Alexandre Kojève bigraphy, stories - Historians

Alexandre Kojève : biography

April 28, 1902 - June 4, 1968

Alexandre Kojève ( April 28, 1902 – June 4, 1968) was a Russian-born French philosopher and statesman whose philosophical seminars had an immense influence on twentieth-century French philosophy, particularly via his integration of Hegelian concepts into continental philosophy. As a statesman in the French government, he was instrumental in the creation of the European Union. Kojève was a close friend of, and was in lifelong philosophical dialogue with, Leo Strauss.


Kojève was born Aleksandr Vladimirovič Koževnikov () in Russia to a wealthy and influential family. His uncle was the abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky, about whose work he would write an influential essay in 1936. He was educated in Berlin and Heidelberg, Germany. He completed his Ph.D., on the Russian religious philosopher Vladimir Soloviev's views on the union of God and man in Christ under the direction of Karl Jaspers. Early influences included the philosopher Martin Heidegger and the historian of science Alexandre Koyré. Kojève spent most of his life in France, and from 1933 to 1939, he delivered in Paris a series of lectures on Georg Hegel's work Phenomenology of Spirit. After World War II, Kojève worked in the French Ministry of Economic Affairs as one of the chief planners of the European Common Market.

Kojève was an extraordinarily learned man. A polyglot, he studied and used Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Latin and Classical Greek. He was also fluent in French, German, Russian, and English.Frost, B.-P. (2011). Alexandre Kojeve: Wisdom at the end of history [Book review]. Society, 48, 192-194. Retrieved from

Kojève died in Brussels in 1968, shortly after giving a talk at the European Economic Community (now the European Union) on behalf of the French government. In his later years, he had repeatedly expressed the position that what Marx called the European proletariat no longer existed, and the wealthy West sorely needed to help developing countries to overcome widespread poverty through large monetary gifts similar to the Marshall Plan.

Kojève and the USSR

In 1999 Le Monde published an article reporting that a French intelligence document showed that Kojève had spied for the Soviets for over 30 years. The claims of this document (and even its existence) are disputed, and it has never been released. Kojève's supporters tend to believe that if it were true, it was probably unsubstantial as spying per se and a result of his megalomaniacal personality, a pretense to be a philosopher at the end of history influencing the course of world events.

In any case, Kojève's contribution to international French economic policy was more than substantial. Though Kojève often claimed to be a Stalinist, he largely regarded the Soviet Union with contempt, calling its social policies disastrous and its claims to be a truly classless state ludicrous. (Kojève's cynicism towards traditional Marxism as an outmoded philosophy in industrially well-developed capitalist nations prompted him to go as far as idiosyncratically referring to capitalist Henry Ford as "the one great authentic Marxist of the twentieth century."Nichols, James H. Alexandre Kojève: Wisdom at the End of History. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. ISBN 0-7425-2777-8, ISBN 978-0-7425-2777-5. P. 90.) He specifically and repeatedly called it the only existing country in which 19th-century capitalism still existed. His "Stalinism" was ironic to the extent Stalin had no political chance to lead the Weltgeist; yet, he was serious about Stalinism to the extent that he regarded the utopia of the Soviet Union under Stalin, and the willingness to purge unsupportive elements in the population, as evidence of a desire to bring about the end of history, and as a repetition of the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution.Geroulanos, An Atheism That Is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought, pp. 133–134.


Though not a Marxist,Kołakowski, Leszek. Main Currents of Marxism. Trans. P. S. Falla. New York and London: W.W. Norton and Company, 2005. ISBN 0-393-06054-3. P. 929. Kojeve was known as an influential and idiosyncratic interpreter of Hegel, reading him through the lens of both Marx and Heidegger. The well-known "End of History" thesis advanced the idea that ideological history in a limited sense had ended with the French Revolution and the regime of Napoleon and that there was no longer a need for violent struggle to establish the "rational supremacy of the regime of rights and equal recognition." Kojeve's "End of History" is more nuanced than Francis Fukayama's later thesis of the same name and points as much to a socialist-capitalist synthesis as to a triumph of liberal capitalism.

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