters. At stake throughout are both the thoroughly critical reception of Schmitt, the particular political inflection of Hegel carried out by and in Kojève's reading, and certain methodological links between conceptual history and the reception history.
1 BNF, Fonds Bataille, 13-D “Hegel: Notes de cours,” 111.
2 Of Kojève's own (extensive) notes, only the last lectures of that first semester survive, as “L'idée de la mort dans la philosophie de Hegel”, in Al. Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel (Paris, 1968), 529–75.
3 Surya, M., Georges Bataille (London, 2002), 189.
4 BNF, Fonds Bataille, Envelope 18, “Preface à Kojève.”
5 BNF, Fonds Bataille, 13-D “Hegel: Notes de cours,” 90. This suggested a central motif of Kojève's analysis, namely that the master should not be understood as easily overcome by the slave in a struggle for liberation and for the overcoming of alienation.
6 BNF, Fonds Bataille, 13-D “Hegel: Notes de cours,” 88.
7 See Bataille, , “Emprunts de Georges Bataille à la Bibliothèque Nationale”, in Oeuvres complètes 12 (Paris, 1988), 549–620. “Plan des premiers cours sur Hegel, 15.Aug.33,” in BNF Fonds Kojève, Boite 10, chemise Premiers cours sur Hegel.
8 Martin Jay, offering an excellent discussion of Bataille, Schmitt, and their respective theories of sovereignty, in his book Force Fields (London, 1993), notes the only other known reference to Schmitt in Bataille's work, which dates to 1937.
9 Schmitt, C., Romantisme politique, trans. Linn, P. (Paris, 1928); Schmitt, “Der Begriff des Politischen”, in idem, Politische Wissenschaft, Heft 5: Probleme der Demokratie (Berlin, 1928). My thanks to Nina Kousnetzoff for sending me a list of Schmitt's works in Kojève's library (which is now partially catalogued in the Bibliothèque nationale).
10 On Kojève and Schmitt see Howse, R. and Frost, B.-P., “Introductory Essay,” in Kojève, Outline of a Phenomenology of Right (Lanham, MD, 2000), 1–27: and de Vries, Er., “Discussion: Kojève–Schmitt Correspondence, and Kojève, ‘Colonialism from a European Perspective’”, in Interpretation 29/1 (Fall 2001), 91–4.
11 Strauss, L., “Quelques remarques sur la science politique de Hobbes,” in Recherches philosophiques II (1932–33), 609–22. On Kojève's translation, see de Lussy, Fl., ed., Hommage à Alexandre Kojève. Actes de la “Journée Kojève”, 28/1/2003 (Paris, 2007), 100.
12 Kojève, Outline of a Phenomenology of Right, 134.
13 J. Taubes, Ad Carl Schmitt (Berlin, 1987), 24.
14 In this group I should also include Raymond Aron, who also corresponded and engaged critically with Schmitt in his later writings, but whom I will not discuss here, for reasons of space and as he did not an offer a Hegelian response to Schmitt. See notably Aron, Penser la guerre: Clausewitz (Paris, 1976), English translation by Stone, N. as Clausewitz: Philosopher of War (New York, 1983), 363–71. For Aron's relationship to Schmitt see Müller, J.-W., A Dangerous Mind (New Haven, 2003), 98–103. On Kojève's influence on Aron see Kleinberg, E., Generation Existential (Ithaca, NY, 2005), 87–95.
15 Schmitt, C., Légalité, légitimité, ed. de Roussel, W. Gueydan (Paris, 1936).
16 Jacques Maritain was at least aware of Schmitt already in the mid-1920s, and would cite him and clearly show his influence throughout the 1930s. See Karl Muth's 1926 letter to Schmitt, cited in Schmitt, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy (Cambridge, MA, 1988), xiv; see also Maritain's very influential Integral Humanism (New York, 1968), 100, 145, 170. Maritain, in Man and the State (Chicago, 1951), 50–52, would offer a critique of sovereignty that clearly if implicitly targets Schmitt. Regarding Maurras: Schmitt cited Maurras in his Roman Catholicism and Political Form (Westport, CT, 1996), 5; see the discussion of Schmitt and Maurras in G. Balakrishnan, The Enemy: An Intellectual Portrait of Carl Schmitt (London, 2000), 55–56. As quoted and discussed by Jay in Force Fields, Bataille also identified Schmitt with Maurras in defending Nietzsche from National Socialism. M. Jay, Force Fields, 49.
17 The sociologist Georges Gurvitch wrote repeatedly on Schmitt. Gurvitch also cited Schmitt in a response to J.-T. Delos's conception of right in the Annuaire de l'Institut international de philosophie du droit et de sociologie juridique (1936), 219. For an account of legal debates surrounding Schmitt in 1930s France see Taguieff, P.-A., The Force of Prejudice: On Racism and Its Doubles (Minneapolis, 2001), 342 n. 83.
18 Cf. G. Agamben, Homo sacer (Stanford, 1998) and idem, The Open (Stanford, 2003).
19 Its original publication in 1927 is as an essay in the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 58/1 (1927), 1–33.
20 Schmitt, C., Political Theology (Chicago, 2005), 5.
21 Typically, moreover, Kojève is seen as a Marxist, and from his naturalization in 1938 onward he used the identification of his thought with Marxism with as much strategic as shock-value purposes. This has led to surprise regarding their exchange (see E. de Vries, “Discussion”, 91). Yet his famous February 1939 interpretation of “Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness: Lordship and Bondage” (“Autonomie et dépendance de la conscience de soi”, in Mésures, 14 Jan. 1939, republished as “En guise d'introduction” in Introduction à la lécture de Hegel (Paris, 1968) 3–30), which occasioned the Marxist reading of his thought by the use of an epigraph from Marx (Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel, 9), does not even acknowledge the Marxist argument that the slave's work leads to his alienation from the objects he produces, and lacks any sense or hint of an ethics centered on the slave's liberation. Together with his friend the islamologist and Heidegger translator Henri Corbin, Kojève had co-translated Hendrik de Man's L'idée socialiste, a fundamental moment in the Belgian socialist's self-distancing from Marxism (de Man, H., L'idée socialiste, suivi du plan de travail, trans. Corbin, H. and Kojevnikov, A. (Paris, 1935)). And in a June 1939 letter to Fessard, on the occasion of the publication of the latter's book Epreuve de force, Kojève noted, “I do not need to tell you that I subscribe without reservation to the political aspect of your book—you know that” (“Kojeve-Fessard Documents”, trans. H. Gillis, in Interpretation 19/2 (Winter 1991–2), 187, original emphasis), again noting distance from communism.
22 Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel, 19, 30.
23 For a longer discussion of Kojève's treatment of homogeneity, see my An Atheism That Is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought, 1926–1954 (Stanford, 2010), chap. 3. Kojève discusses homogeneity in L'Athéisme (Paris, 1998) and in his unpublished 1929 typescript “Zum Problem einer diskreten ‘Welt.’”
24 Kojève emphasized this in his writings on the philosophy of science from the late 1920s and on the phenomenology of religion (L'Athéisme, 1931), as problems concerning the world that man experiences—the dependence of this world on man, its internal cohesion, its offer of a fundamentally homogeneous realm to man.
25 Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel, 110, 146, 148–9.
26 On neutrality and liberalization see Schmitt, C., The Concept of the Political (Chicago, 1996), 35, 70, 78.
27 This is a guiding thread of Inner Experience and Guilty, and also of major essays from the 1930s; see my “An Anthropology of Exit” in October 117 (Summer 2006), 3–24.
28 In his later writing, Bataille explicitly reinterpreted sovereignty as something experienced by man in an instant (and hence not exactly experienced at all). See his Sovereignty, in The Accursed Share, vols. 2–3, trans. R. Hurley (New York, 1991).
29 Bataille, , “Nietzsche and the Fascists,” in idem, Visions of Excess, ed. Stoekl, A. (Minneapolis, 1985), 189.
30 Bataille, , “The Psychological Structure of Fascism”, in The Bataille Reader, ed. Botting, F. and Wilson, S. (Oxford, 1997), 146 n. 11. Bataille's reference is to Freud's Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego.
31 Ibid., 139. The language of ecstasy is closer to Durkheim and Schmitt's exception than to Freud's conceptualization of identification with the leader in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego.
32 Ibid., 132, original emphasis. Bataille was critical of the traditional emergence of state sovereignty: “the state is in reality only the abstract, degraded form of the living having to be required, at the top, as an affective attraction and royal agency: it is simply vague homogeneity become a constraint.” Ibid., 133, original emphasis.
33 Ibid., 141–2.
34 Ibid., 140, original emphasis.
35 Ibid., 145. Bataille addresses this weakness also in his novel The Blue of Noon (New York, 2002), 49. See also his “Que faire?” (“What do we do against fascism given the insufficiency of communism?”) attached to a letter to Michel Leiris of April 1935, in Bataille, G., Choix de lettres 1917–65 (Paris, 1997), 105.
36 At the beginning of Guilty, in a fragment written in September 1939, Bataille writes, “I won't speak of war but of mystical experience”; a month later, Bataille could also write the politically ambiguous sentence “Once war broke out, there was no way I could wait any more . . . for the liberation which this book is for me.” Bataille, G., Guilty (Venice, CA, 1988), 28.
37 See the intellectual biography of Fessard by Michel Sales, in Fessard, Hegel, le Christianisme et l'histoire (Paris, 1990), 17–21.
38 Fessard, France, prends garde de perdre ton âme! (also known as Témoignage Chrétien 1 (Nov. 1941)). On Temoignage Chrétien see Jackson, J., France: The Dark Years (Oxford, 2001), 418–19. Noting the significance of France, prends garde, Robert Paxton also writes, “The major point is that no Catholic authority in France or in Rome gave public support to Témoignage Chrétien's protest against Vichy's own anti-Semitic measures.” Paxton, Robert, “France: The Church, the Republic, and the Fascist Temptation”, in Wolff, R. J. and Hoensch, J. K., eds., Catholics, the State, and the European Radical Right, 1919–1945 (Boulder, CO, 1987), 84.
39 See Archives Jesuites, Fonds Fessard, 29 E, “F. Mollat à Gaston Fessard (March 10, 1930).” A letter from Jean Wahl, dated Dec. 1929–Jan. 1930 testifies to the interest of Lucien Lévy-Bruhl and the Revue philosophique in publishing Fessard's translation. See Fonds Fessard, 29 E, and also Fessard's correspondence files with Wahl.
40 Cited in Kleinberg, Generation Existential, 91.
41 See Fessard, G. and Marcel, G., Correspondance, 1934–1971 (Paris, 1985).
42 Fessard, , La main tendue? Le dialogue catholique–communiste est-il possible? (Paris, 1937). Fessard, , “Pax nostra”: examen de conscience international (Paris, 1936).
43 See Fessard, , De l'actualité historique, vol. 1 (Brussels, 1960), 53–5, 215–29.
44 Fessard, , Autorité et bien commun (Paris, 1944), 10 n.
45 Fessard, , “France, prends garde de perdre ton âme!” in Au temps du Prince-esclave (Paris, 1989), 70–71.
46 Ibid., 92.
47 Ibid., 86–7.
48 Schmitt, , National-Sozialismus und Völkerrecht (Berlin, 1934).
49 Archives Jésuites, Fonds Fessard, box 77. The dedication is dated 10 Aug. 1937.
50 See Fessard's handwritten notes, “Der Begriff des Politischen”, in Archives Jésuites, Fonds Fessard, box 77, 2.
51 Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, 46.
52 K. Wilk, “La doctrine politique du national-socialisme: Carl Schmitt: Exposé critique de ses idées”, in Archives de philosophie de droit et de sociologie juridique 4/3–4 (1934), 169–96. Fessard's notes can be found as “Sur Carl Schmitt . . .”, in Archives Jésuites, Fonds Fessard, box 77.
53 “Sur Carl Schmitt . . .”, point 6, Archives Jésuites, Fonds Fessard, box 77.
54 In his Autorité et bien commun, Fessard had argued that it had been evident already by 1925 that French society had faced a crisis of authority—a crisis involving both those who rule and those who obey. This crisis “by itself” explains the cause of the French defeat of June 1940.
55 Fessard, “Tract dit du Prince-Esclave”, in idem, Au temps du prince-esclave, 108, 106.
56 Ibid., 105.
57 Fessard, Autorité et bien commun, 53.
58 Fessard, “Tract dit du Prince-Esclave,” 107.
59 Ibid., 106.
60 Bataille, , The Accursed Share, vol. 1 (New York, 1989), 132, 142, 134.
61 Ibid., 131.
62 Ibid., 168, italics his.
63 Ibid., 159.
64 Ibid., 158.
65 Ibid., 151, 167.
66 See, for example, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who in Humanism and Terror described the immediate postwar period as all but preparing for war, and felt it essential to remind himself and his readers in his conclusion that “we are not in a state of war.” See Merleau-Ponty, M., Humanism and Terror (Boston, 1969), xlii, xlv, 181–2.
67 Bataille, Accursed Share, vol. 1, 170, 186.
68 See Perroux, F., Le plan Marshall ou l'Europe nécessaire au monde (Paris, 1948); and Piel, J., La fortune américaine et son destin (Paris, 1948). Piel's book appeared in the short-lived book series L'usage des richesses at Éditions de Minuit that Bataille directed and in which he published The Accursed Share. See M. Surya, Georges Bataille, 564 n. 8. See also a book review that treats Perroux's, Piel's, and Bataille's books together: Vernant, J., “Une interprétation du plan Marshall”, Politique étrangère 14/6 (1949), 575–80.
69 Bataille, Accursed Share, vol. 1, 175, Perroulx's emphasis.
70 Ibid., 181.
71 Ibid., 182, italics mine.
72 Ibid., 190.
73 Mauss, M., The Gift (New York, 1990), 71, 70. It is significant to note that though the Essai sur le don had only been published in the Durkheimian L'année sociologique in 1924, it was not republished in book format until 1950—that is, after Bataille completed his study.
74 Mauss, The Gift, 70.
75 Bataille, Accursed Share, vol. 1, 178.
76 Ibid., 23.
77 Kojève, , “Lettres à Georges Bataille”, in Textures 6 (1970), 61.
78 BNF, Fonds Bataille, Env.16 and Env. 18, “Preface à Kojève.”
79 BNF, Fonds Kojève, Boite XII: “Préface a l'Oeuvre de Georges Bataille.”
80 Kojève, , “Colonialism from a European Perspective”, in Interpretation 29/1 (Fall 2001), 94–130. Though I will generally quote from the English rendition, my analysis follows the phrasing of Kojève's original French typescript, in BNF, Fonds Kojève, Boite 13, Dossier “Colonialisme dans une perspective européenne—Conférence en allemand faite à Düsseldorf 16/1/1957.”
81 As Heinrich Meier notes, in 1957, Schmitt further cited the exchange between Kojève and Strauss on tyranny, republished in book form in 1954. Meier, H., Carl Schmitt & Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue (Chicago, 1995), 8 n. 8.
82 Carl Schmitt to Alexandre Kojève, 31 Jan. 1957, in Kojève, “Colonialism from a European Perspective”, 113.
83 Ibid., 117, amended to conform with original typescript.
84 Ibid., 117–18.
85 Ibid., 118, amended to conform with original typescript.
86 Ibid., 118.
87 Ibid., 122.
88 Ibid., 123, amended to conform with original typescript.
89 His notes from Mauss's course can be found in BNF, Fonds Kojève, Boite IV.
90 Kojève, “Colonialism from a European Perspective”, 123.
* This essay is based on research carried out at the archives of Alexandre Kojève and Georges Bataille at the Département des manuscrits occidentaux of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and the Fonds Fessard at the Archives Jésuites in Vanves. My thanks to Nina Kousnetzoff and Robert Bonfils (SJ), for their help and permissions.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.
* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.
Usage data cannot currently be displayed