In his 1942 work, The Notion of Authority, Alexandre Kojève echoes at the political level what Lacan had already underlined in his 1938 text “Family Complexes in the Formation of the Individual” concerning the decline of the father: “Political Authority, amputated of its ‘Father’ member, thus necessarily becomes, insofar as it remains political, above all an Authority of the Leader”.
What is Authority for A. Kojève? It is above all a relationship between an agent and a patient: the former acts on the latter. But this act has the particularity of not encountering any opposition from the one on whom it is directed: the patient, while having the possibility to oppose, renounces the realization of this possibility. Why is this? Because he recognises the authority of the agent, and it is for this reason that for A. Kojève authority and recognition of authority are one and the same: no authority of the agent without recognition of his authority by the patient. Also, the use of force is antinomic to the notion of authority. If the agent has to use it to make the patient obey, he has lost his authority. The same applies to any form of compromise, explanation or justification.
For A. Kojève, “Fatherly Authority” is linked to tradition: the past that determines the present, the cause that generates the effect. The prototype is the Authority of the Father over the Son, but we also have variants, such as the authority of the old over the young, the authority of the dead (testament) over the living, or even the authority of God over man. This type of authority is taken from scholastic or theological theory.
The type of Authority of the Leader comes from Aristotle’s theory: it is the authority of the one who can foresee, who has a project, compared to the one who lives in the immediate. The prototype being the authority of the leader over his group, with the variants: the director over the employee, the master over the pupil, the scientist over the technician.
It seems to me that today – in Western countries – the predominant form of political authority is that of the Leader as described by A. Kojève. This is the era of technocrats, of learned statisticians and of INSERM meta-analyses that can foresee the effectiveness of therapies. This is authoritative, at least at state level. “It’s scientifically proven, it’s objective”, the general public will say, recognising – and thereby establishing – the authority of the scholar scientist, the Leader.
The authority of the Leader has thus replaced that of the Father. Using the letters that are familiar to us, we could say that the insignia of the Father, of tradition – the S1 – has been replaced by the knowledge of the technocratic Leader – the S2: it is now him in the place of the agent. The other, the patient – to use A. Kojève’s term – has also changed. If the Father had authority over the Son, even over the slave within the family, now the Leader exercises his over another type of patient: he manages the human masses (think of migration policies in particular).
A. Kojève points to another consequence following the amputation of the Father under the regime of the Leader: “political Authority decomposes or disintegrates (becomes ‘divided’) precisely because of this amputation”: division of political powers, the state becomes unstable, it is permanent revolution. This is not unrelated –for us psychoanalysts – to the pluralisation of the Names of the Father following its “evaporation [which] produces so many signifiers that make communities and try to impose themselves on all the others”.
Whether it is the authority of the Father or that of the Leader, it is clear that both are part of a discourse of domination. Nevertheless, one question remains: is there a type of authority today that is not one of domination?
References from the author:
 Kojève A., La Notion de l’Autorité (The Notion of Authority), Paris, Gallimard, 2004, our translation.
 There are still two types of authority for A. Kojève: that of the Judge (Platonic theory) and that of the Master (Hegel). Unfortunately, I will not have the opportunity to develop them here, but I strongly invite you to refer to A. Kojève’s work.
 [TN: Created in 1964 in France, the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) is a public scientific and technological establishment under the dual supervision of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Research. https://www.inserm.fr/]
 Kojève A., op. cit., our translation.
 Cf. Poblome G., Clinic and Critique of Patriarchy, Argument to the Congress Pipol XI, https://www.pipol11.eu/en/argument/
Translation: Ana-Marija Kroker
Proofreading: Sébastien Dauguet
Picture : © Simon Vansteenwinckel