Disclaimer: Nothing within this page or on this site overall is the product of Panagiotis Kondylis’s thought and work unless it is a faithful translation of something Kondylis wrote. Any conclusions drawn from something not written by Panagiotis Kondylis (in the form of an accurate translation) cannot constitute the basis for any valid judgement or appreciation of Kondylis and his work.
Panagiotis Kondylis in English
“Everyone has equal rights to a delusion, since not everyone has the same ability or the same courage in attaining knowledge”.
[Some conclusions after nearly 20 years of translating Panagiotis Kondylis into English and reading what others have translated and commented regarding his work:
No text can adequately, let alone fully, represent Kondylis unless it has been written by Kondylis himself. That is why Kondylis stated that he never considered giving someone else his own work to translate.
My translations constitute some kind of first (major) step in translating Kondylis into English – at best.
The next necessary major step is for a team of German and English-language scholars (historians, sociologists, political scientists, philologists, “philosophers” et al.) to work on any attempted “final” English translation (this is a very unlikely occurrence given that e.g. Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, Reinhart Koselleck (Hrsg.), Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe (Basic Historical Concepts) has never been translated into English when it should have been many years ago).
Any commentary on Kondylis’s work, including very long-winded and grossly verbose commentaries which purport to say something profound but in essence are saying something already said much more incisively by Kondylis himself, is ultimately superfluous. Kondylis’s books, whether long or short, are complete in and of themselves (at least up to the time of being published, but often, if not always, for all time).
Translating Kondylis or writing about Kondylis almost invariably amounts to a luxury not earned.
I especially thank G. Horst for “opening my eyes” to some home truths (of which I was at least vaguely aware but had not yet fully articulated) in her austere but ultimately kind manner.
C.F., Nov. 2017]
ANYONE CONNECTING KONDYLIS’S THOUGHT AND WORK WITH A PARTICULAR POLITICS AND IDEOLOGY IS EITHER IGNORANT AND OR ACTING IN BAD FAITH. ALL ADMIRERS OF KONDYLIS REJECT ABSOLUTELY ANY ASSOCIATION BETWEEN KONDYLIS’S WORK AND PARTISAN POLITICS AND IDEOLOGIES. AN AT LEAST BASIC UNDERSTANDING OF KONDYLIS REQUIRES FAMILIARISATION WITH HIS CORE BOOKS AND ARTICLES, AND AT THIS STAGE, SUCH FAMILIARISATION CAN ONLY OCCUR IN EITHER GERMAN OR GREEK.
“The sometimes frustrating extent and the detail or thoroughness of my historical works is due to my endeavour to make evident the fertility of the methodological approach in the apprehension of entireties. Only when a whole is interpreted gaplessly (i.e. completely) can one be convinced to some degree of the validity and matter-of-factness of the interpretation, whereas normative and content-related bias as a rule accompanies the selective handling of the material (i.e. subject matter). This implies that a refutation of my results can be legitimised only on the basis of an at least just as comprehensive analysis of the material”.
Kondylis’s “core” books and articles:
History of Ideas
1) The Enlightenment in the framework of new-times rationalism (Die Aufklärung in Rahmen des neuzeitlichen Rationalismus (1981) – Ὁ Εὐρωπαϊκὸς Διαφωτισμὸς (1987))
2) The new-times critique of metaphysics (Die neuzeitliche Metaphysikkritik (1990) – Ἡ κριτικὴ τῆς μεταφυσικῆς στὴ νεότερη σκέψη [Greek text Parts I – III by Kondylis] (1983) [Part IV; 2012 Greek text not by Kondylis])
3) The Introductions to: Der Philosoph und die Lust (1991), and, Der Philosoph und die Macht (1992), and the article: “Utopia and historical action (Utopie und geschichtliches Handeln)” (1993) – Ἡ ἡδονή, ἡ ἰσχύς, ἡ οὐτοπία (1992)
4) The article/”Epilogue” on Carl Schmitt (1995 German; 1994 Greek) and the two short books on Montesquieu (1996 German; 1994 Greek), and, Karl Marx and ancient Greece (1987 German; 1984 Greek), are also too brilliant not to mention…
General Social Theory (Social Ontology)/Sociology/Anthropology/ History/Culture
The Political and Man (Das Politische und der Mensch (1999) – Τὸ Πολιτικὸ καὶ ὁ Ἄνθρωπος [Greek text not by Kondylis] (2007)) [The Political and Man. Basic Features of Social Ontology (Das Politische und der Mensch. Grundzüge der Sozialontologie) was initially planned as a trilogy comprising: Volume (Band) I Social Relation, Understanding, Rationality (Soziale Beziehung, Verstehen, Rationalität); Volume (Band) II Society as political collective (Gesellschaft als politisches Kollektiv); Volume (Band) III Identity, Power, Culture (Identität, Macht, Kultur) – what is available is nearly all of the first volume and notes for the other two volumes]
1) Conservatism (Konservativismus (1986) – Συντηρητισμὸς [Greek text not by Kondylis] (2015))
2) The decline of the bourgeois thought form and life form. The liberal modern era and the mass-democratic postmodern era (Der Niedergang der bürgerlichen Denk- und Lebensform. Die liberale Moderne und die massendemokratische Postmoderne (1991) – Ἡ παρακμὴ τοῦ ἀστικοῦ πολιτισμοῦ (1991))
The theory of war/International Affairs/Geopolitics
1) Theory of War (Theorie des Krieges (1988) – Ἡ θεωρία τοῦ πολέμου (1997))
2) Planetary Politics after the Cold War (Planetarische Politik nach dem Kalten Krieg (1992) – Ἡ πλανητικὴ πολιτικὴ μετὰ τὸν Ψυχρὸ Πόλεμο (1992))
3) The Political in the 20th century. From Utopias to Globalisation (Das Politische im 20. Jahrhundert. Von den Utopien zur Globalisierung (2001) – Ἀπὸ τὸν 20ὸ στὸν 21ο αἰῶνα (1998))
The theory of knowledge/World Images/Values
1) Power and Decision (Macht und Entscheidung (1984) – Ἰσχὺς καὶ Ἀπόφαση (1991))
2) “Science, Power and Decision (Wissenschaft, Macht und Entscheidung (1995) – Ἐπιστήμη, Ἰσχὺς καὶ Ἀπόφαση (1994))”
PLANETARY POLITICS AFTER THE COLD WAR (Planetarische Politik nach dem Kalten Krieg)
as well as the articles:
“The German “special way (Sonderweg)” and German prospects”
and the short book consisting of three sets of questions answered in writing, i.e.: Kondylis’s answers to 28 questions put to him in the last years before his premature death.
“Society” is defined by Kondylis in Ch. II, Sec. 3C, pp. 409-413 (= Das Politische und der Mensch, S. 212-214). Ch. II, Sec. 3 in general defines and explains social ontology as it pertains to the social relation, the political (social cohesion and social order (social disciplining)) and man (the anthropological (the philosophy of culture = culture as man’s nature = man as both nature and culture; Ch. III, Sec. 1A)). Of especial interest is the fact that the friend-foe criterion cannot be the differentia specifica of the political as C. Schmitt purported, since such a criterion applies to the very being of society (loc. cit., footnote 242, p. 404 = S. 209 (Das Politische und der Mensch)). Both Schmitt, and his critics who hope to efface or minimise the “foe” in the said criterion, overlook that the existence of both “friend” and “foe” (even if only as potentiality) is something which is a necessary feature, empirically observable, of society as society, i.e. of both the political within the social as well as more broadly of non-political (human, social) relations, and not because “philosophers” think, talk and write about friendship and enmity, and want to make the latter “disappear”…
will be presented in toto within certainly no less than eight years (as of 30-12-2014; Chapter I was completed on 17-10-2015. Translation of Ch. II commenced 18-11-2015 and was completed on 02-02-2017; Ch. III commenced 27-2-17). This is, for those of us who know, the most important work of macro social theory published since Max Weber’s Economy and Society and it is an absolute tour de force in terms of length and scope. One could even argue it is the greatest book ever written (depending of course on what one values in relation to books).
THE POLITICAL AND MAN – PAGES TRANSLATED: 268 (360) of 652 (41.1%) (262 online)
Chapter I and Chapter II are online
Note: Chapter II, Section 3 constitutes a high point (if not the high point) in the history of general social theory!
Chapter III, Sections 1 and 2 are also online
The Enlightenment in the framework of new-times rationalism (Die Aufklärung in Rahmen des neuzeitlichen Rationalismus),
The decline of the bourgeois thought form and life form. The liberal modern era and the mass-democratic postmodern era (Der Niedergang der bürgerlichen Denk- und Lebensform. Die liberale Moderne und die massendemokratische Postmoderne),
Theory of War (Theorie des Krieges),
The new-times critique of metaphysics (Die neuzeitliche Metaphysikkritik),
Any enquiries or comments concerning “Panagiotis Kondylis in English” should be directed to:
The translations and any other text within this website, including within all this website’s pages, should not be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the express written permission of their author, C. F., who can be contacted through the email address above.
I note that my main motive in producing the translations is a deep appreciation of the honest attempt at achieving “value-free” (or “axiologically free”) knowledge in the social sciences or humanities (i.e. knowledge that is descriptive, explanatory (theoretical) and ethically, not methodologically, non-normative (regarding method: empirical verification (or e.g. reference, in the case of the ideal type) and logical consistency, but nothing more, are sine qua non)) – something little appreciated in institutions of “higher learning” (at least as far as the “social sciences”, “philosophy” and the “humanities” are concerned), by and large staffed by people involved, more often than not, at best in sophisticated cultural critique or insightful microanalyses, but alas more commonly, in the reproduction of (moralising) normative ideology, if not complete and utter nonsense (e.g. a “professor of the history and philosophy of science”, who is a psychologist and does not, compared to Kondylis, even have a basic working knowledge of the history of philosophy, or the history of science, or even the philosophy of science, is nonetheless an “expert” on “feminism” and “gender stereotypes”, etc. etc. etc….). The translations are not “easy-to-read” and “linguistically attractive and pleasant” English texts and obviously require further proofing and editing, however, they do err on the side of faithfulness to the German text, and it is hoped that the English reader will not be dissuaded from developing a genuine interest in Kondylis’s thought. It goes without saying that even the best of translations are always poor substitutes for any original text, particularly if we are dealing with a body of work at the peak of human achievement – the translator wants readers to know that the text they are reading is “faithful”, but is also a translation.
[Paul Gottfried, leaving aside for the most part whether his substantive criticisms of Power and Decision etc. have any validity (they do not, Gottfried, inter alia, misattributes to Kondylis monocausal reductionism when Power and Decision already implies the centrality of the factors or forces (the social relation, the political and man (the anthropological)) in the multi-dimensional (human) social-ontic spectrum expounded in Kondylis’s social ontology, as well as misunderstanding the notions of “will”, “power”, “value freedom” and the operation of a syllogism…), has found the original German text “testing” to read at best: “What renders these particular reflections particularly inaccessible is the ponderous prose; and it is hard to see how the editor could characterize them as stylistically elegant” (Gottfried Paul: “Review of Piccone and Kondylis”, TELOSscope, Sunday, August 2, 2009, http://www.telospress.com/review-of-piccone-and-kondylis/)%5D
Anyone who particularly values Thucydides, Machiavelli, and Max Weber (as well as many other remarkable thinkers or “observers of human affairs” – Aristotle, Montaigne, Hobbes, Spinoza, Clausewitz, and Marx readily come to mind*) will probably become very fond of Kondylis’s work.
The reading will be (very) difficult, but the gain in knowledge immeasurable.
[*Because almost inevitably most great (and not so great) thinkers in the social sciences, history and philosophy display both varying degrees of empirical and logical-argumentative weaknesses or even serious flaws, as well as all their strengths and insights, or at least while maintaining their value as “negative” polemical points of reference, those I have named are just a small list which could very easily be expanded to include: the great classical historians (Herodotus, Xenophon, Polybius, Sallust, Livy, Tacitus, Appian, Priscus et. al.), the Sophists, Socrates and Plato, the Cyrenaics, the Stoics, La Rochefoucauld, Montesquieu, La Mettrie, Hume, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Kant, Tocqueville, Nietzsche, Pareto, Durkheim, Simmel, Schumpeter, E. H. Carr, K. Mannheim, Raymond Aron, Werner Conze, and many, many others: from Epicurus, Duns Scotus, Occam, Bacon, Galilei, Descartes, Locke, Vico, Rousseau, Chamfort, Lichtenberg and Comte; to Grotius, Pascal, Pufendorf, Diderot, d’Alembert, Holbach, Turgot, de Sade, Herder, Rivarol, Schiller, Hegel and Schelling; to Leopold von Ranke, F. Engels, W. Dilthey, Tönnies, Husserl, Bergson, Werner Sombart, G.H. Mead, E. Cassirer, Leopold v. Wiese, Levin Ludwig Schücking, Bernard Groethuysen, Karl Polanyi, Pitirim Sorokin, Morris Ginsberg, Fernand Braudel, T. Parsons; to H. Mackinder, Arnold Hauser, Hans Morgenthau, J. Burnham, Cesare Pavese, J. Plamenatz, Geoffrey Elton, Reinhart Koselleck, K. Waltz, Hedley Bull, Michel Vovelle, G. Arrighi, P.M. Kennedy, G. Contogeorgis, J. Mearsheimer and so on and so forth.]
[The great (as a matter of the translator’s (personal) taste, but also (once) acknowledged as “classic” or of extremely high quality and craftsmanship) authors, artists, composers, painters, sculptors, artistic achievements, (social) psychologists, et. al., etc. include:
Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Pindar, Sappho, Pheidias, The Parthenon, Horace, Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, Juvenal, The Bible, Hagia Sophia, Byzantine iconography, Boccaccio, Dante, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Cervantes, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, El Greco, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Kölner Dom, Hieronymus Bosch, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi, Handel, Rossini, Schubert, Goethe, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Balzac, de Maupassant, Baudelaire, Monet, Cavafy, T. S. Eliot, Camus,… Yasujiro Ozu, John Ford, Jean Renoir, Kenji Mizoguchi,… Picasso, Stravinsky,… and of course many, many other achievements and many other creators, performers, et al., too many to name and admire…]
Kondylis in historical context:
Kondylis’s oeuvre draws together all the main strands in the social sciences (historical science, sociology, anthropology, the humanities etc.), philosophy and the history of ideas, which contain the elements necessary for someone to engage in absolutely consistent science (as far as the human-social sciences are concerned at a macro or general level, consisting of three main overlapping branches: history, sociology, social ontology (incl. anthropology)). In other words, where (cultural-critical, deconstructivistic, (self-)ironising) “post-modernism” in its various forms draws on aspects of the thought of e.g. [La Mettrie, de Sade,] Nietzsche, Freud, Boas, Marx, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, et al. – apart from, inter alia, reflecting, recycling and reconstructing thought patterns emanating from highly technicised and performance-based, hedonistic-consumeristic (massifying and atomising, levelling and equalising, ideologically more spatial than temporal, also in practice relatively more mobile than static) Western mass democracy (with its extremely intricate division of labour, “taken for granted” access to water, energy, mass production; blurring of public and private spheres, universal suffrage, mass bureaucratisation of the state, corporations, the mass media, and, historically more fluid attitudes to collective identities such race, nation(-state), religion, sex or “gender”, etc., including (individualistic) “self-realisation” and “minority” group “identity politics”, non-eurocentric exoticism (Other worship) and dissolution of bourgeois anthropocentrism, at times ideologically “eliminating” Nature (biology) in Culture; a (mass-democratic) analytical-combinatory thought figure rather than the (bourgeois) synthetic-harmonising thought figure; as well as featuring (the illusion of) Novelty, Kitsch, Fashion, an emphasis on Youth(fulness), Change, Pluralism, the loosening of traditional morals and attitudes as to sex(uality), (depictions of) violence,…; the dissolution of traditional substances (and “grand narratives”) into variable functions, but with a persistence of “metaphysics” (and “grand narratives”) in ideological beliefs and constructs centred on concepts like “equality”, “tolerance”, “human rights”,… normatively driven “deconstruction” (which conveniently does not “deconstruct” itself just as Marx conveniently did not apply his notion of “false consciousness” and “ideology” to his own normative (eschatological) ideology), etc., etc., etc.) -, and not infrequently, but not always, correctly acknowledges the relativity of values, the centrality and ubiquity of (relative degrees of ideational, ideological and/or physical) power in human-social relations, and the perspectivity (historicity) of knowledge, but errs in maintaining a relativity of knowledge, notwithstanding its own claims to knowledge and irrefutable empirical and logical criteria, as well as (contradictorily) usually adhering to some kind of normative programme and having certain aesthetic preferences, Kondylis managed to build on the great Western tradition of empirical observation and logical coherence, to the extent it has existed, in order to produce a body of work which essentially brings to a near as humanly possible completed high point or “perfection” what thinkers like Aristotle, Marx and Weber (Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Clausewitz et al.), at least in part or albeit imperfectly, sought to achieve with regard to understanding human societies at a macro or general level: description and explanation of what is, without, so to speak, contaminating the description and explanation of reality with an ought. It goes without saying that absolutely consistent knowledge of the Is is politically-polemically at best only partially useful, because human societies and the individuals that comprise them exist per definitionem in various forms of ideological (and usually less frequently, physical) struggle over Ought (as part of the social-cultural-human manifestation of the natural-biological drive (urge or impulse) of self-preservation) – apart from the quantitatively insignificant exceptions, who can also observe human affairs consistently dispassionately. Kondylis’s oeuvre therefore constitutes the ideational (ideological) domain of the few.
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Translating Kondylis into English since 1999…