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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 sacrificing 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 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 sacrificing 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 German 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 context.


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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 sacrificing 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 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 sacrificing 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 German 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 context.

30 review for The Concept of the Political

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matthew W

    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 more 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, 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 more 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 critiquing 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....

  2. 4 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    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 you'll ever read! Except it's barely 'political' in that sense at all, and is more of an essay than a book. The thought process is clear and not unreasonable: if there's something called politics, it must have 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 you'll ever read! Except it's barely 'political' in that sense at all, and is more 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, you're left with the opposition between friends and enemies, where enemies are people in the world who threaten the sovereignty of your (political) state. QED. Sure there's an odd suspicion that Schmitt really wishes there was more war between friends and enemies. His critique of liberalism as a theory which leaves no room for fighting people who undermine liberal state sovereignty might look icky, but only if 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 over your 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, 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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Barnaby Thieme

    "Of the conservative thinkers I have read in the last few years, 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 Qutb’s Milestones, which "Of the conservative thinkers I have read in the last few years, 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 Qutb’s Milestones, which is not altogether dissimilar from Schmitt’s essay in spirit. " My full review is here: https://mesocosm.net/2018/10/15/carl-...

  4. 5 out of 5

    TR

    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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Victor

    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 'friend/enemy' distinction, meaning that within the realm of politics, a group has allies and opponents. Schmitt argued that if your group had no enemies, 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 'friend/enemy' distinction, meaning that within the realm of politics, a group has allies and opponents. Schmitt argued that if your group had no enemies, then it was not truly political. Interestingly, 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 more grandiose a political group claims it is fighting for morality, the more immoral they can class their political enemies, and the more 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 rule. This essay is well worth the read for anybody interested in politics. I will probably revisit it again in the future. ~ Kindle Highlights: "If 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, existentially something different and alien, so that in the extreme case conflicts with him are possible.' 'Liberalism in one of its typical dilemmas of intellect and economics has attempted to transform the enemy from the viewpoint of economics into a competitor and from the intellectual point into a debating adversary. In the domain of economics there are no enemies, only competitors, and in a thoroughly moral and ethical world perhaps only debating adversaries.' 'it cannot be denied that nations continue to group themselves according to the friend and enemy antithesis, that the distinction still remains actual today, and that this is an ever-present possibility for every people existing in the political sphere.' 'An enemy exists only when, at least potentially, one fighting collectivity of people confronts a similar collectivity.' 'War is the existential negation of the enemy. It is the most extreme consequence of enmity. It does not have to be common, normal, something ideal, or desirable. But it must nevertheless remain a real possibility for as long as the concept of the enemy remains valid.' 'A world in which the possibility of war is utterly eliminated, a completely pacified globe, would be a world without the distinction of friend and enemy and hence a world without politics.' 'Every religious, moral, economic, ethical, or other antithesis transforms into a political one if it is sufficiently strong to group human beings effectively according to friend and enemy.' 'The political entity is by its very nature the decisive entity, regardless of the sources from which it derives its last psychic motives.' 'If a part of the population declares that it no longer recognises enemies, then, depending on the circumstance, it joins their side and aids them. Such a declaration does not abolish the reality of the friend-and-enemy distinction.' 'If a people is afraid of the trials and risks implied by existing in the sphere of politics, then another people will appear which will assume these trials by protecting it against foreign enemies and thereby taking over political rule.' 'It would be ludicrous to believe that a defenceless people has nothing but friends, and it would be a deranged calculation to suppose that the enemy could perhaps be touched by the absence of a resistance. No one thinks it possible that the world could, for example, be transformed into a condition of pure morality by the renunciation of every aesthetic or economic productivity. Even less can a people hope to bring about a purely moral or purely economic condition of humanity by evading every political decision. If a people no longer possesses 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 word humanity, to invoke and monopolise such a term probably has certain incalculable effects, such as denying the enemy the quality of being human and declaring him to be an outlaw of humanity; and a war can thereby be driven to the most extreme inhumanity.' 'The Geneva League of Nations does not eliminate the possibility of wars, just as it does not abolish states. It introduces new possibilities for wars, permits wars to take place, sanctions coalition wars, and by legitimising and sanctioning certain wars it sweeps away many obstacles to war.' 'The radicalism vis-a-vis state and government grows in proportion to the radical belief in the goodness of man's nature.' 'Thus the political concept of battle in liberal thought becomes competition in the domain of economics and discussion in the intellectual realm. Instead of a clear distinction between the two different states, that of war and that of peace, there appears the dynamic of perpetual competition and perpetual discussion.'

  6. 4 out of 5

    Leopold Benedict

    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 consequence 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 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 consequence 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.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Fedor Egede

    In the book Schmitt describes the necessary methodological concepts for studying the political which is the friend-enemy distinction. The idea is basically that the world consists in nodes of power and these nodes are composed of people. These nodes are political entities. They are necessarily potentially antagonistic because if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be distinct entities. Political entities converge and dissolve throughout history. The mark of a political entity is its being able to decide In the book Schmitt describes the necessary methodological concepts for studying the political which is the friend-enemy distinction. The idea is basically that the world consists in nodes of power and these nodes are composed of people. These nodes are political entities. They are necessarily potentially antagonistic because if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be distinct entities. Political entities converge and dissolve throughout history. The mark of a political entity is its being able to decide in a combat scenario. This is because the foundation for political entities is its concrete existence. To find out who or what organization is at the top of the entity you only need to discover who can wield real combat power. Who is it that makes the decisions to go to war? Political entities can diverge from a single unit when a faction has the means to make a decision to fight for its own interests against another. Political entities decide on combat and therefore have the means to carry them out. Legal constitutional entities are merely nominal in this sense although there are of course many correspondences between the nominal and the real. Schmitt uses these concepts to criticize liberal ideology. Liberalism negates the political by viewing individuals as members of the collective humanity rather than those of a specific political entity. This negates the necessary concept of power nodes for the study of politics. The notion of the political is then relegated to procedures and bureaucracy. Because liberals fail to recognize the structure of power relations in the political they characterize humanity in terms of moral and economic situatedness. Schmitt argues that in doing so they create a tension between the existence of the political entity and the commitment to the ideology. This is because in liberal theory the state cannot justify its demand for an inhabitant to go to war without coercion. To do so would infringe on the rights and freedom of the inhabitant. The liberal ideology then focuses not on its capacity to sustain an entity but to ensure the rights of individuals in economic and moral matters. Potential threats to the entity are then framed in the terminology of economics and morality. In order to ensure the cooperation of the inhabitants the liberal state will use propaganda to sway moral opinions and control economic mechanisms to engineer the appropriate responses. Therefore, as Schmitt points out, a liberal state cannot avoid the political, the concrete political of being in a struggle with other entities, but because of its terminology has to resort to deception and control for its justifications. Otherwise, a political entity that has no interest in justifying its existence is taken over or dissolves. Schmitt concludes that liberal terminology and reformulations cannot remove the fact of the political and in so doing actually mask its nature. The idea that economic freedom leads to individual freedom from a coercive State ignores the reality that economics bring with it its own friends and enemies and will utilize its own domains of power to advance its interests, and thereby still adhering to the concept of the political which it denies.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Knarik

    “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy”. A very interesting exploration of what the political and non-political realm encompasses, a detailed categorization of different types of conflicts, as well as a strong criticism of liberalism as a system which destroys democracy (the way Schmitt understood and accepted democracy). Asserts the need of having a strong state as the decision maker and the ultimate power.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian Schwark

    dangerous, yet brilliant.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joe Kraus

    Setting aside, for the moment at least, that this is the work of a Nazi and anti-Semite, I’m struck by the notion that Schmitt is part of what we might call the last wave of the major structuralists. That is, there’s a species of Modernism that begins with Marx and Freud (who posited clear structures to revolution and the psyche) through to Saussure (linguistics) and Levi-Strauss (anthropology) that deals with the dissolution of traditional notions of order by proposing specific and limited Setting aside, for the moment at least, that this is the work of a Nazi and anti-Semite, I’m struck by the notion that Schmitt is part of what we might call the last wave of the major structuralists. That is, there’s a species of Modernism that begins with Marx and Freud (who posited clear structures to revolution and the psyche) through to Saussure (linguistics) and Levi-Strauss (anthropology) that deals with the dissolution of traditional notions of order by proposing specific and limited structures within which we live. Schmitt follows in those footsteps, which makes one kind of sense of the 1932 first publication of this book, by insisting on a structure to the “political.” He distinguishes that from “politics,” and focuses on the condition of living in a culture where we are all subject to the ultimate power of the state. Only the state he insists, has the power to compel an individual to kill or be killed. As such, it carries a unique capacity for ordering Modern existence. He acknowledges other forms of what we have sometimes referred to as “tribalism,” other dimensions within and across states that we understand affiliations, but he insists the kill-or-be-killed power of the state gives it a status distinct from all others. Beyond that, he sees a fundamental logic to the state. As a “political entity,” a state can either fail or survive. If it survives, it does so because it recognizes that all separate states are either “friends” or “enemies.” There is, for Schmitt, effectively no middle ground. To his credit, that’s as clear as a structural argument can get. It reduces the world to a binary which is perfectly in keeping with the Fascist imagination. (Oops, I got that in a little before I intended.) To his further credit, he explores that proposition in wide and subtle ways. He sees all “political” interactions – here, again, with “political” referring to the particular power of the state to compel its citizens to participate in war – as determined with an awareness of their fundamental existential stakes. Whatever else our political representatives may think they’re disputing with their potential friends and potential enemies, the defining limit is the willingness to go to war. Each potential trade deal, negotiation over boundaries, exchange of prisoners or treaty is ultimately backed by the implicit pledge that we will kill or be killed over it. Such an analysis makes a different kind of sense of the 1932 publication date in that he was writing in the midst of the decline of the Weimar Republic with the specter of Hitler on the horizon. His Germany was suffering under the weight and humiliation of the Versailles Treaty, so it’s understandable that he’d see negotiated politics as such a black-and-white distinction. When the governments that defeated your father’s army continue to exact onerous penalties from you, even peace must feel something like war. Everyone not actively supporting you, that is, must needs appear as an enemy. As I read this, I found myself pushing against both the fundamental structural premise – is it really so simple that everyone is either a friend or an enemy? (such thinking surely colored the U.S.’s disastrous involvement in Vietnam the rest of Southeast Asia) – and against the specific conclusion: can’t there be an understanding of the political that accommodates a different, transactional outcome beyond an implicit we-win/you-win dynamic? To Schmitt’s further credit, he anticipates such a counter-argument. As he puts it in chapter 8, liberalism presents just such a claim, proposing that the danger of the state is over-reach. That is, according to liberalism, ultimate political authority resides in the individual and his or her rights. We should fear governments for “oppressing” us. Going back to his fundamental notion, though, he reasserts that a state that cannot ultimately compel its citizens to fight a war in its defense is, in the end, no state at all. Liberalism, he insists, fails on its own premises when it exists within a state that reserves for itself the central necessary act of its survival. The response that came most enduringly to me as I read is the idea that there remains the possibility of a transactional relationship with other political entities, one that leaves them neither friend nor enemy but simply other. Must there always be a winner or loser in, say, a trade deal. Donald Trump says there must be; it’s the foundation of his foreign policy that trade can result only in a win or a loss. Schmitt says so as well, declaring, “In the past, the warring nations had subjugated the trading peoples; today it is the other way around” (76). In at least one of Schmitt’s iterations of that claim, I see a glimmer of anti-Semitism, though I might not have looked for it without his reputation preceding him. As he puts it, “With such methods one could just as well the other way around define politics as the sphere of honest rivalry and economics as a world of deception” (77). Given the association of “devious Jews” with international commerce, I see Schmitt treading ground that Hitler would plant, that Hitler was just then seeding. There’s no easy way to grapple with a thinker who’s so absolute and who, as the supporting material here from, among others Leo Strauss – himself a teacher and mentor to the neo-conservatives who under-girded the administration of George W. Bush – makes clear, stands at the foundation of an entire academic discourse. That said, I know I stand with the liberals he dismisses as standing on philosophically tenuous ground. Granting him – just for the sake of argument – the premise that states confront one another with ever implicit existential stakes, I can’t help believing that contemporary nations have collectively come to understand the extent to which we threaten one another. We may no longer face the Mutually Assured Destruction of the late Cold War, but the simple truth is that we can do each other more good than harm. Neo-liberalism has its clear limits, and it shouldn’t have taken Trump to show them to us. That said, and acknowledging the many left behind as markets become increasingly global, it is possible for states to negotiate to their mutual benefit. That is, it’s possible to confront our neighbors neither as friends nor as enemies but simply as partners. That may not be ideal, but it’s better than the dark alternative Schmitt proposes. He argues tightly that there’s no alternative, but he does from a fearful and straitened place himself. It’s not surprising that the same German despair that gave birth to Nazism would give birth to such an uncompromising conception of how we can live within the larger world.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    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 y and theory x, whether employees 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 y 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 equality 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 moreover 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 path. Schmitt 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 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 quote) 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.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Polansky

    Schmitt: Tell me who your enemy is, and I will tell you who you are. Me: Republicans, imperialists, doctrinaire liberals, academicians, people who underline things in library books, people who ride their bikes on the sidewalk, people who think Pearl Jam are a serious band, anyone who ever liked Forest Gump, people who are rude to waiters, e-sports enthusiasts, celebrity gossip journalists-- Schmitt: ...I think I left the oven on.

  13. 5 out of 5

    hami

    Before we talk about the book, we should talk about the Nazi Carl Schmitt. He was the political theorist of the collapse of the Weimar Republic and one of the supporters of the Nazi regime and the Third Reich. 70 years after the WWII and the horrors of nationalism that Nazi Germany brought upon Europe and world, some anti-liberal academics now decided to preoccupy themselves with Schmitt’s rigid neo-Hobbsian theories that prioritizes state and statehood above all else. Chantal Mouffe, Paul Before we talk about the book, we should talk about the Nazi Carl Schmitt. He was the political theorist of the collapse of the Weimar Republic and one of the supporters of the Nazi regime and the Third Reich. 70 years after the WWII and the horrors of nationalism that Nazi Germany brought upon Europe and world, some anti-liberal academics now decided to preoccupy themselves with Schmitt’s rigid neo-Hobbsian theories that prioritizes state and statehood above all else. Chantal Mouffe, Paul Hirst, Andreas Kalyvas, Jan Müllerand, and Jorge Eugenio Dotti are some examples. A majoritarian nationalist philosophy that was crafted in order to make a case for the existence of a fascist Germany. Radical European academician from both left and right, try to present Schmitt as an innocent political philosopher, who was favoring unity of state over liberal-humanitarian ideals. Schmitt’s violent decisionism was manifested in Hitler’s rule and the violent wars it waged around the world (to external enemies) and inside Germany (to internal minorities). In the recent book "Wars and Capital", Eric Alliez and Maurizio Lazzarato referred to Carl Schmitt many times with references to most of his works without even mentioning his Nazi background. This shocking fact shows how much the radical left is willing to go backward in order to attack liberalism. "Although Schmitt is not one of those in Germany who consider war to be a social ideal, something to be cherished, or something normal, it is, nevertheless, an ever present possibility. But the decision as to whether or not to go to war is a purely political decision and hence, in Schmitt's construction, something only the state can decide.14 More precisely, as a state cannot exist without a sovereign authority, it is this authority which in the final analysis decides whether such an extreme situation is at hand.15 Schmitt thus links state, politics, and sovereignty." -Introduction, by George Schwab Schmitt’s friend and enemy distinction is presented in this book as “natural”. It is meant to be implemented in state-level politics and later created the total-state. A good example of this ideology was presented at Nuremberg trails when the Nazis argued; you have your own values and 'we' have our own, the only reason that we are on trials is that we have lost the war. The national ‘We’, as always, refers to a state that has a few as its representative, rather than 'a people' who have (or don’t have) the ’state’ as their representative. Today, the reactionary nationalism and far-right authoritarianism that is on the rise everywhere would support Schmitt’s case to the end. It would evidently result in more walls/borders and less human movement. Call for national sovereignty and right of self-determination would come out of the darkest spots of the world, namely, the nations who have been involved (or complicit) in imperialism and direct colonialization. To me, it seems like, one of the requirements of Schmitt’s political concept is a common grand which can be interpreted as an identitarian state. This is very different from a politically united people. In the identitarian state, minority groups who do not commit to the majority rule would not be tolerated. An integral part of Schmitt's political philosophy is the critic of pluralism. The idea that pluralism would only be interpreted as "the existence of multiple nation-states" rather than diversity of a people whiten a particular nation-state or cosmopolitanism. A very violent idea that directly gives permission to the colonization of peoples without a unified state, or peoples with extremely weak states. Schmitt identifies the problem of “depoliticization” as characteristic of the modern age. In this view, Hitler’s Nazi Germany would probably be the most political system. Depoliticization would lead to the blurring of the boundaries of state and eventually chaos. And as a good-old Hobbsian, Schmitt would do anything to prevent chaos. Schmitt’s ideas on technology are very Eurocentric and violent. He sees it natural that colonialization has been possible by technological advancement and utilization of technology by European Imperialism. He mentions; “Technology serves everyone, just as radio is utilized for news of all kinds or as the postal service delivers packages regardless of their contents, since its technology can provide no criterion for evaluating them.” Following the book, Leo Strauss in his notes continued this statement as: “It thus becomes intelligible that modern Europe, once it had started out—in order to avoid the quarrel over the right faith—in search of a neutral ground as such, finally arrived at faith in technology.” I feel bad for those political science students who are subject to reading this type of gibberish during their studies in European universities.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ruben Klein

    I read this philosophical work with the help of the book 'Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue' by Heinrich Meier and many other works of Carl Schmitt. My objective in reading this book was to bring Carl's theological (political) worldview to the foreground. All I can say is that this philosopher made me reconsider the unproblematic simplicity of my liberal democratic worldview. Challenging my naive intuition with biting ideas. Must read for those who want to underpin their political I read this philosophical work with the help of the book 'Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue' by Heinrich Meier and many other works of Carl Schmitt. My objective in reading this book was to bring Carl's theological (political) worldview to the foreground. All I can say is that this philosopher made me reconsider the unproblematic simplicity of my liberal democratic worldview. Challenging my naive intuition with biting ideas. Must read for those who want to underpin their political views with philosophy and like a challenge.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Metodi Pachev

    C. Schmitt does never cease to amaze me. This man did not only introduce a simple paradigm that remains unquestionably valid after almost 100 years, but also did other astonishing things, coining the term 'depoliticization', predicting the likeliness of the break of a (second) world war and many more.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steven Wedgeworth

    Schmitt is a challenging thinker, and not a little controversial, but he makes some very sound criticisms of late liberalism. His critique of wars and political forces that seek world domination in the name of humanity, justice, or other abstract values is very necessary for today.

  17. 5 out of 5

    M

    Very interesting and convincing. Also very relevant today with the crisis in liberal democracies. Get a version with Strauss's notes: they will only give you a deeper appreciation of Schmitt. The notes are also prescient in some ways of the great ideological clash that was to come.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John

    I read the bulk of The Concept of the Political quite rapidly, but I nonetheless got a few interesting though scattered reflections from Schmitt’s influential essay. It’s hard to talk about Schmitt without raising the fact of his unmitigated allegiance to the Nazi party, and while this piece was written prior to the full realisation of Hitler’s nightmare, there’s certainly elements of his argument that one can’t help but think are called into question by their later influence. Nonetheless, I read the bulk of The Concept of the Political quite rapidly, but I nonetheless got a few interesting though scattered reflections from Schmitt’s influential essay. It’s hard to talk about Schmitt without raising the fact of his unmitigated allegiance to the Nazi party, and while this piece was written prior to the full realisation of Hitler’s nightmare, there’s certainly elements of his argument that one can’t help but think are called into question by their later influence. Nonetheless, Schmitt puts forward some interesting and relevant views that would appeal to fans of Hobbes and Machiavelli, and which I think have a particular endurance for International Relations (IR). It seems Schmitt’s basic premise is that the political is fundamentally defined by the dichotomy of collective friend and enemy. I quite liked his justification for defining ‘political’ in terms of a dichotomy like this, as he draws our attention to the fact that other categories are similarly defined by their consideration of dichotomies. For example, aesthetics as a consideration of beauty and vulgarity, ethics as a consideration of good and evil. He views the political distinction as the most powerful, in that in friend-enemy relations there exists the very real threat of mortal violence. To a significant extent I felt that there was a lot to be said for this view of the political at the level of international relations. It seems something of a precursor to the neorealist thought in IR. The only thing we as a nation have in common with each other is our supposed difference to other nations, and these relations are defined constantly in a militarised world by the underlying threat of conflict. I couldn’t help but feeling it was a negative and reductive view of the world, though. There’s no doubt some truth to it but by splitting the world up in terms of such a harsh dichotomy Schmitt seems to miss a lot of nuance about the character of relations. He was writing in a period of significant enmity within Europe where allegiances seemed more transparent and conflict more imminent. The modern day, however, seems a little more complex. I think few Western states would explicitly identify any enemies beyond such nebulous terms as ‘extremists’. Perhaps the analysis carries more resonance in regions such as the Middle East where conflict is more omnipresent and thus a friend-enemy conception more central to political considerations. I felt in general that the argument fell apart because it was an attempt to attack liberalism. I’m not the biggest fan of liberalism but given the option of replacing war with economic and intellectual competition, I’ll take it. He seems to bemoan the fact that a true liberal would never be willingly forced to die for his state. He even says things such as; “That art is a daughter of freedom, that aesthetic value judgment is absolutely autonomous, that artistic genius is sovereign - all this is axiomatic of liberalism”. Is that supposed to be bad? I think the point he was trying to make is that with increasing individualism comes increasing isolation, while meaning comes from the collective. Thus in liberalism’s push towards increasing individualism at the cost of community results in a loss of collective meaning. If this was his point, though, I personally felt that he made it poorly. Not to mention that his solution seems to be an undemocratic totalising state in which our meaning is defined for us from on high? Schmitt does rescue his analysis of liberalism in the closing pages, however, when he attacks the liberal view of economics being an apolitical activity (because economic competitors are not the same as enemies). He argues in a sort of Platonic fashion that an ostensibly apolitical society ruled by economic considerations inevitably becomes political in it’s considerations. I think this is a profound point. Schmitt uses the example that was very much a sore spot for the Germans in the interwar years of punitive war reparations, and economic sanctions that essentially legitimise starvation for economic reasons. One thinks of more recent examples of US liberal imperialism in its conflicts abroad.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Fred R

    I think of Schmitt as like Heidegger, another highbrow Nazi whose intellectual work stands as the apotheosis of German cultural resistance to Manchester liberalism and Voltairean tolerance, to say nothing of American post-Puritan ‘humanitarianism’. To that end, his fulminations against disingenuous value-neutral liberalism and the depoliticization of modern life are really assaults on the intellectual framework behind the Versailles treaty, and concomitant Allied propaganda about the Hunnish I think of Schmitt as like Heidegger, another highbrow Nazi whose intellectual work stands as the apotheosis of German cultural resistance to Manchester liberalism and Voltairean tolerance, to say nothing of American post-Puritan ‘humanitarianism’. To that end, his fulminations against disingenuous value-neutral liberalism and the depoliticization of modern life are really assaults on the intellectual framework behind the Versailles treaty, and concomitant Allied propaganda about the Hunnish behavior of Germany during the First World War. In a penetrating essay included in my edition, Leo Strauss points out that, emotionally, Schmitt doesn’t seem to merely feel that politics (and the grounding of politics, war) is inescapable, but more so that life without the grand seriousness of politics is distasteful, mere ‘entertainment’. This, again, is modern era German kultural chauvinism, albeit of an abstract kind, viewing with contempt the English merchants and French philosophes who have abandoned aristocratic (Prussian?) ideals of honor. This kind of contempt is, of course, not far removed from the 20th century megalomaniacal German struggle for lebensraum and continental domination. All of this is not to say that Schmitt is entirely wrong. Again, like Heidegger, he scores a lot of telling points against the incoherent and even the dishonorable aspects of Liberalism. From another perspective, this book reminds me a great deal of Maurice Cowling’s famous attack on Mill, as both work to demonstrate how much of Liberalism was and is really just pi jaw and humbug (i.e. empty propaganda) in service of distinct cultural/intellectual/social/economic groups’ will to power. Schmitt seems to me entirely correct that politics is an inherent human activity, and that inherent in politics is the potential for violence. Furthermore, he may also be correct (though less so) in pointing out how, on an international level, humanitarian programs to end war and violence may paradoxically escalate violent conflict, while on a national level, Liberal programs to depoliticized life may end up exacerbating, or, at least, disingenuously reshaping, social conflict. To offer a concrete, contemporary example, I find it striking today how easily American resistance to politically (even existentially) significant immigration inflows is shunted off (depoliticized and neutered) by Schmitt’s twin Liberal demons of ‘economics’ and ‘ethics’. To return to the issue Strauss raised: I would first say that Schmitt is unnecessarily vague on the inevitability of politics and war. Although prediction is a mugs game, I feel pretty confident that as long as there is life there will be predation and parasitism, and that game-theoretical dynamics of cooperation and conflict are, in a certain sense, inescapable. On the other hand, I would not say it is so emotional or irrational of Schmitt to flinch in disgust from the vision of an Imaginary world where there is nothing to kill for, or at least to die for. Pondering this leads one close to theodicy, for if the possibility of violence elevates life above entertainment, does not the possibility of sin similarly elevate humanity above brute nature?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leo Martinez

    “Heartbreaking: The Worst Person You Know Just Made A Great Point”

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mitch

    Disappointing

  22. 4 out of 5

    Maddie

    Absolutely phenomenal and invaluable critique of modern liberalism, a huge stick in the way of so called "enlightened centrists"(not to be confused with moderates that still holds a coherent political line of thought) that wants to eradicate the political entirely and make everything into soulless entertainment

  23. 5 out of 5

    Pat Blanchfield

    What a wham-bam shazzam tour-de-force! After finishing it, I'm not sure if I'm leaning more left or rightwards. "It is a manifest fraud to condemn war as homicide and then demand of men that they wage war, kill and be killed, so that there will never again be war. War, the readiness of combatants to die, the physical killing of human beings who belong on the side of the enemy - all this has no normative meaning but an existential meaning only, particularly in a real combat situation with a real What a wham-bam shazzam tour-de-force! After finishing it, I'm not sure if I'm leaning more left or rightwards. "It is a manifest fraud to condemn war as homicide and then demand of men that they wage war, kill and be killed, so that there will never again be war. War, the readiness of combatants to die, the physical killing of human beings who belong on the side of the enemy - all this has no normative meaning but an existential meaning only, particularly in a real combat situation with a real enemy. There exists no rational purpose, no norm no matter how true, no program no matter how exemplary, no social ideal no matter how beautiful, no legitimacy nor legality which could justify men killing each other for this reason."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Atzori

    By defining 'the concept of the political' as the friend-enemy grouping, Schmitt articulates an incisive critique of liberalism and of its alleged attempt of 'neutralizing the political' by depoliticizing the economy. Schmitt affirms the importance of reviving the political which, in his view, has been concealed by liberalism. Leo Strauss' notes are important to understand the distance between Hobbes and Schmitt, since the former is seen as the father of liberalism, and the latter as his most By defining 'the concept of the political' as the friend-enemy grouping, Schmitt articulates an incisive critique of liberalism and of its alleged attempt of 'neutralizing the political' by depoliticizing the economy. Schmitt affirms the importance of reviving the political which, in his view, has been concealed by liberalism. Leo Strauss' notes are important to understand the distance between Hobbes and Schmitt, since the former is seen as the father of liberalism, and the latter as his most original opponent.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Barron

    You'd think a "Nazi philosopher" would be on the outs, but serious, modern, liberal people are more into him than ever. Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule are really into him, and they make his work the basis for their new theory of the American Constitution in "The Executive Unbound." Apparently you cannot dismiss him--perhaps he is at bottom incoherent and ultimately a very bad guy--but you cannot dismiss some of his concerns. I'm still trying to figure out what to think.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    schmitt suggests that the concept of the political is rooted in the "friend-enemy" distinction. not a moral enemy, a business enemy...but an existential "other" that always implies the possibility of conflict and war. it's eerie how this book, written in the late 20's, speaks very much to the current political landscape - i mean, US and china? yeah.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rui Coelho

    When a social tension (be it moral, economic, religious, etc) intensifies, a clear line is drawn between friends and enemies. Schmitt considers this latent possibility of violent conflict the essence of politics. After definig politics as this game of alliances, he goes on to clarify the role of the State and revolutionary partisans. An essencial read to understand Tiqqun (specially Civil War).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Miles Maftean

    I liked it, strictly for the critique it presents for a liberal constitutionalist democracy. I might not necessarily agree with the substance of his argument, but he has quite the realist outlook on politics and makes sure not to have too much intellectual hogwash in his conceptualization.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Luke Echo

    I was surprised by the Existentialist aspect of Schmitt's arguments.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    As Richard Bernstein once called out to a friend of mine while she was reading this book: "Don't be seduced!"

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