Vol 20 No 2 (2020)
Democracy, Rights, Normative Systems

Hans Kelsen as a Political Realist: Notes for a Classification

Published December 22, 2020
  • Political Philosophy,
  • political realism,
  • Hans Kelsen


Kelsen’s political philosophy is today considered a classic of twentieth-century liberal democratic thought and is rarely associated with the tradition of political realism. However, they share some essential traits, such as elitism, relativism and a markedly descriptive and demystifying approach to the study of political phenomena. Along with these aspects, already underlined in various ways, it is necessary to add another that emerges in Kelsen’s philosophical-political texts. This aspect is a negative anthropology which, on the one hand, distinguishes his approach from any rationalistic optimism, and in particular from that of liberal reminiscence; and on the other hand, justifies his option in favor of the “rule of law” against the “rule of man” which, in spite of the alleged distinction between “theory” and “politics”, intimately links Kelsen’s political philosophy and legal theory.