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
“Everyone has equal rights to a delusion, since not everyone has the same ability or the same courage in attaining knowledge” (P.K.)
“When one reaches the Summit of Human Thought, everything else (apart from Homer) can seem like a Waste of Time” (C.F.)
This site is dedicated to making some of Panagiotis (Panajotis) Kondylis’s voluminous work available in English.
Those who know Kondylis’s writings well in either German or Greek will appreciate that Kondylis (1943-1998) produced books and articles of unparallelled value in relation to the history of ideas, and in particular the European Enlightenment; general or macro social theory; the theory of knowledge; conservatism and political terminology emanating from Europe including during the 19th century; liberal modernism and mass-democratic “postmodernism”; the theory of war; international affairs; as well as in relation to a number of other more specialised topics.
[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 [= The philosopher and pleasure] (1991), and, Der Philosoph und die Macht [= The philosopher and power] (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)/History/Sociology/Culture/Anthropology
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))”
[After reading, studying and understanding the “core” books and articles above, you will probably realise that science (as consistently “plain, neutral or cold” description and explanation) is possible – but not very likely – in the social (human) sciences or the humanities. The reality however is that Kondylis, who has, so to speak, intellectually and analytically conquered for all time at least four major disciplines (philosophy, social ontology (and sociology), political science (and sociology), war and military theory – all imbued with the strongest possible sense of (the science of) history (and anthropology)) in the broadly understood social sciences, philosophy and the humanities, with literally dozens and dozens of groundbreaking insights, is and will always be “too much” to handle for the average professional academic, scholar or amateur intellectual, who invariably need to make a living and need to survive in a particular social milieu…]
A (near) complete bibliography is available at:
Complete list of books translated by Panajotis Kondylis (Παναγιώτης Κονδύλης) into Greek from English, German, Italian, French and ancient Greek, and Greek-language titles for which Kondylis was Editor (Manager) of Series:
ONLINE IN ENGLISH, KONDYLIS’S ASTONISHING SHORT BOOKS:
POWER AND DECISION (MACHT UND ENTSCHEIDUNG)
PLANETARY POLITICS AFTER THE COLD WAR (Planetarische Politik nach dem Kalten Krieg)
as well as the articles:
“Science, Power and Decision (Wissenschaft, Macht und Entscheidung)”
“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.
FOR NEW READERS OF KONDYLIS WISHING TO BEGIN TO SERIOUSLY COME TO TERMS WITH KONDYLIS’S THOUGHT, START BY STUDYING CAREFULLY HIS ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS
(e.g. 1 (philosophy, normativism, science, description), 3 (polemics, logic, value freedom), 4 (Plato, The Enlightenment, nihilism), 5 (scepticism, (scientific) knowledge), 6 (peace, war, friendship, enmity), 10 (Spinoza), 12 (Marxism, Is and Ought), 13 ((Western-)European conceptuality, (Western-)European and Greek history, Conze, Koselleck), 14 ((The end of) Europe, Man, Nature, liberalism, mass democracy), 15 (The Classics, metaphysics, nihilism, ideology), 16 (social ontology), 19 (scientific method, Marx, Aron, Weber), 20 (science, rationalism and irrationalism), 21-22 (Carl Schmitt), 27 (Spengler, Huntington, Fukuyama) – Thucydides (5, 15, 19, 21), Machiavelli (6, 19), Clausewitz (6, 11, 26), etc.)
PARTICULARLY BEFORE TACKLING POWER AND DECISION OR “SCIENCE, POWER AND DECISION”.
ALSO: READ Reinhart Koselleck’s speech on Kondylis! It’s one thing for a “nameless nobody” to tell you, it’s quite another thing to read it “straight from the horse’s mouth”…
The first example in English of Kondylis’s complete and unique analytical mastery of the history of ideas (in the sense of the history of “philosophy”) is now online:
Introduction to “The Philosopher and Power”.
Introduction to “The Philosopher and Pleasure”
“Utopia and Historical Action”
Theory of War – Summary Notes
“The multi-dimensional Enlightenment”
Montesquieu and the Spirit of the Laws
Next, in the event the translator finds the strength and motivation and does not opt to engage in the pleasure of merely being a reader of Kondylis’s, and other, works,
The Political and Man (Das Politische und der Mensch)
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, completed 27-3-18). 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: 304 of 652 (46.63%) (304 online)
Chapter I – III are online!
Note: Chapter II, Section 3 constitutes a high point (if not the high point) in the history of general social theory!
[Translation of Ch. IV (= total Nightmare!), “God Willing”, to commence in 2019. Until then, I hope to translate some of Kondylis’s articles and short books, particularly in relation to the history of ideas, so that English readers can gain a further taste of what a “never-to-be-repeated” Phenomenon Kondylis was…]
For a definition of “power”, see “Science, Power and Decision”, II, p.5ff. (and the translator’s notes on the site page: Power and Decision – including reference to Nietzsche and Foucault).
Rationalism, irrationalism, the mystical-irrational, ratio, Reason, content, argumentation, polemics, self-preservation, truth and power claims, and their interweaving, are set out in Power and Decision, pp. 121-123 (= Macht und Entscheidung, S. 94-96).
Nihilism, value-free descriptive decisionism, values, anti-values, value neutrality, Is and Ought, destruction, moralism and normativism feature in Power and Decision, pp. 162-164 (= Macht und Entscheidung, S. 124-125).
Tönnies, Durkheim et al., the conceptual shortcomings of community and society, “mechanical” and “organic solidarity”, etc. feature at pp. 96-108, The Political and Man (= S. 50-56, Das Politische und der Mensch); as does the “cultural anthropology” of e.g. Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, which corrected certain gross simplifications of the anthropology of drives, of Reason and of race, but simultaneously overshot the mark, in terms of science, and ended up itself being a crude sociologism, i.e. an ideological phenomenon of mass democracy (loc. cit., pp. 108-109 = S. 57). Moreover, it is also highlighted that the end of anthropocentrism and or anthropology does not and cannot mean the end of man (pp. 110-111 (= S. 58), loc. cit.). For the scientific inappropriateness of the term “totalitarian” see pp. 120, 157-158 of The Political and Man, and pp. 111-113 of Planetary Politics after the Cold War (as opposed to “liberalism”). T. Parsons, N. Luhmann, J. Habermas et al. (systems and communication theories etc.), come under some scrutiny in The Political and Man, pp. 21ff., 33/39ff., 50ff. = S. 10f., 16/19f., 26f., loc. cit., including some theoreticians’ naive and epistemologically lazy recourse to a philosophy of history.
To find out the real reasons why Karl Marx was one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the social sciences (it has nothing to do with “class struggle”, “capital”, “exploitation”, “alienation”, “scientific (dialectical) materialism (socialism)”, “communism”, etc.), see Answers to 28 questions, pp. 67-69, and, The Political and Man, Chapter II, pp. 195-202 (= Das Politische und der Mensch, S. 105-107).
Nietzsche’s (Freud and Bergson’s) existential (will(volition)-based) understandings of knowledge regarding pre-intellectual (situational) states of mind ingrained in the senses, occurring in a sociological and historical vacuum, are referred to at pp. 204-205 (The Political and Man) = Das Politische und der Mensch, S. 107.
To find out why Heidegger is often grossly overrated (it has nothing to do with “national socialism” or “ethno-nationalism”, the “critique of technology”, etc.) see The Political and Man, Chapter II, pp. 182-191, 198-199, 203, 358; Chapter III, pp. 472-477 (= Das Politische und der Mensch, S. 97-101, 104, 107, 185, 245-246). (See also:
With regard to Sartre, see loc. cit., pp. 186-190 (= Das Politische und der Mensch, S. 99-100).
Max Weber takes centre stage regarding social action, the social relation, sociology presupposing the fact of society, subjective meaning, understanding, etc. at pp. 207-219 (The Political and Man = S. 109-114, Das Politische und der Mensch). Chapter IV, Sec. 2A and Chapter V, Sec. 1C deal with Weber, his types of action and the problem of rationality (to be translated hopefully by the end of 2020/2021!).
For a fascinating discussion of social facts (and both their empirical and ideational/ideological ontic aspects), the heterogony of ends, meaning, methodological individualism as militant liberalism, quantity v. quality, laws v. causalities, microstructures v. macrostructures, etc., including in relation to the great sociologists Durkheim and Weber, et al., see The Political and Man, Chapter II, pp. 222ff. (= Das Politische und der Mensch, S. 116f.), and as regards sociology’s interrelation with history, pp. 235ff. (= S. 123f.), and in respect of Popper, Hayek and v. Mises (S. 141f. = p. 271ff.), and I. Berlin (S. 164f. = p. 316ff., and S. 172f. = p. 332ff.).
Social ontology is closer to History than Sociology, pp. 362ff. (= loc. cit., S. 188f.).
From Plato to Leibniz and Kant,… to the very crude (and rather imbecilic) “race and gender”, “social construct”, “(inter-)textuality”, etc. ideologues, propagandists and – filled with an unending lust for Power – morons, as well as of course Utopians of ALL HUES AND SIDES OF THE IDEOLOGICAL-POLITICAL SPECTRUM, to the not so silly “cultural relativists” who confuse value relativism with scepticism (knowledge relativism), the following can help put things in their proper non-normative place: “… Social ontology elucidates the terrain on which ideas grow and makes clear why on this terrain, the terrain of an elementary or complex culture, the social-ontic factors or forces in their necessary bond with concrete humans can only develop via ideas. The necessity of the ideational mediation (or intervention) of everything social is a social-ontic fact and must be explained social-ontologically; but ideas as particular content(s) do not possess social-ontic necessity, and in this sense one can in principle assert: there are no ideas, there are humans living in society and culture, whose social-ontically determined and explainable action must be connected with what one commonly calls ideas.
Thus we have come to the second implication of the distinction mentioned above between the levels of understanding. This time it is a matter of the much-discussed alternative “cultural relativism vs. universal understanding”. Cultural relativism is based on the perception that the criteria for the understanding of a society are put at one’s disposal by this society itself, that understanding therefore comes about only when one is able to understand (fathom or re-enact in one’s mind) a society’s self-understanding in all its details and ramifications in social life; but no member of a foreign society would be in a position to do that. Here a coming undone (or absorption) of social action in the very same subjective sense connected with it is postulated, and no distance is perceived between the becoming (or events) in the social-ontic field and the ideationally articulated self-understanding of actors. As soon as this […] distance comes into view, the conclusion follows that understanding and observing actors find themselves in the same social-ontic, if not necessarily the same historical or sociological field, and that that aspect of their action, which lies on that side or this side of their each and every respective self-understanding, must be common to them on the basis of the social-ontic field’s compelling given facts, as much as their various kinds of self-understanding may also differ from one another. This opens up a secure perspective for mutual understanding on a social-ontic basis, as a common example can illustrate: two foes, who cannot and do not want to “understand” each other culturally etc. at all, understand each other, nevertheless, very well and without talking to each other on a battlefield, by one of them directing his action in accordance with what the other is doing or will presumably (or likely) do. In this way, the social-ontological way of looking at things makes the bounds (or limits) of cultural relativism, and at the same time the possibilities and meaning (or sense) of universal understanding, visible; because understanding as the fundamental mechanism of the social relation lies likewise originally, and regardless of its each and every respective cultural formation, in the social-ontic field.”… (The Political and Man, Ch. II, Sec. 3A, pp. 376-377 = Das Politische und der Mensh, S. 194-195).
“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”…
The spectrum of the social relation and its friend-foe polarity, inter alia, particularly as regards Simmel and von Wiese, feature in Chapter III of The Political and Man. Friendship and enmity are explored (Sec. 2B) by way of Bacon, Empedocles, Plato, Aristotle, Sophists and Rhetoricians, Democritus, the Pantschatantra, Cicero, Montaigne, Rivarol, Tönnies, Durkheim, Sorokin, Charles H. Cooley, Hesiod, Weber, R. Michels, Spinoza, Hegel, Plutarch, A. Ferguson, R. Thurnwald, La Rochefoucauld, G. Halifax, Saint-Exupéry, Ovid, Xenophon, Thucydides, Clausewitz, Virgil et al., in what amounts to a breathtaking exposition of this well-known “Schmittian” (!) topic… Also included in Ch. III is “The Death Chapter” (the anthropology of drives (urges) does not provide the basis for the spectrum of the social relation’s polarity, but man’s mortality does) = Sec. 2A…
“… Identity does not constitute a psychological variable, but an anthropological constant, that is, a ubiquitous human attribute with direct social-ontological implications. Identity can be connected with the most different feelings and thoughts; however, exactly because of that, identity does not depend on any particular feeling or thought act, that is, on any special psychological content; it stands or falls by the subject concerned as bearer of often varying, contradictory and reciprocally alternating feelings and thoughts. Identity does not exist without feelings and thoughts, however it cannot be abolished by a feeling or a thought act in the same sense as a feeling abolishes another feeling, or a thought act abolishes another thought act. On the contrary: identity can force special psychical content into its logic, that is, modify or replace such content, proceed against instinctive preferences, or in general supplement or even overcome the pleasure principle through the principle of reality or of power. The manner in which the subject behaves in concrete situations turns out to be the resultant of the manner in which the subject deals with, on a strategic and tactical basis, its problem of identity, and the problem of extra-subjective facts; the latter determine behaviour, and consequently diminish the weight of psychological factors only to the extent that they are recognised and acknowledged by the identity as such, while at the same time, the identity, for its part, has at its disposal its own, independent of the situation, means and ways in order to bring psychical factors and content under control. That is why it would be very one-sided to summon against psychologism exclusively the logic of the situation, and to overlook that the acting in a situation is mediated by an interpretation of the situation, which in turn remains at any time interwoven with the process of the formation, the purposeful (end(goal)-oriented or expedient) restructuring and the self-assertion of the identity […]. When one wants to conceptually separate what is objectively inseparable, then one must in fact allow the constant “identity” the theoretical precedence before the polarity in the spectrum of the social relation. Because only from the perspective of self-preservation comprehended as identity, that is, beyond biological connotations, can the constellation be described in which friendship and enmity come into being and alternate; such self-preservation behaves in itself indifferently vis-à-vis the choice between friendship or enmity, that is, the choice is subordinated to self-preservation. If one held, on the other hand, friendship or enmity to be original, then the criteria are missing in order to make the choice between friendship or enmity understandable. There are two different things meant by the process of the formation and assertion of identity inevitably entailing the distinction between friend and foe, and assuming that this distinction is at the beginning of that process. However, as we have already said: those are conceptual clarifications and hierarchisations rather than clearly provable causalities. With the complexity and the tight interdependence of the factors having an effect, the following general ascertainment is merely permitted here: where the question of self-preservation – and this anthropologically and social-ontologically means: the question of identity – is posed, there the question of power is posed too, and consequently the distinction between friend and foe, and the choice regarding this distinction, become unavoidable. That is why the thesis seems plausible that the spectrum of the social relation becomes occupied and shaped by concrete subjects in accordance with which way, to what extent, and with what intensity these subjects pose the question of identity in relation to themselves and to other subjects. Between both poles of the spectrum, indeed for long stretches (or to a large extent), namely, in very many social relations, the question of identity is not posed directly and openly – not for instance because the question of identity does not exist, but because it can, against the background of already solidified private or public power relations (or circumstances of power), be left aside, in fact even must be left aside. If the question of identity is to be posed explicitly and uncompromisingly, the social relation must be driven to one of both poles of the spectrum: (extreme) enmity is the absolute negation of the identity of the Other up to its intellectual(-spiritual) and physical annihilation, (extreme) friendship is the absolute affirmation of the identity of the Other up to intellectual(-spiritual) and physical self-sacrifice. In total enmity, the identity wants total recognition for itself; in total friendship, total recognition is given to another. Yet in both cases, and regardless of reverse signs (i.e. symbolism), the question of identity as a question of recognition, i.e. as a question of power, remains all along the line decisive. Regarding the question of identity’s weight, the observers of human affairs, incidentally, were clear since ancient times. Friendship, according to Aristotle, is based, on the one hand, on the common choice with regard to friends and foes; on the other hand, on the readiness (willingness) of both sides to recognise and to confirm each and every respective Other, precisely in regard to the activities in relation to which the said Other would like to most of all distinguish itself […]. And Cicero praised Scipio’s efforts in treating himself as an equal in friendship with the inferior person, since Scipio knew how annoying friendship becomes for him who sees himself always and everywhere surpassed, or believes he is despised, by his friend […].” (The Political and Man, pp. 486-489 = Das Politische und der Mensch, S. 251-253).
Absolutely hilarious, and rather poetic in a Nietzschean fashion too! It’s worth learning to read basic German just to read this: „Wer auf die Feststellung dieser Banalität wie Pawlows konditionierter Hund reagiert, indem er beim Hören des Wortes „Feindschaft“ wild um sich bellt, erweist dem Wissen um die menschlichen Dinge keinen guten Dienst.“ (Das Politische und der Mensh, S. 266 = The Political and Man, p. 514). Also in Ch. III, Sec. 3A, which emphasises the co-extensity of society with the social relation’s continuous and polarising, polarised friend-foe spectrum, is an eye-opening discussion of Hobbes, Rousseau and Clausewitz with regard to the state of nature and war. Sec. 3B includes discussion of Durkheim in relation to “normality” and “exception”.
The mechanism of the social relation, as well as the dimension of time, which will be expounded in Ch. IV of The Political and Man, is essentially a theoretical bridging of the distance between the pure formality of the social relation’s spectrum, and, the reality of (social) action as infinitely variable content (S. 277 = p. 537).
The question of the monopoly of interpretation = a question of power (norms and rules are binding only if they are viewed as self-evident and accepted as to their interpretation by all sides (it’s the correlation of forces, and not the norms and rules as such, which determine whether conflict will involve violence or not) – opposing content and opposing positions go with common thought structures and common concepts). “Total” or “absolute” (or: “limited” and relative”) means can be used for “limited” and “relative” (or: “total or absolute”) ends (S. 281-282 = pp. 545-546).“The fragility of friendship is not due merely to the pressure which the other half of the spectrum of the social relation exerts, but is due to friendship’s own structural presuppositions (preconditions or prerequisites) in its connection with the question of identity. … enmity dwells (or is inherent) in friendship in the sense that friendship objectively entails the (partially and in fact … gladly accepted) loss of independence, that is, duties and considerations [i.e. care, respect for others], whilst at the same time the objective loss must at least be made good (or made up for) to a certain extent by subjective advantages or feelings. If the making good of (or making up for) the loss of independence is considered to be inadequate, then an element of dissociation creeps (worms its way) into association, which easily steps over the threshold (i.e. enters into the realm) of enmity….” (S. 283 = pp. 547-548).
Epicurus, who had a soft spot for both perceptions, i.e. friendship could take root in utility (gain, advantage or benefit), and simultaneously regarded the torment (anguish, agony or pain) of the one’s friend as more painful than one’s own torment, indeed left himself open to some logical weaknesses, in regard to which however he summarised the examination of the problem, and did the same once again e contrario (i.e. from the contrary point of view), when he wanted to make out of friendship a secluded private sanctuary against the storms of public life. Because friendship had long ago become a social and political concept, and this happened in a dual sense: on the one hand, as the union of persons of a common cast of mind (mindset or mentality) and common interests in the pursuit of political goals; on the other hand, as the designation (description) of the bond which holds society together in general as well as the conditions (prerequisites) of partial or general social cohesion. With remarkable swiftness, the classical term for friendship (φιλία [= love, affection as friendship] as a neological replacement for the archaic φιλότης [= love, friendship as hospitality]) was extended to peace treaties and alliances between states. However, above all the classical term for friendship was used purposefully in connection with concepts like order and justice, in order to make the co-operative social relations, which constituted life in the framework of organised society, recognisable (S. 289 = p. 561). Read about the all-time Great Aristotle’s phenomenology of friendship at pp. 561-566, The Political and Man (= S. 289-291, Das Politische und der Mensch), including that elements of hierarchy and equality are to be found in all societies, as well as implying that social cohesion and social order are social-ontological phenomena beyond a stylistic separation between “community” (e.g. Plato and egalitarianism) and “society” (e.g. the Sophists and contractual relations). From kinship to agreement, multiple kinds of friendship, every one of varying intensities, can also include the master-servant(slave) relation (notwithstanding present-day “abhorrence” of “slavery”) or more generally the struggle over (variably understood) utility, money, honour and pleasure (apart from altruism), etc.. Socially decisive friendship types (incl. in regard to the political, law and justice, agreed interests and concord as social cohesion) are not in any necessary relationship with ethical factors and motives, and can and do flow into various states of relative unsteadiness and upheaval.
Notwithstanding the change in ethics regarding friendship and enmity, both in antiquity and in the Christian era up to the 18th century, friendship and enmity were seen as co-existent based on derivation from the anthropology of drives (urges). The “death of God” and the predominance of Man meant that enmity-free existence had to be transferred from Heaven (of the after-life) to Earth (of this life), and, combined with eschatological philosophies of history and the emerging “capitalistic global economy”, meant that war, conflict and “evil” were to be overcome, from the Liberal Chiliasm of a world order of unified global markets, or its flip-side, Marxist classless Messianism, to other less significant variations and manifestations of Utopias which are supposed to arise in the Here and not the Hereafter. From the ethicising of Tönnies in seeking to diminish or even extinguish the role of enmity (conflict) at the “higher” stage of “(anti-capitalistic) community”, to Simmel and von Wiese grasping the originality of enmity as conflict, along with peace, in all societies, and then the distinction between peace and war (which presupposes the existence of enmity as at least non-violent conflict) and the role of violence in Weber, after Clausewitz, the great modern social theorists laid much of the groundwork for Kondylis’s finer distinctions and clear general, non-normative, non-ethical, conceptualisation of society. Of great interest is that, apart from the limited theoretical value of the findings of social psychology, an “enlightened liberal” like v. Mises, in opposition to v. Wiese, but along with Radcliff-Brown (and functionalism), ethically-normatively asserted that the social relation (inclusive of utility) is synonymous with friendship whilst excluding enmity, and thus such assertions can be seen (by the translator, not necessarily Kondylis) as representing an early articulation of the contemporary ideology of “right-wing” “globalisation’ and “globalism”, with the “left-wing” of such ideology (or simply nonsense) being represented by e.g. Horkheimerian “objective rationality” following in the footsteps of the mystical “mutuality” and “authenticity” tradition of a Buber, as well as being represented by the “to the left” of Parsonian “equilibrium”, (cybernetic) “open system”,… all of which in turn finds expression in e.g. Coser’s rather silly distinction between “rigid”, “fake” and “flexible”, “genuine” systems, with the former supposedly only capable of being broken open through violent means (based on the psychical unloading of tension and not rational considerations) unthinkable in the latter (!), and Dahrendorf’s inability to see conflict in all its breadth, depth and (at least potential) (hierarchical) power crystallisations and concentrations [again = translator’s words, not Kondylis’s, who writes “the concreteness of the circumstances of dominance and of the relations between humans”], whilst believing and hoping that “change” and “conflict” could and would be contained within some kind of framework of “eternal peace” and “institutionalised liberalism” [= western mass democracies as the “Final Solution” to the history of social formations, written more than two decades before Fukuyama!!! (my words, not Kondylis’s)]. P. Blau, notwithstanding any “differentiation” from Parsons, further sets the stage for today’s “happy-go-lucky” attitude that Western mass democracy, consisting of social relations “into which men enter of their own free will rather than… either those into which they are born or those imposed on them by forces beyond their control”, somehow constitutes some kind of “eternal” self-renewing social formation (incl. a constitutional-parliamentary polity) which will supposedly never experience the inimical half of the spectrum of the social relation towards or at its extremes. To conclude Ch. III, after highlighting Luhmann’s ludicrous attempt at presenting society as a “system”, whilst also acknowledging conflict as a “social system” which “somehow” arises as an “autopoietic” system – as if conflict in its extreme form cannot destroy any “system” and as if the existence of conflict has not been known to theory since ancient times! – Kondylis refers to two all-time greats, Machiavelli and Tocqueville, who acknowledged the role of conflict in invigorating and or even stabilising polities under certain circumstances, whilst also not forgetting that conflict can reach a point where certain kinds of society can and do eventually move onto other kinds of social formations. And it is not by a long shot clear that Western mass democracies are here to stay forever… The mechanism of the social relation exists equally from (extreme) enmity to (extreme) friendship… or in other words: your Utopia, however you might dream about it, IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN, EVER! (The Political and Man, Ch. III, Sec. 4).
In the more distant future, this site’s author would hope to translate or at least would hope to see translated:
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),
as well as other works by Kondylis such as:
The new-times critique of metaphysics (Die neuzeitliche Metaphysikkritik),
The Political in the 20th century. From Utopias to Globalisation (Das Politische im 20. Jahrhundert. Von den Utopien zur Globalisierung),
Montesquieu and the Spirit of the Laws (Montesquieu und der Geist der Gesetze),
Marx and Greek antiquity (Marx und die griechische Antike),
the two articles from: Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, Reinhart Koselleck (Hrsg.), Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe (Basic Historical Concepts): “Reaction, Restoration“ („Reaktion, Restauration“), and, “Dignity” („Würde“),
the article “Jurisprudence, State of Emergency and Decision. Fundamental remarks on Carl Schmitt’s “Political Theology”” („Jurisprudenz, Ausnahmezustand und Entscheidung. Grundsätzliche Bemerkungen zu Carl Schmitts „Politische Theologie““),
as well as Kondylis’s anthologies with respective Introductions: Der Philosoph und der Lust, Der Philosoph und die Macht;
the articles “Utopia and historical action” („Utopie und geschichtliches Handeln“), “Melancholy and Polemics” („Melancholie und Polemik“), “Regarding the intellectual(-spiritual) structure of utopian constructions of the 16th and 17th centuries” („Zur geistigen Struktur der utopischen Konstruktionen des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts“), “The old and the new godhead” («Ἡ παλιὰ καὶ ἡ νέα θεότητα»), and,
Kondylis’s essential introduction to, and essay on, Machiavelli,
and introductions to: Chamfort, Lichtenberg, Rivarol and Pavese;
if the vicissitudes of life permit…
[unfortunately, a translation of Kondylis’s first book: Die Entstehung der Dialektik. Eine Analyse der geistigen Entwicklung von Hölderlin, Schelling und Hegel bis 1802, cannot be contemplated as a possible translation project given that the above list of works will almost certainly not be translated in toto]
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, Simmel, Durkheim, 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, E. Kantorowicz, Karl Löwith, Otto Brunner, Hans Morgenthau, J. Burnham, Cesare Pavese, J. Plamenatz, Geoffrey Elton, Reinhart Koselleck, K. Waltz, Hedley Bull, Michel Vovelle, G. Arrighi, Gerd Althoff, 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, Pirandello, T. S. Eliot, César Vallejo, 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,] Marx, Tönnies, Nietzsche, Freud, Boas, 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…