From Colonialism to Third Worldism? Alexandre Kojève and the Developing Nations (1945-1968)


Located at the intersection of international history and intellectual history, this talk reconstructs the postwar trajectory of the Russian-born philosopher Alexandre Kojève (1902-1968). If Kojève’s interpretation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit has garnered significant scholarly attention, his career as a high-ranking French bureaucrat tends to be treated as an afterthought, even though Kojève himself considered it by far the most important of his intellectual and political commitments.
As a civil servant, Kojève was entrusted with devising the broad outlines of French trade policy. In his administrative writings as well as in his correspondence with the German jurist Carl Schmitt, the French overseas territories loomed large: colonialism, if appropriately reformed, was touted by Kojève as the wave of the future.

As national liberation movements across Africa and Asia successfully pushed for independence from European tutelage over the course of the 1960s, Kojève adapted effortlessly to the new geopolitical situation. He spent his last years calling for a more equitable global trade architecture, collaborating with noted dependency theorists and siding at the GATT Kennedy negotiations (1964-1967) with developing nations which wanted to shield their infant industries and denounced calls from developed nations for unfettered access to the markets of the Global South.

Danilo Scholz works on the history of political thought in the nineteenth and twentieth century and modern European intellectual history. His research focuses on concepts and critiques of the state, the role of intellectuals in international institutions and theories of bureaucracy and technocracy. He is currently a Fulbright Schuman Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University, where he is completing a book manuscript on the administrative career of the Hegelian philosopher Alexandre Kojève (1902-1968). Before arriving in New York, Danilo studied history and philosophy at the University of Cambridge and the École normale supérieure in Paris and was a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley. After receiving his PhD from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), he was a Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute near Florence. The German Academy of the Arts awarded him the Heinrich Mann Prize 2019 for his writing on cultural and political affairs, which have appeared in Merkur, the taz, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Sponsored by the Rhetoric Department
With generous support from the Critical Theory Program, the German Department, and Der Kreis: German History Working Group (DAAD)