Your browser has javascript turned off or blocked. This will lead to some parts of our website to not work properly or at all. Turn on javascript for best performance.

The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/windows/end-of-ie-support).

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Photo of Anthoula Malkopoulou

Anthoula Malkopoulou

Associate professor

Photo of Anthoula Malkopoulou

Hermann Heller on Politics : Discipline, Sphere and Activity

Author

  • Anthoula Malkopoulou

Summary, in English

Most students of politics are familiar with Carl Schmitt’s definition of politics as a friend-enemy distinction. Yet, only few know of alternative conceptions of politics in interwar Germany that emphasize cooperation and legality over confrontation and decisionism. To unlock such views, this article examines the work of Hermann Heller, a social-democratic constitutional theorist, and takes a close look at his conceptualization of politics as a sphere, activity and discipline. For Heller, ‘the political’ consists in turning human conflict into social cooperation. For him, the political may be conflictual, but is also conditioned by shared norms and agreed rules. By consequence, to act politically means to order the antagonistic social relations that are typical of every human society. In this sense, politics is a purposeful activity, but one which leaves the content of every decision unconfined and the potentialities that follow endless. Like politicians, politics scholars must reflect on ethical and legal principles, while remaining focused on context-specific political problems. The study of politics cannot be disconnected from the study of law, ethics and social reality. Heller’s work showed that the way we conceive of politics is directly related to the way we study politics and vice-versa.

Department/s

  • Department of Political Science

Publishing year

2020-03-25

Language

English

Pages

393-404

Publication/Series

History of European Ideas

Volume

46

Issue

4

Document type

Journal article

Publisher

Pergamon Press Ltd.

Topic

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
  • History of Ideas

Keywords

  • Hermann Heller
  • politics
  • the political
  • German political thought
  • Political theory
  • social cooperation

Status

Published

ISBN/ISSN/Other

  • ISSN: 0191-6599