Political Anthropology

Paper Text – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3800-1

Cloth Text – $99.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3801-8

E-book – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3802-5
Publication Date
October 2018
Page Count
160 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Political Anthropology

Helmuth Plessner, Translated from the German by Nils F. Schott, with an introduction by Heike Delitz and Robert Seyfert and an epilogue by Joachim Fischer

In Political Anthropology (originally published in 1931 as Macht und menschliche Natur), Helmuth Plessner considers whether politics—conceived as the struggle for power between groups, nations, and states—belongs to the essence of the human. Building on and complementing ideas from his Levels of the Organic and the Human (1928), Plessner proposes a genealogy of political life and outlines an anthropological foundation of the political. In critical dialogue with thinkers such as Carl Schmitt, Eric Voegelin, and Martin Heidegger, Plessner argues that the political relationships cultures entertain with one other, their struggle for acknowledgement and assertion, are expressions of certain possibilities of the openness and unfathomability of the human. 

Translated into English for the first time, and accompanied by an introduction and an epilogue that situate Plessner's thinking both within the context of Weimar-era German political and social thought and within current debates, this succinct book should be of great interest to philosophers, political theorists, and sociologists interested in questions of power and the foundations of the political.
About the Author

HELMUTH PLESSNER (1892 –1985) was a leading figure in the field of philosophical anthropology. He was the author of more than thirteen books, including The Limits of Community: A Critique of Social Radicalism, The Levels of the Organic and the Human, and Laughing and Crying: A Study of the Limits of Human Behavior

HEIKE DELITZ is a Privatdozent in general sociology and social theory at the University of Bamberg. She is the author of Bergson-Effekte: Aversionen und Attraktionen im französischen soziologischen Denken (The Bergson Effect: Aversions and Attractions in French Sociological Thought). 

JOACHIM FISCHER is an honorary professor of sociology at TU Dresden and president of the Helmuth Plessner Society. He is the author of Philosophische Anthropologie: Eine Denkrichtung des 20. Jahrhunderts (Philosophical Anthropology: A Current of Thought in the Twentieth Century) and Exzentrische Positionalität: Studien zu Helmuth Plessner (Eccentric Positionality: Studies on Helmuth Plessner). 

ROBERT SEYFERT is an Akademischer Rat (senior researcher/lecturer) at the Institute of Sociology at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. He is the author of Das Leben der Institutionen: Zu einer allgemeinen Theorie der Institutionen (The Life of Institutions: Toward a General Theory of Institutions). 

NILS F. SCHOTT, the James M. Motley Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University, is a widely published translator of work in the humanities, including Vladimir Jankélévitch's Henri Bergson

"Political Anthropology is a compelling and luminous introduction to Helmuth Plessner's philosophical anthropology; it is also a timely and urgent response to the rampant skepticism about political life now current. In demonstrating that politics belongs to the very fabric and 'unfathomability' of being human, Plessner returns to the human sciences a depth and indispensability for addressing our present." —J. M. Bernstein, New School for Social Research

“It is long overdue that the writings of this most important representative of the German tradition of philosophical anthropology find their way to the intellectual public of the English-speaking world. The publication of Plessner’s Political Anthropology is an extremely valuable step in this process: written shortly before Hitler’s seizure of power, the study attempts to identify the anthropological roots of our readiness to be governed by dictators, and to find out the psychological means at our disposal to fight against these deep-rooted tendencies. This is a must-read in our dark times.” —Axel Honneth, author of Freedom's Right: The Social Foundations of Democratic Life

"On the verge of Hitler’s Reich all certainties of liberalism in the Weimar Republic vanish. Plessner describes this uncanny situation brilliantly. His Political Anthroplogy does not turn the political into moderate ethics but includes extreme conceptions of the political as the polarization of 'friend and enemy' of Carl Schmitt. His manifesto creates an vertigo of thought which has lost the grasp on the political forces in a situation of deadly decision. Herein lies the explosive nature of his political anthroplogy today." —Helmut Lethen, author of Cool Conduct: The Culture of Distance in Weimar Germany