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"Panajotis Kondylis" or "Kondylis's contribution to the 'basic historical concepts'" by Reinhart Koselleck

No-one would expect a great historian and thinker like Koselleck to refer to his former student, Kondylis, with superlatives as a lesser person such as myself would, e.g. "one of the greatest thinkers - as a heavyweight 'The Greatest' (like Joe Louis); pound for pound, 'ranked in the top ten or even top five' (like Harry Greb or Willie Pep) - in the history of western (non-natural-)scientific thought", but what Koselleck does say, inter alia, and to paraphrase him, is that for Koselleck himself and other thinkers of that calibre (= the peak of human achievement!), Kondylis's work is such that it teaches and opens up new horizons in thought, that Kondylis would probably have criticized and remarked sarcastically regarding Koselleck's own words about Kondylis were P.K. not dead, Kondylis's argumentation always stood out for its clarity, gravity, composure and sobering-up effect, that few thinkers of the 20th century so consistently rejected all ideological and fashionable, time-bound and attention-seeking (currents of) thought, that Koselleck thought of himself as lucky to have worked with P.K., Kondylis's major works constitute handbooks of historical evidence and thought-provoking analyses, that Panajotis Kondylis was, in short, unique...

Apart from an overview of Kondylis's contributions to the Basic Historical Concepts regarding "dignity" and "reaction, restoration", Koselleck also goes into some of the aspects of Kondylis's fundamental theoretical positions, histories and social ontology, starting with the role of language in polemics in a given social context, and moving onto the Aristotelian notion of the political being social organisation in general as well as encompassing more narrowly understood party politics; the fact that a particular concept or text does not, taken at face value and of its self-referentiality alone, have any social-political value or significance, but only in respect of the political-social function the concept or text serves through its use by concrete actors in concrete situations; a social(-political) state of affairs can pre-exist by decades or even centuries before the concept which later comes to express such a state of affairs; Kondylis's Weberian ideal type of (medieval-feudal) "societas civilis"; the distinction between the From Here (i.e. This World or Life) and From There (i.e. That World or Life); Kondylis's descriptive decisionism as opposed to Carl Schmitt's decisionism with its partisan-political implications; the relationship between the formal differentiation between "liberalism" and "democracy" and the actual state of affairs in a concrete societal-political situation,... all of which will be of great assistance to new readers of Kondylis as an initial point of orientation. Koselleck reminds readers that Kondylis was the bearer of hard, proud, one-sided, incorruptible, unerring, analytical and provocative argumentation, and concludes by reminding readers of the need to be intellectually modest when dealing with the plethora of causae inevitably involved in historical phenomena, whilst also being absolutely lucid in order to expose ambiguities and multiple meanings in the course of discussion. "There is ... no final solution and no happiness which is not in danger". 

This is a tremendous speech, and probably the most enjoyable text I have translated (including Koselleck's debatable assertion in respect of Kondylis's "decision pertaining to language politics" vis-à-vis the discussion on "dignity" [1]). The all-round "intellectual and literary class", in the best sense of the phrase, is self-evident in the words of the great Reinhart Koselleck, who along with his student Kondylis, owe a great deal to their common teacher in social history, Werner Conze, which I would have no hesitation to emphasise, time and time again, or at least more than twice! [2] 

[1] The way I see things, from the point of view of strictly descriptive, explanatory non-normative science qua science, Kondylis is right, and that Koselleck is making the point that in (the practice of) human social life outside of the laboratory or a state of "scientific strictness", there has to be some kind of content and ethicisation-normativisation, i.e. ultimately some kind of politics, and in that sense of humans in their ordinary social-political lives there is no room for absolutely strict science. This, in other words, is the "paradox" or simply "dual identity" of engaging in absolutely strict non-normative, descriptive and explanatory science when even the scientist must have some kind of connection, at some stage, with the "outside world", particularly if he wants to live! 

[2] Koselleck, in stunning fashion, outlines in his speech how those engaged in polemics charge concepts such as Restoration and Reaction negatively, since the 19th century, if not earlier, in order to silence their opponents. Sounds very familiar to today's state of affairs whereby concepts such as Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism are charged in an intensely normative, value- and content-biassed fashion which has nothing to do with dispassionate description, since the Power-Claim Stakes are so, so Very High...

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