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The Notion of Authority

The Notion of Authority

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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.


“Alexandre Kojève… is one of the most notable Russian thinkers of the twentieth century… the lectures represent an exceedingly important (and tendentious) interpretation of Hegel, if not an independent philosophical view in the guise of a seemingly objective scholarly commentary.” — Jeff Love, Slavic and East European Journal

“In recent decades, Kojève’s voluminous manuscripts and papers, held at the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris, have become available to researchers. Hager Weslati is among a new generation of scholars busily exploiting this material. A gramophone cannot possess authority, nor can a subject under hypnosis be said to respond to it—both examples are Kojève’s. Despite its apparent conservatism, there is an underlying revolutionary message. Discussions of Jacques Rousseau’s notion of the general will, the division of powers, the problem of tradition, and the impossibility of the political trial will all be stimulating for any political theorist.” — Eric Brandom, German Studies Review