Last modified on 2 November 2014, at 10:42

Carl Schmitt

Carl Schmitt (11 July 18887 April 1985) Weimar and Nazi jurist and critic of parliamentarism and liberalism.


Political Theology (1922)Edit

Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty. George Schwab, trans. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985.
  • Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.
  • All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts not only because of their historical development—in which they were transferred from theology to the theory of the state, whereby, for example, the omnipotent God became the omnipotent lawgiver—but also because of their systematic structure, the recognition of which is necessary for a sociological consideration of these concepts. The exception in jurisprudence is analogous to the miracle in theology.
  • All law is "situational law." The sovereign produces and guarantees the situation in its totality. He has the monopoly over this last decision.
  • To be sure, Protestant theology presents a different, supposedly unpolitical doctrine, conceiving of God as the "wholly other," just as in political liberalism the state and politics are conceived of as the "wholly other." We have come to recognize that the political is the total, and as a result we know that any decision about whether something is unpolitical is always a political decision, irrespective of who decides and what reasons are advanced. This also holds for the question whether a particular theology is a political or an unpolitical theology.
  • The metaphysical image that a definite epoch forges of the world has the same structure as what the world immediately understands to be appropriate as a form of its political organization.
  • Liberalism, with its contradictions and compromises, existed for Donoso Cortés only in that short interim period in which it was possible to answer the question “Christ or Barabbas?” with a proposal to adjourn or appoint a commission of investigation.
  • The essence of liberalism is negotiation, a cautious half measure, in the hope that the definitive dispute, the decisive bloody battle, can be transformed into a parliamentary debate and permit the decision to be suspended forever in an everlasting discussion.
  • All genuine political theories presuppose man to be evil.

Quotes about SchmittEdit

  • The conduct of Carl Schmitt under the Hitler regime does not alter the fact that, of the modern German writings on the subject, his are still among the most learned and perceptive ...
    • Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, Notes on Ch. 14: The Safeguards of Individual Liberty
  • In the view of the German political and legal theorist Carl Schmitt (1888–1985), politics reflects an immutable reality of human existence: the distinction between friend and enemy. In most accounts, this notion of ‘the political’ is linked to the production, distribution and use of resources in the course of social existence.
    • Andrew Heywood, Political Theory:An Introduction, Third Edition (2004), Ch. 3 : Politics, Government and the State
  • Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to portray political realists as warmongers, who are unconcerned about the death and devastation that war can wreck. Carl Schmitt (1996), for example, argued against just wars, on the grounds that wars fought for political gain tend to be limited by the fact that their protagonists operate within clear strategic objectives, whereas just wars, and especially humanitarian war, lead to total war because of their expansive goals and the moral fervour behind them. Indeed, one of the reasons why realists have criticized utopian liberal dreams about ‘perpetual peace’ is that they are based on fundamental misunderstandings about the nature of international politics that would, ironically, make war more likely, not less likely.
    • Andrew Heywood, Global Politics (2011), Ch. 10 : War and Peace
  • As of today, apart from a few isolated exceptions, Carl Schmitt’s relationship to democratic theory has not been carefully explored. Never considered a promising topic, it has remained marginal within a constantly expanding Schmitt scholarship. Obviously, the simple mentioning of Schmitt’s name invokes strong reactions, especially when it comes to democracy, and with good reasons.
    • Andreas Kalyvas, Democracy and the Politics of the Extraordinary : Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, and Hannah Arendt (2008)
  • Nor did equality fare well as an ideal in the aftermath of the French Revolution. One twentieth-century writer, the Israeli historian Jacob Talmon, blamed the egalitarian thrust of the Revolution, and especially the ideas of Rousseau, for the totalitarian dictatorships of his time, while other thinkers who experienced those dictatorships at first hand, including Leo Strauss and the right-wing German philosopher Carl Schmitt, found it easier to defend secrecy, elitism, and dictatorship than to endorse anything resembling egalitarian principles. As late as the 1950s, an American conservative man of letters could still look back to the French Revolution as the ultimate cause of an egalitarian condi tion in which “the people subsist only as an inchoate mass of loosely cohering units, a tapioca-pudding state, which condition many utilitar ian and social planners contemplate with equanimity,” but which he, Russell Kirk, viewed with a sense of dread.
    • Alan Wolfe, The Future of Liberalism (2009), Ch. 3 : Equality’s Inevitability
  • Would you, like Benjamin Constant, have concluded that events as tumultuous as these ought to lead to the reestablishment of a liberal and constitutional order? If your name were Carl Schmitt, you would have done the exact opposite: you would have interpreted the tumult of your times as the best reason for getting rid of liberalism altogether.
    • Alan Wolfe, The Future of Liberalism (2009), Ch. 5 : Mr. Schmitt Goes to Washington
  • Like other German theorists of the state, Carl Schmitt held to the idea that politics is always about violence; if we really and truly disagree with other people, we ought to treat them as enemies. Fish does not follow Schmitt this far. To be sure, he fills his books with examples of people who ought to, and usually do, hate each other: secular liberals dealing with religious fundamentalists; full-stop opponents of affirmative action confronting those who support it; defenders of speech codes and critics of hate-crime laws.
    • Alan Wolfe, The Future of Liberalism (2009), Ch. 5 : Mr. Schmitt Goes to Washington
  • Carl Schmitt in theory is one thing; confined to a few conservatives on the right and a somewhat greater number of envious postmodernists on the left, Schmitt’s ideas have not reached the informed reading public. Schmitt’s books are destined to be confined to the political theory sem inar room for some time to come.
    • Alan Wolfe, The Future of Liberalism (2009), Ch. 5 : Mr. Schmitt Goes to Washington
  • Carl Schmitt is one of an unholy triumvirate with which Strauss has been increasingly identified. The other two are Nietzsche and Heidegger. Their unholiness derives from their links with Nazism: in the case of Schmitt and Heidegger, actual party membership, and in the case of Nietzsche, the perception of an intellectual affinity by some Nazi party ideologues. (It should be noted that Nietzsche also said a great deal that was not in any way supportive of Nazi ideologies and politics, including a rejection of anti-Semitism.)
    • Catherine and Michael Zuckert, The truth about Leo Strauss : political philosophy and American democracy (2006), Ch. 5 : Leo Strauss—Teacher of Evil?

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