Debating Modernity as Secular Religion: Hans Kelsen’s futile exchange with Eric Voegelin

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This article reviews the mysterious and recently published last book by Hans Kelsen, “Secular Religion. A Polemic Against the Misinterpretation of Modern Social Philosophy, Science and Politics as ‘New Religions’”, contextualizing it with reference to the little known dialogue between Hans Kelsen and Eric Voegelin. The confrontation between Kelsen and Voegelin, two of the most illustrious émigré scholars who found in America their new home, is important to revisit because it touches upon several axes of debate of crucial importance to postwar intellectual history: the religion/secularity debate, the positivist/anti-positivist debates, and the controversy that also led to the famous Voegelin/Arendt debate: how to read the horrors of totalitarianism into a historical trajectory of modernity. Although the Kelsen/Voegelin exchange ended in failure and bitterness its substance matter goes to the heart of modern intellectual history.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistory and Theory
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)435-50
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2014


  • Hans Kelsen
  • Totalitarianism
  • Secularity
  • positivism
  • Political Religion
  • Modernity
  • neo-kantianism
  • Eric Voegelin

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