Introducing Claude Lefort: From the Critique of Totalitarianism to the Politics of Democracy

In 1998, Claude Lefort received the Hannah Arendt Prize given by the City-State of Bremen and co-sponsored with the Heinrich Boell Stiftung of the German Green Party. I was asked to deliver the Laudatio before a mixed public consisting of political figures, university faculty and students, and a general public. As the Laudatio is not a typical American form of oral presentation, I had a great deal of difficulty in constructing the attached talk to fit within the constraints of the occasion. In this English translation, by Eunah Lee, I have taken the liberty of smoothing out the written presentation, adapting some points to make them clearer (or more problematic, as it sometimes seemed necessary). The original text was published in the monthly journal, Kommune; a stripped down version (dropping the formalities of addressing the Sehr geehrten officials who were present), from which this translation was made, was published in a pamphlet edited by the Bremen Boell Stiftung under the title of Politik und Moderne, Band IV, under the title ‘Von der Kritik des Totalitarismus zur Politik der Demokratie,’ pp. 17-22.

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