Kojčve, Alexandre (1902-68) The best-known interpreter of HEGEL. He was a Russian émigré who settled in Paris where he taught his famous Hegel seminar at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes from 1933 to 1939. After the 1939-45 war and until his death in 1968, Kojčve worked in the French Ministry of Economic Affairs, where he was one of the earliest architects of the European community and the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) talks.
Kojčve's seminar on Hegel exerted a remarkable influence on a whole generation of French intellectuals including Raymond Queneau, Georges BATAILLE, Maurice MERLEAU-PONTY, André Breton, Jacques LACAN, Raymond Aron, and jean-Paul SARTRE. Leading figures of POSTMODERNISM such as Michel FOUCAULT and Jacques DERRIDA also pay tribute to him and are deeply indebted to his reading of Hegel. And thanks to his lifelong friendship with Leo STRAUSS, his influence on American Straussians such as Allan Bloom and Francis Fukuyama is unmistakable.
Kojčve read Hegel through the eyes of MARX and HEIDEGGER simultaneously. For Kojčve, history begins with the relationship between master and slave and ends with a "universal and homogeneous state" in which men and women live in conditions of equality, prosperity, and mutual recognition, free of war. According to Kojčve, history ends with Capitalism, not Communism. Marx could not have anticipated the fact that twentieth-century capitalism would overcome all of its internal contradictions. Capitalism has succeeded in disseminating its wealth throughout the mass of the population, and in so doing, it has rendered the socialist revolution impossible or irrelevant because it has deprived it of its object--ending the impoverishment of the masses.
Kojčve maintained that the age of revolution is past and that the end of history is already here. The capitalist imperative has destroyed national boundaries and created an efficient, rational, technological, and homogenized world. In so doing, it has destroyed the ideological grounds for war. When everyone watches the same television shows, hums the same tunes, loves the same fast food, and has the same conception of the good life, what is there to fight about? Global peace will prevail. The universalistic dream of the ENLIGHTENMENT has finally become a reality. The ideals of freedom, equality, and prosperity have become the global ends of politics. All that is left is to work out the technicalities. Civil servants like Kojčve are the order of the day. Despite his apparent optimism, Kojčve did not romanticize the end of history too much. He assumed that there would be some obstinate and irrational people who would pit themselves against the real and the rational. This is why the End-State will need a Universal Tyrant. Long before the end of the Cold War, Kojčve anticipated that America would be the heart of the universal and homogeneous empire and the model of the new world order.
No sooner did Kojčve confer finality on the rational order of the world than he became nostalgic for the excitements of the Hegelian dialectic. The end of history seemed drab, passive, even animalistic. Scholars describe this as a "turn" in his thinking, but I believe that his disenchantment is the logical result of his premises. Kojčve offers us a fascistic reading of Hegel's dialectic which glorifies negativity, death, terror, and mastery. Then he posited an end of history in which these great and glorious attributes have vanished. The upshot of the matter is that Kojčve transforms Marx's conception of the end of history as the "realm of freedom" into Heidegger's "night of the world."
Kojčve's portrayal of the end of history as a tyranny of an arid, technological rationalism has contributed a great deal to the postmodern disenchantment with Enlightenment. It explains the postmodern repudiation of reason as a sham, which conceals a thirst for global despotism.
Against the Kojčvean vision, it may be objected that the earth cannot sustain a prosperous technological existence for humankind on a global scale, and that the prosperity of some will always be purchased at the expense of others. Even if the technological miracle were possible, Kojčve need not have feared that the excitement of war would become a thing of the past. Far from pacifying the world, the homogenization of the globe has fuelled tribal sentiments. All over the globe bloody wars are being fought, not for concrete ends, but as a quest for identity and difference in a supposedly homogeneous world.
Auffret, Dominique 1991: Alexandre Kojčve: La Philosophie, L'état, la fin de L'histoire.
Drury, Shadia B. 1994: Alexandre Kojčve: The Roots of Postmodern Politics.
Fukuyama, Francis 1992: The End of History and the Last Man.
Kojčve, Alexandre 1947: Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of the Mind.
Strauss, Leo 1963 (1991): On Tyranny.
SHADIA B. DRURY