mercoledì 2 ottobre 2013

Hager Weslati replies to Giorgio Agamben about Kojeve's memo @ Verso Blog 13 September 2013


Read more @ Verso blog
Agamben claims that the memo was addressed “to the head of the Provisional Government, General Charles de Gaulle.” There is enough evidence to support this claim if a meticulous comparative reading determines how much of Kojeve’s “Esquisse d’une doctrine de la politique francaise” filtered through via numerous bureaucratic routs to the circle of Jean Monnet, or ended up in the Schuman Declaration of May 1950. To this day there is not one single comprehensive study on Kojeve’s key role in French administration and foreign trade diplomacy between 1945 and 1968. There are at least five questions that need to be raised before one comments on the content of Agamben’s “Se un Impero Latino Prendesse Forma Nel Cuore D’Europa” in La Repubblica (15 March 2013), or engages with the provocative “title” of the French version: “Que l’Empire latin contre-attaque!” in Liberation (24 March 2013)   Question 1: Who was the addressee of the memo?   In the Kojeve archives at the French national library, the folder which contains several versions of the “Esquisse” indicate that the memorandum was addressed to Jean Filippi, at the time, director of economy and finance in the military French government in Baden Baden. Jean Filippi (1905- 1993), occupied several high-ranking positions, namely as secretary-general of economic questions (1941-1942) in the governments of Darlan and Laval. Between 1948 and 1950, he was chief executive of the trade committee (with the European Organisation of Economic Cooperation), then Chief of Staff at the ministry of finance and economic affairs (1949-1950). This particular thread leads all the way back to Kojeve’s early 1940s political writings, part of which directly engage with the flaws in the political project of the Vichy government and its aftermath, including the context of the Resistance, with which he was actively involved as some biographical details seem to indicate. The above mentioned folder also contains a card-note from an unnamed correspondent (possibly Filippi himself, or one of his associates). The note reads as follows: “: you sent me your note two months before the liberation via Mr Jean Cassou. A Latin Union is not realistic. The idea is not original and could be found in many articles of propaganda as in the agreement Mussolini- Laval in 1935. The idea is attractive on paper but it leaves out many minor countries.”In addition, the BNF “Esquisse” folder also includes three intriguing newspaper clips from Le Monde (June- July 1945). The articles outline the position of Great Britain in a nascent new world order, and how it is rebranding itself after the imminent collapse of its empire. Intriguingly, and in each one of those paper clips, Kojeve crosses out “Britain” and replaces it with “France”. There are some entire sentences and a few ideas from the clips reproduced in his “Esquisse” memorandum. There is enough evidence to suggest that Kojeve was fascinated by British diplomacy […] Anecdotal as they may sound, such details are perhaps worth flagging up in order to demystify the “topicality” of the “Latin Empire” as a prophetic document produced in a historical vacuum. Grounding this document in its historical context is crucial to avoid Fukuyamesque misinterpretations of Kojeve (the ones where a concept is lifted out of context and then blindly grafted on a current political situation). To my mind, this is partly the immediate effect of the catchy phrase “Latin Empire” on all those who read Agamben’s short piece in La Republica, reproduced in other European newspapers with even fancier and more aggressive titles.   This should lead us to: Question 2: In which context, political and historical, was the memo written? […] If initially the memo was meant to be read by a restricted number of government administrators, the context of its excavation from Kojeve’s papers, and the context of its public dissemination are equally important. On to the next question: Question 3: On which other occasions was Kojeve’s “Latin Empire” used in political debates? The memo first came in the hands of the editors of Grasset (via Dominique Auffret, then Jean-Paul Enthoven and Dominique-Antoine Grisoni). A truncated version of the memo was published in the first issue of La Regle du jeu (May 1990) and was explicitly used to illustrate the aim of the journal: reflecting on a new world order after Soviet communism. Rebranded by Bernard-Henry Levy himself “The Latin Empire”, the “Esquisse” remained within the circle of right and conservative readers for decades. It then appeared in English translation in the Policy Review (n. 126, August 2004) as “Outline of French Policy”, and in Italian translation in Il silenzio della tirannide (edited by Antonio Gnoli. Milan: Aldelphi Edizioni, 2004). Finally, the memo was published in French in the BNF special issue, marking the foundation of the Kojeve Archives (inHommage a Kojeve, BNF, 2007). It is however worth noting that the more than 80 page long memo has never been published in its entirety. What remains to be determined in light of these details is: Question 4: How does the memo read in the context of Kojeve’s political writings (1941- 1945), and in the context of his philosophical system? […] And then: Question 5: How did Agamben paraphrase the content of the memo, and should his paraphrase be considered a “thesis” in its own right? […] After addressing the above listed questions, we can perhaps hope to read useful and engaging comments on Kojeve’s 1945 memo. 

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