CHAPTER 6
Claude Lefort's Passage from Revolutionary Theory
to Political Theory

When he learned that I was to deliver the traditional laudatio when he was awarded the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought by the city-state of Bremen in 1999, Claude Lefort reminded me jokingly that his work did not end with Socialisme et Barbarie. 1 It was easy to meet that request but harder to write the laudatio, which went through three radically different drafts. The trick is to explain the association of the recipient with the principles behind the award (in this case, with the political thought of Hannah Arendt; this was easy enough); then to explain the great worth of the recipient's work (which had to be reduced to digestible portions for a general public); and finally to associate oneself and the public in a shared sympathy with the recipient. This last task is the most difficult and explains why my drafts were so different from one another. The solution that I finally adopted was to ask at the outset of the laudatio why it was necessary to bring an American to Germany to praise the work of a French political thinker. Why was Lefort's work not well known or studied in Germany? There seem to be three reasons: in Germany, moral philosophy has replaced political philosophy, properly speaking; in Germany, politics tends to be reduced to

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