Carl Schmitt: Der Begriff des Politischen



R from Schmitt s essay in spirit My full review is here Two ways to make a big deal of a book make sure its author was momentarily a Nazi and by the logical principle of contagion follow the logic author was a nazi book is certainly nazified reader reader book reader becomes a nazi Bam This is the most dangerous book ou ll ever read Except it s barely political in that sense at all and is of an essay than a book The thought process is clear and not unreasonable if there s something called politics it must have certain characteristics If we purify our concept of politics from such extraneous concepts as morality aesthetics economics and so on what are we left with For Schmitt at least Water Music you re left with the opposition between friends and enemies where enemies are people in the world who threaten the sovereignty ofour political state ED Sure there s an odd suspicion that Schmitt really wishes there was war between friends and enemies His critiue of liberalism as a theory which leaves no room for fighting people who undermine liberal state sovereignty might look icky but only if Revived you ve drunk the pacifist cool aid and think nothing s worth fighting for Otherwise it just looks like a reasonable complaint against people who want to rid the world and our lives of all meaning So don t worry You can let little Sammy read this book without fear that he ll suddenly goose step his way overour face Otherwise there are three commentators here Strong Schwab and Strauss Strong is the most contemporary and spends a bit of time talking about how Schmitt is the golden boy of the New Left Review types as well as various reactionary lunatics Schwab sets CP in its historical setting Strauss Student Research Projects in Calculus you will be surprised to learn over reads the text makes wild and implausible assumptions about its argument really being about culture and human nature doesn t really say anything particularly concretely and does so in a rambling repetitive and turgid manner IT IS TO UNDERSTAND SOCRATES indeed Carl Schmitt like Martin Heidegger has the scary Nazi stain permanently covering his philosophical legacy Despite his tainted reputation The Concept of the Political is still regarded by those on the right and left as one of the best overviews on how politics work or like how they don t work Schmitt brings up such things as how whenever the leaders of a country want to go and mass murderer a bunch of people in war the leaders go on about protecting humanity Of course the enemy of humanity despite being part of humanity is no longer part of humanity but something lower something worthy of extermination This tactic was used by revolutionaries like Lenin but can be used by both ends of the political spectrum Schmitt spends most of the book critiuing liberalism and how it is at odds with the state In fact liberalism always attempts to ignore the state and politics and replaces them with two heterogeneous spheres such as ethics and economics intellect and trade education and property etc People can no longer look past themselves and their feelings With this kind of thinking a truly successful state can never prosper It makes one wonder what the future will hold but it surely won t be good One just has to look at all the imaginary progress that has taken place in our world since the book was written We are no doubt headed towards some type of international chaotic we already have the chaos explosion Whatever happened to good old organic kultur I guess intellectual abstractions aren t always so good Poor Marx he must be philosophizing in his grave Someone will get Marxism right one day Vladimir Putin had a good week here in Michigan this past week Opponents of liberal democracy and the rule of law are slapping hands over the spectacle of a group of heavily armed Michiganders trying to force their way into the State House to demand that the governor and state legislators roll back the stay at home rules implemented to slow the spread of Covid 19 To show their displeasure they enthusiastically waved the Nazi and confederate flags that they must keep at home for the President s next political rally Ifou show up with a swastika ou can t come inside because of the cameras You have to stand outside wave our flag and cheer for the others as they arrive and leaveWaving slave owner flags and swastikas is meant to outrage and provoke us In its own way it is an expression of unhappiness with the government almost as time honored as the burning of the American flag is for the left leaning The irony of this would be mildly amusing if not for the automatic weapons These volk regard themselves as genuine patriots even as they celebrate two of the most heinous enemies our country has waged war against It would be easy to dismiss them as clueless They are largely clueless if they care about persuading the rest of us that their grievances have merit But it is eually true that their rage runs deeply and they absolutely hate liberal democracy as practiced in the American Republic for the last half century Liberal democracy has two flaws that are easily exploited by enemies abroad and demagogues at home By positing sovereignty in individuals liberal democracy elevates liberty far above justice That weakens the bonds between fellow citizens and empowers extremism If Love for Imperfect Things you areour own sovereign then A Heart of Stone you are empowered to do whateverou like and ou can rationalize negative effects on others by invoking emotional appeals to the founders liberty and the supposed moral authority of individualism That message directed to vulnerable audiences can result in spectacles like the one we saw here in our state s capital a few days ago That is liberalism s first flawThe second is related It is that the strong version of individualism makes collective action very hard to orchestrate Covid 19 and the Republican Party s response to it has exposed this weakness very nicely Many people do not want to be inconvenienced by social distancing and liberalism gives them a respectable argument for why they should not have to be Their argument is a version of the old ou are not the boss of me in a mash up with high flown concepts like federalism inalienable rights and personal choice Unlike other national emergencies such as World War II for example where citizens were willing to defer to the greater needs of the country and accept rationing of gasoline tires food and other necessities now far too many people are unwilling to accept any meaningful sacrifice whatsoever They suffer from the egoism of liberal democracy unmoderated by any sense of justice The drama ueen in the Whitehouse is expert at exploiting such confused thinking and that makes matters worseThis brings us to Carl Schmitt He was an enthusiastic Nazi and anti Semite There have been many critics of liberal democracy since it was invented in the seventeenth century Many have been respectable thinkers and worthwhile human beings That was not the case with Schmitt He never apologized for his work on behalf of Hitler and he continued to author antisemitic propaganda well into the 20th century long after the Third Reich had ended This is not to say that he was not clever In fact he was uite clever Evilness and cleverness are not mutually exclusive Schmitt s cleverness had to do with his hatred of liberal democracy He formulated an argument directed towards the second of liberal democracy s flaws discussed above And his argument has gained a good deal of traction among the intelligentsia in the west over the past 30 Language and Linguistics years or so His book THE CONCEPT OF THE POLITICAL is regarded as the best introduction to this argumentSchmitt s argument as I interpret it and translate it into my own language is that Hobbes got human nature and its relationship to government wrong Individuals do not enjoy sovereignty that is ceded to a strong ruler for the mutual benefit of providing everyone a defense against an aggressive enemy Rather the political does not begin to exist until something happens that organizes us into friend and enemy groupings For this purpose the enemy is a collective enemy Personal enemies do not count Once we are grouped we then begin to do the political And we do it as a volk The political belongs to the volk Schmitt seems to sayAs an aside it is not perfectly clear that doing the political is the same thing as practicing government as Schmitt thinks of it But for my purposes I have interpreted him as euating the two for the most part Otherwise I do not know what the point of his discussion would beDoing the political then becomes helpingour friends and hurting Divertimento your enemy Schmitt sees this struggle as existential The enemy threatens to cancelour very way of life Therefore it empowers collective action and sacrifice in a way that liberal democracy cannot In particular it empowers the ultimate sacrifice The individual s participation in the volk includes and this is critically important the will to die for Love Is a Fairy Tale your volk Because the political is existential in this way warfare or its possibility is ultimately the human activity that pervades and animates all of what we do when we do governmentSchmitt ridicules liberal democracy for its commitment to process law and diplomacy He thinks those reflect a profound misunderstanding of human nature He allows that war is to be avoided when possible But the reality of war and the reality that war is necessary sometimes for the volk to continue to exist is what lies at the heart of the human impulse to organize government Given that warfare for the volk still makes for uncomfortable dinner conversation for most of us one may wonder why reading Schmitt is back in fashion This is an interesting uestion It has been plausibly argued that critics of liberal democracy on both the right and the left may not like Schmitt s theory in the details but do share his distaste for process diplomacy and law They read him now and that has had the conseuence of resuscitating his reputation a bit Plus he offers a rationale for collective action that appeals to some and arguably might be validated to a degree by the wartime experiences of liberal democraciesFor myself I regard Schmitt as the perfect philosopher for the Klingon Empire No thankou Herr Schmitt Liberalism is the philosophy that I want to prevail where I live I am not blind to its limitations but I see clearly that the alternatives are far dangerous The challenge for liberalism today is to talk our cohorts back into the fold where we thoughtfully balance and rebalance as needed our mix of liberty and justice I instinctively agree with those who have argued that the way to do this is to rethink the meaning of citizenship toward an understanding that citizenship inherently reuires moderation and sacrifice in eual measure with liberty As for Schmitt he is not reuired reading in my syllabu. Rman history leading to the Hitlerian one party state It also includes Leo Strauss's analysis of Schmitt's thesis and a foreword by Tracy B Strong placing Schmitt's work into contemporary contex.

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M hatred and oppression to pogroms and mass killings Of course it s not hard to convince me that that fascism racism and genocide are all Bad Things and this Us vs Them rhetoric that drives it is dangerousSchmitt s big idea however is that the opposition between us and them is precisely what defines the political he uses different terms and calls it the opposition between friend and enemy but it seems to be the same idea In ethics according to Schmitt the defining opposition is good versus evil while in aesthetics it s the ugly and the beautiful and in economics it s the profitable and the unprofitable just as each of these areas has its own rules and logic and system of values so also does the political However the political is different in that any type of conflict between groups in any of the other areas becomes political when it rises to the level that it creates friend enemy differences So the relationship of ethics or morality to the political is that conflicts over right and wrong or uestions of what is good and evil turn into us versus them or friend enemy conflicts and then they are political differences So political differences can never be about actual ethical differences because when they intensify to the level of the political they re by definition political not ethicalSchmitt then critiues liberalism on this basis and here liberalism isn t in the sense of US style Democratic leftist progressive ideas but rather it means or less classical liberalism basically the combination of believing in free markets and individual liberty safeguarded by democratic institutions the separation of powers and checks and balances to prevent any one set of interests from overreaching In Schmitt s view liberalism attempts to tie the political to the ethical and subjugate it to economics And so liberalism tries to pretend that there can be politics or governance based on ethical concepts like fairness and compassion instead of friend versus enemy power struggles In Schmitt s eyes this means that liberalism is in denial about the impossibility of taking the political out of politics and governance so liberalism ends up pretending that political disagreements can really be about ethics or goodness when the reality is they can t Instead these claims by various parties of haveing superior ethics just end up creating new friend enemy or us versus them conflicts To this point he uotes Hobbes The conviction of each side that it possesses the truth the good and the just bring about the worst enmities finally the war of all against all And Schmitt writes The worst confusion arises when concepts such as justice and freedom are used to legitimize one s own political ambitions and to disualify or demoralize the enemy And the classical liberals who tout the importance of rule of law are just engaging in the legitimization of a self benefiting status uo I think this raises a genuine uestion of whether Schmitt is overly cynical about the possibility of an overarching morality that can govern political and economic behavior alike or whether he is correct if only within the context of his own definitions and system of thought where this is presupposed to be the essence of the political that all moral stances have their political uses One of the criticisms that I ve seen leveled against Jason Stanley s book about fascism for example is that Stanley s presentation of fascism ends up hypocritically creating its own us versus them opposition with conservatives who may have legitimate and sincere differences of opinion based on deeply held views about what is moral demonized as evil dumb fascists and lumped in with Nazis And there is perhaps a little kernel of truth in this criticism though I am no friend to moral cynicism By moral cynicism I mean ideas such as that all morality is relative and the serial killer s view that serial murder is good is just as valid someone else s view that murder is evil because all morality is made up and artificial culturally determined simply to define in groups and out groups For me a useful and constructive criticism of Stanley might have to do with moral condemnation and outrage as one of those games where the only real way to win is not to play Authoritarian propagandists love the outrage game but it doesn t mean we need to get drawn in and play it as there is always the risk of taking on the characteristics of authoritarians in opposing them As Nietzsche argues we must be careful when we go out to fight monsters lest we become themSchmitt also writes about the importance to political theories of the concept of mankind aka the philosophical anthropology that underlies them While liberalism sees humans as basically good or non dangerous Schmitt says that All genuine political theories presuppose man to be evil That is humans are dangerous and there is a genuine risk that they will try to wipe ou out of existence In this fear of loss of identity in which the other threatens our existence by virtue of being different we definitely see a key tribalist anxiety of the authoritarian right Of course if political theory has as its implicit or explicit grounding the idea that politics is intrinsically Machiavellian and amoral and operates according to a separate internal logic this is perhaps also correct In its way Perhaps the most trenchant criticism Schmitt makes of classical liberalism is one that will appeal to the authoritarian Left A domination of man based upon pure economics must appear a terrible deception if by remaining nonpolitical it thereby evades political responsibility and visibility Schmitt sees the freedom of mutual contracts deteriorating into exploitation and repression such that the oppressed can t defend themselves economically but only politically This a tenet embraced by the social justice movement and we can see plenty of evidence for it in the present momentOf course I d say one of Schmitt s big problems overall is his tendency to think sloppily and imprecisely in binary opposed categories rather than in terms of nuanced multidimensional spectrums There s no middle ground between friend or enemy His friendship or us hood seems to consist exclusively of loyalty and group identity if it exists at all and there is no concept in his system of anything like mutual beneficence cooperation or symbiosis There are only zero sum win lose games and no concept of win win or lose lose strategizing The concept of political moderation is entirely absent Liberalism which might think of itself as a form of governance that moderates between extremes and promotes compromise is instead characterized as a chaotic anarchic vacuum that simply enables new authoritarian power grabs He constantly seems to mix up classical liberalism with straightup anarchism and he seems to slide instantly down a slippery slope where if the government needs to provide a little control to protect people from economic exploitation then the whole classical liberal idea of limited government balancing individual freedom with collectively mediating various interests has to be chucked out the window And humankind has to be either basically good or basically evil and sinful it can t just be that we re complicated and human with strength and weaknesses neither good nor evil So it doesn t take much imagination to follow this simplistic thinking to where he decides the Third Reich is the government for him and strongman based authoritarian government will cure the ills of the Weimar Republic At the end of the day I still want a better and nuanced theory and explanation that accounts for the complexity of how the personal relates to the political and where ethics comes in and what a vision of politics looks like where us versus them is just one approach rather than the only possible approach A fantastic political piece of work on the nature of politics or as Schmitt puts it the political Schmitt fundamentally describes politics as a realm whereby groups of people with shared characteristics compete for collective power over other groups with opposing characteristics Schmitt is the political theorist who famously coined the friendenemy distinction meaning that within the realm of politics a group has allies and opponents Schmitt argued that if our group had no enemies then it was not truly politicalInterestingly Schmitt also theorises that those political groups who argue they are fighting for humanity must ultimately class their enemies as inhuman and not worthy of human rights He theorises that the grandiose a political group claims it is fighting for morality the immoral they can class their political enemies and the worthy they are thus of being eliminated This personally reminded me of the radical left of today who claim to be fighting for humanity but also classify their right wing opponents often as scum evil etc and thus not deserving of belonging to the group they have coined humanity Schmitt also criticises the ideology of liberalism describing it fundamentally as an open vacuum whereby it allows political groups with strong beliefs to compete for power and social dominance Liberalism is fundamentally an apolitical belief according to Schmitt and is an ideology that fundamentally remains opposed to the State having power Schmitt thus argues that if a group of individuals choose to remain apolitical they are destined to be dominated by another group that asserts its political right to ruleThis essay is well worth the read for anybody interested in politics I will probably revisit it again in the future Kindle HighlightsIf a people no longer possess the energy or the will to maintain itself in the sphere of politics the latter will not thereby vanish from the world Only a weak people will disappear The political enemy need not be morally evil or aesthetically ugly he need not appear as an economic competitor and it may even be advantageous to engage with him in business transactions But he is nevertheless the other the stranger and it is sufficient for his nature that he is in a specially intense way exis A frank explanation of politics and the fact of an ever present adversary in some form No political science is really science and most political theory is nonsense but Schmitt seems to be saying things that match up with reality here I need to read this again Of the conservative thinkers I have read in the last few ears Schmitt is by far the worst I disagree with him on every level philosophical ethical practical formal psychological and empirical He epitomizes what Nietzsche describes as the worst characteristics of German intellectual life ponderous metaphysical impatient hostile totalizing in his rigid framework and completely humorless I haven t disagreed with a work so completely since I read Sayyid utb s Milestones which is not altogether dissimila. Ing oneself for the state This edition of the 1932 work includes the translator's introduction by George Schwab which highlights Schmitt's intellectual journey through the turbulent period of Ge.

The conscience of a conservative is laid bare for the world to see in this book Their foundational assumptions are laid out by this author Yes the author is writing as a conservative and not as a fascist but the difference as he expresses his views are only of degrees not of kind The line between his version of conservatism and fascism is very fine I won t argue politics because it always comes down to first principles Business school used to teach theory and theory x whether employees need to be motivated by fear or by rewards My first principle is always there but for the favor of the universe go I conservatives such as Schmitt would say fear is preferred and it s their own fault they are poor or stupid or ignorant Schmitt believes human nature is originally bad and needs the state to institute culture and character in the individual and not just any culture and character but the culture of the common conforming identity of the state that makes it cultured and most civilized those of the prevailing narrative He will say democracy is flawed because euality will always fail itself The world must be divided into enemy and friend let me see now is there any current president who sees the world in those exact same binaries Oswald Spangler flows through these pages and Schmitt does cite him favorably Spangler will say culture is destiny and over they would agree that the right culture is the right destiny and all we need is a clear headed leader to point us on the right pathSchmitt is batshit crazy Conservatives today would love this book The line to fascism is only a hairs breadth away from the story that Schmitt is laying out Strauss and Adorno are all over the footnotes and afterwards in this book They are part of the Frankfurt School as is Francis Fukuyama or maybe he s just a neocon which is practically the same thing I acted viscerally against Fukuyama s book Identity because it s so easy to connect the dots between those batshit conservatives and they both have the belief that having the identity of the imaginary conforming narrative is having no identity at all As for Adorno he wants to believe in myths but just thought fascism was the wrong myth see Dialectics of Enlightenment and Strauss would believe in hidden truths esoteric not exoteric in support of his brand of conservatism because in the end for all of those people of the conservative stripe they must have absolute truth be their standard and relational or relative standards are for those who prefer to think with phronesis practical wisdom in the Aristotelian sense The prevailing narrative that describes a country or a state or a culture is always an exclusionary narrative see Sissy A Coming of Gender Story by Tobia for why the prevailing conforming narrative can be wrong when in the hands of a batshit crazy conservative like Schmitt and is just a method for enabling hate so that people will vote for them since they hate the same people the cult leader hates as in Trumps case or in Schmitt s case it enabled oxymoron alert conservative intellectuals to feel comfortable embracing Hitler and his fellow Nazis Can Bangkok Wakes to Rain you really call Schmitt a conservative intellectual when he said four or five times pacifist can never fight a war against themselves Hitler actually said the same thing in his autobiography There s a reason that I can t stand the foremost intellectual David Brooks uote Jordan Peterson He would almost certainly agree with the entire Liberal in the original sense of the word bashing in this book and he would embrace all of the conservative first principles laid out in this book and I think they both walk a super fine line towards enabling fascist In the wake of Trump s political victory in 2016 there has been a growing interest in America in criticisms of liberalism Some of these critiues are motivated by the belief that contemporary liberalism does not take the practical steps necessary to defend the values it is typically associated with This sentiment can be found both in contemporary Left and Right wing thought and for this reason I think it is worth reading Carl Schmitt Though the American political situation has not grown as desperate as the state of the Weimar Republic in 1927 when Carl Schmitt wrote this book the stresses on American politics have only grown since the anticlimactic conclusion of the American civil rights movement in the 1960s Hopefully ifou re reading this The Right Sort of Man (Sparks Bainbridge Mystery you essentially believe in Aristotle s ethics even ifou claim to be a Nietzschean or something If Darkmere you are such a reader the uestion that will constantly pop up inour head when reading Carl Schmitt is whether the kind of Judicial and Executive authority he espouses as a direct result of what he considers to be political are compatible with such ethicsSchmitt is extremely alienating for most because his reading necessitates the constant asking of this uestion Maybe this is a uniuely American thing the result of passages like the end of the first Chapter of this book where Schmitt argues that In actuality it is the total state which no longer knows anything absolutely nonpolitical the state which must do away with the depoliticalizations of the nineteenth century and which in particular puts an end to the principle that the apolitical economy is independent of the state and that the state is apart from the economy In Schmitt s world the claim that a free market produces free men is completely off the table Despite this direct opposition to commonly held American values he must be taken seriously as a controversial contemporary Montesuieu Carl Schmitt 1888 1985 is most recognised for his idea of friend foe distinction The ability of a group of people to define their enemies and friends constitutes the political The ultimate conseuence and litmus test of this this process is war I find it interesting that the friend foe distinction is not the result of his thought process but its starting point He postulates the friend foe distinction as the axiom of the political sphere and develops his thinking on concepts such as liberalism pacifism or the League of Nations he does not think much of any of these from that point He is deeply skeptical of waging war for normative reasons such as peace the last war of all wars democracy liberty or international law because it blurs the real reasons underlying the conflict and escalates war into a totalitarian conflict Notably he admires Marxism for excelling in creating friend foe distinction across the globe Apart from that Schmitt still believes that the nation state is the core category of friend foe distinctions Schmitt s essay is short precise and non dull I appreciate the clearness of his analytical framework and I will add it to my toolkit of analysing political conflict First a longish preface about where I m coming from in reading and reacting to this book I m a newcomer to reading about political theorypolitical philosophy One thing I ve become curious about is its boundaries as a discipline Just from casual conversations I get the impression that political theorists are at pains to differentiate the political from the non political of course that makes sense in terms of academics wanting to defend their own turf and establish special expertise as opposed to all the random curious and talkative people amongst the general public who might otherwise think they know everything about politics from reading the news But it seems to go deeper than just boundary drawingFor example I get the impression there s a broadly accepted principle that Et si la maladie n'tait pas un hasard ? you can t exactly apply the ideasou might have about interpersonal ethics in talking about politics Personal virtues are intrinsically different from political virtues for example the Italian theorist Norberto Bobbio distinguishes between the political virtue of meekness in a moderate politician versus the personal virtue of humility in a private citizen even though to me they sounded kind of like the same thing And when I posted about how nice I thought it was that Ellen DeGeneres and George W Bush shook hands and laughed together at a baseball game a left leaning friend with an Ivy League degree in politics became very critical of the notion that if kindness and civility are important interpersonally in day to day life they could also be laudable or even just acceptable between political opponentsOf course I read Machiavelli a gajillion Den of Shadows (Gamblers Den years ago and I get the idea that political expediency has its own logic and rules but it s still a little surprising to me if there s the notion that the personal and the political are so separate and different as all that and if it s generally accepted by theorists that politics is by definition amoral Machiavellian politics And what about one of the catchphrases of 1970s feminism that the personal is the political I think as a group women certainly have experienced public policies as having the potential to be intensely personal and intimately invasive given that politics can directly threaten or protect our sexual and reproductive autonomy we have so long had to combat dehumanizing views of our bodies as a public good a common resource to be distributed and regulated through patriarchal public decision making George Orwell s 1984 also explores how intimately authoritarianism can invade individuals lives in shaping and limiting their emotions thoughts and sexual expressions and conversely how intimacy can be a political act And of course we ve seen in this era of resurgent far right nationalist authoritarianism how these movements invade people s private lives and relationships as political differences in people s allegiances lead to estrangements between formerly close family members and friendsSo in compiling lists of books to read to get educated about politics and authoritarianism the thesis of this one was very intriguing to me since it sounded like it explicitly confronted and expounded on this uestion of the boundaries of what is political and not as well as the seemingly foundational assumption of some political theory that the personal isn t the political and the political isn t the personal and thus personal ethics don t apply in the political sphere And all the so because of the author s personal history his decision to join the Nazi Party in 1933 aear after the 1932 publication of this book during the Weimar Republic interwar period in Germany interestingly Schmitt became officially a Nazi the same month and ear as the philosopher Martin HeideggerThe last book I read before Schmitt s was political philosopher Jason Stanley s How Fascism Works The Politics of Us and Them Stanley focuses on authoritarian nationalist Far Right thinking and rhetoric as it revolves around the opposition of us and them which can be turned to dehumanizing and violent purposes ranging fro. In this his most influential work legal theorist and political philosopher Carl Schmitt argues that liberalism's basis in individual rights cannot provide a reasonable justification for sacrific.

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Carl Schmitt's early career as an academic lawyer falls into the last years of the Wilhelmine Empire See for Schmitt's life and career Bendersky 1983; Balakrishnan 2000; Mehring 2009 But Schmitt wrote his most influential works as a young professor of constitutional law in Bonn and later in Berlin during the Weimar period Political Theology presenting Schmitt's theory of sovereignty appe