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THE CONCEPT OF THE POLITICAL
by CARL SCHMITT
THE CONCEPT OF THE POLITICAL EXPANDED EDITION
Translation, Introduction, and Notes by George Schwab
With “The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations”
(1929) translated by Matthias Konzen and John P.
With Leo Strauss’s Notes on Schmitt’s Essay, translated by
J. Harvey Lomax
Foreword by Tracy B. Strong
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS
Chicago and London
The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637 The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London © 1996, 2007 by The University of Chicago All rights reserved. Published 2007 Printed in the United States of America
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ISBN-13: 978-0-226-73892-5 (paper) ISBN-10: 0-226-73892-2 (paper)
This translation is based on the 1932 edition of Der Begriff des Politischen, published by Duncker & Humblot. Foreword and Translator’s Note to the 1996 Edition © 1996 by The Uni- versity of Chicago. Acknowledgments, Introduction, Translator’s Note, and English transla- tion of Der Begriff des Politischen © 1976 by George Schwab. English translation of “Notes on Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political” © 1995 by The University of Chicago.
This expanded edition includes “The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations” (1929), translated by Matthias Konzett and John P. McCormick, first published in Telos 26, no. 2 (1993): 130–42. Reprinted by permission of John P. McCormick.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Schmitt, Carl, 1888–1985. [Begriff des Politischen. English] The concept of the political / Carl Schmitt ; translation, introduction, and notes by
George Schwab ; with “The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations” (1929) translated by Matthias Konzen and John P. McCormick ; with Leo Strauss’ notes on Schmitt’s essay, translated by J. Harvey Lomax ; foreword by Tracy B. Strong. — Expanded ed.
p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-0-226-73892-5 (pbk. : alk. paper) ISBN-10: 0-226-73892-2 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Political science. 2. State, The.
I. Schmitt, Carl, 1888–1985. Zeitalter der Neutralisierungen und Entpolitisierungen. English. II. Title. JA74.S313 2007 320.019—dc22
ø The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
To Edward Rosen Inspiring Teacher, Devoted Friend
Foreword: Dimensions of the New Debate around Carl Schmitt, by Tracy B. Strong ix
Translator’s Note to the 1996 Edition and Acknowledgments xxxii
Introduction, by George Schwab 3
Translator’s Note to the 1976 Edition 17
The Concept of the Political, by Carl Schmitt 19
“The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations” (1929), by Carl Schmitt 80
Notes on Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, by Leo Strauss 97
Index of Names 123
FOREWORD: DIMENSIONS OF THE NEW DEB A TE AROUND CARL SCHMITT
Tracy B. Strong
"What did they live on," said Alice, who always took a great interest
in questions of eating and drinking. 'They lived on treacle," said the
Dormouse, after thinking a moment or two. "They couldn't have done
that, you know," Alice gently remarked. "They'd have been ill."
"So they were," said the Dormouse, "very ill."
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
The philosopher's eve,y attempt at directly influencing the tyrant is
Alexandre Kojeve, Tyranny and Wisdom I
Carl Schmitt was a prominent legal scholar in post-World War I Germany and one of the leading intellectuals during the Weimar period. Exceptionally active as a teacher and publicist, he probed the nature and sources of what he took to be the weakness of the modern liberal, parliamentary state, both in its embodiment in the Weimar constitution and more broadly as the modern form of political organization. He joined the Nazi Party in 1933 (in May, the same month as did Martin Heidegger) and published
1 In Victor Gourevitch and Michael Roth, eds., Leo Strauss, On Tyranny: Including the 5trauss-Kojeve Debate (New York: Free Press, 1991), pp. 165-166.
x Tracy B. Strong
several works, some of them anti-Semitic, in which he explicitly defended the policies of the regime. (He would later claim that he was trying to give his own understanding of Nazi ideas.)2 In 1936 he was severely criticized in articles published in Das Schwarze Korps, an official SS organ. Protected by Herman Goring, he re- mained in his post at the University of Berlin and continued teach- ing and writing but with a much reduced focus on contemporary domestic German matters. He was detained for an eighteen-month period after the war by Allied authorities, but never formally charged with crimes. He never resumed a university position. Fest- schriften were published on the occasions of his seventieth and eightieth birthdays; among the authors contributing were Julien Freund, Reinhart Koselleck, and Karlfried Grunder. He died in 1985 at the age of ninety-six.
From the beginning of his career, Schmitt was taken seri- ously on all parts of the political spectrum. The young Carl Friedrich (later to become a central author of the postwar German constitution, a Harvard professor, and president of the American Political Science Association) cited him approvingly, in 1930, on Article 48 of the Weimar constitution, which permitted commis- sarial dictatorship, a step that Schmitt had urged on Hindenberg.3
Franz Neumann, the socialist and left-wing sociologist author of Behemoth, drew extensively upon Schmitt, as did his colleague and friend Otto Kirchheimer.4 Indeed, all of the Frankfurt School
2 See the transcript of his interrogation after the war in Joseph W. Bender- sky, "Schmitt at Nuremberg," Telos 72 (Summer 1987), pp. 106-107. The stan- dard English biography (quite sympathetic), also by Bendersky, is Carl Schmitt: Theorist for the Reich (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983).
J C. J. Friedrich, "Dictatorship in Germany?" Foreign Affairs 9, no. I (October 1930). It is worth noting that most of those who defend or apologize for Schmitt pull out a long list of those who have cited him favorably.
4 For a somewhat sensationalist but still revealing discussion of the changes in attitudes by left-wing scholars to Schmitt, see George Schwab, "Carl Schmitt: Through a Glass Darkly," Eclectica 17 (1988), pp. 71-72. I owe this reference to Paul Edward Gottfried, Carl Schmitt: Politics and TheOlY (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990), p. 126.
(especially Walter Benjamin) spoke highly of him, often after 1933.5
More recently, the Italian and French Left, as well as those associ- ated with the radical journal Telos, have approvingly investigated his nonideological conception of the political.6 The European Right, as well as American conservatives of a Straussian persuasion, find in his work at least the beginnings of a theory of authority that might address the supposed failings of individualistic liberal- ism. Just as interestingly, a number of defenders of liberalism have found it necessary to single out Schmitt for attack,? a need they
5 See Samuel Weber, 'Taking Exception to Decision: Walter Benjamin and Carl Schmitt," diacritics 22, nos. 3-4 (Fall-Winter 1992), pp. 5-18. A contro- versy around this and other issues was set off by Ellen Kennedy, "Carl Schmitt and the Frankfurt School," Telos 71 (Spring 1987), pp. 37-66, and the responses from Martin Jay, Alfons S611ner, and Ulrich Preuss that follow in the same issue. Kennedy's rejoinder appears in the Fall 1987 issue. It appears fairly obvious that Kennedy has successfully established the debt owed by most members of the Frankfurt School, including Habermas, to Schmitt.
6 As Stephen Holmes caustically remarks, the editors of Telos spoke of learning from, not about, Carl Schmitt. See Stephen Holmes, The Anatomy of Antiliberalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 37. The reference is to Paul Piccone and G. L. Ulmen, "Introduction to Carl Schmitt," Telos 72 (Summer 1987), p. 14.
7 Stephen Holmes, as far back as 1983, spoke in a review of Bendersky's biography of Schmitt as a man "who consciously embraced evil." American Politi- cal Science Review 77, no. 3 (September, 1983), p. 1067. He devotes a nasty chapter to Schmitt in The Anatomy of Antiliberalism. Richard Bellamy and Peter Baehr devote over twenty pages to Schmitt only to find his work "unconvincing." "Carl Schmitt and the Contradictions of Liberal Democracy," European Journal of Political Research 23 (1993), pp. 163-185. Giovanni Sartori, in a contribution to the initial issue of the Journal of Theoretical Politics ("The Essence of the Political in Carl Schmitt," I, no. 1 , pp. 64-75), feels the need to defend a more peaceful conception of politics against that which he finds in Schmitt. Jiirgen Habermas, in "The Horrors of Autonomy: Carl Schmitt in English," The New Conservatism (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992, pp. 128-139) links Schmitt to the French and English-language postmodernists whom he detests, as well as to those in Germany who seek to find a continuity in German history. Habermas, "Le besoin d'une continuite allemande: Carl Schmitt dans l'histoire des idees poli-
tiques de la RFA," Les temps modernes, no. 575 (June 1994), pp. 26-35' More
do not feel with other critics of liberal parliamentarism who were members of the Nazi Party. By virtue of the range of those to whom he appeals and the depth of his political allegiance during the Nazi era, Schmitt comes close these days to being the Martin Heidegger of political theory.8
I cannot here do more than to call attention to these facts.9
If a definition of an important thinker is to have a manifold of supporters and detractors,10 the scholars I have cited clearly show Schmitt a thinker to be taken seriously. This is new. Entries in a standard reference work, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Politi- cal Thought, published in 1987, go from “Schiller, Friedrich” to “Schumpeter, Joseph.” No Carl Schmitt. Yet recent years have seen an explosion of work on Schmitt, in English-speaking countries as well as in Germany.11 A question thus accompanies the welcome
xii Tracy B. Strong
sympathetic, Chantal Mouffe finds him “an adversary as rigorous as he is insight- ful,” in “Penser la démocratie moderne avec, et contre, Carl Schmitt,” Revue française de science politique 42, no. 1 (February 1992), p. 83. A computer search of the holdings of a research university library on Schmitt comes up with sixty-three journal articles in the last five years as well as thirty-six books published since 1980, most of them since 1990. By comparison, the search reveals 164 articles on Heidegger, and twenty-six on Hitler.
8 Around the time they both joined the Nazi Party, Schmitt initiated contact with Heidegger by sending him a copy of The Concept of the Political. Hei- degger responded warmly and indicated that he hoped Schmitt would assist him in “reconstituting the Law Faculty.” This letter appears on p. 132 of the Telos issue cited above. Schmitt, Heidegger, and Bäumler were the three most prominent German intellectuals to join the party.
9 Accounts of it may be found in the excellent Gottfried, Carl Schmitt, chaps. 1 and 5; George Schwab, The Challenge of the Exception, 2d ed. (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989), Conclusion; a right-wing appreciation of this can be found in Arnim Mohler, “Schmittistes de droite, Schmittistes de gauche, et Schmittistes établis,” Nouvelle ecole 44 (Spring 1987), pp. 29–66.
10 For this argument see my Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Politics of the Ordinary (SAGE, 1994), chap. 1.
11 MIT Press has brought out in recent years translations of Political The- ology (1985), The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy (1986), and Political Romanti- cism (1986).
reissuing of Schmitt's The Concept of the Political. What is the significance of the rebirth of interest in Schmitt, a leading conserva- tive jurist during the Weimar Republic, a scholar severely compro- mised by his participation in and support for the Nazi regime? Why is he now a focus for contention? What do we learn about our intellectual interests and problems in the attention now being paid to Carl Schmitt?
The intense and renewed attention to the work of Carl Schmitt, whether hostile or favorable, is due to the fact that he sits at the intersection of three central questions which any contem- porary political theorist must consider. The first is the relation between liberalism and democracy. The second is the relation be- tween politics and ethics. The third is the importance of what Schmitt called "enemies" for state legitimation and the implication of that importance for the relation between domestic and interna- tional politics. His understandings of these questions raise a final issue, which quietly frames all of the others; it has to do with the nature and consequence of the growing distance between the contemporary world and the events associated with the advent of Nazism. I want here to examine each of the questions, both substantively and in terms of their interest and challenge to the various schools of thought that take Schmitt seriously. I am going to call these schools "left," "right," and "liberal." I do so with the recognition that these terms may be outmoded and even a source of confusion in our world.
The Relation between Liberalism and Democracy
Schmitt's conception of the political stands in opposition to his conception of "political romanticism," the subject of one of his early books. Political romanticism is characterized as a stance of occasionalist ironism, such that there is no last word on anything. Political romanticism is the doctrine of the autonomous, isolated,
XIV Tracy B. Strong
and solitary individual, whose absolute stance toward himself gives a world in which nothing is connecting to anything else. Political romanticism is thus at the root of what Schmitt sees as the liberal tendency to substitute perpetual discussion for the political. 12 On the positive side, Schmitt's conception of the political stands in alliance with the subject of his subsequent book, Political Theology. There he elaborates a conception of sovereignty as the making of decisions which concern the exception. 13 The political is the arena of authority rather than general law and requires decisions which are singular, absolute and final. 14 Thus, as Schmitt notes in Political Theology, the sovereign decision has the quality of being something like a religious miracle: it has no references except the fact that it is, to what Heidegger would have called its Dasein. (It should be noted that the sovereign is not like God: there is no "Sovereign." Rather, sovereign acts have the quality of referring only to them- selves, as moments of "existential intervention.")15
This is, for Schmitt, a given quality of "the political." What distresses him is that the historical conjunction of liberalism and democracy has obscured this conception, such that we are in danger of losing the experience of the political. In The Concept of the Political Schmitt identifies this loss of the conception of the political with the triumph of the modern notion of politics, dating loosely from the French Revolution but already present in seventeenth- century doctrines such as those of Cardinal Bellarmine, whose theory of indirect powers Hobbes went to extended pains to attack in chapter 41 of Leviathan. Politics thus involves, famously, friends
12 See The Concept oj the Political (henceforth CP), below, p. 71. 13 Cf Karl Lowith, "Le decisionisme (occasionnel) de Carl Schmitt," Les
temps modernes. no. 544 (November 1991), pp. '5-50. The publishing history of Lowith's text is given on page '5.
14 For a discussion of the influence of Kierkegaard on Schmitt, see Lowith,
ibid., pp. '9-2 I. 15 See Ellen Kennedy, "Carl Schmitt and the Frankfurt School: A Rejoin-
der," Telos 73 (Fall '987), pp. 105, 107.
and enemies, which means at least the centrality of those who are with you and those against whom you struggle. Fighting and the possibility of death are necessary for there to be the political. 16
From this standpoint, Schmitt came to the following conclu- sions about modern bourgeois politics. First, it is a system which rests on compromise; hence all of its solutions are in the end temporary, occasional, never decisive. Second, such arrangements can never resolve the claims of equality inherent in democracy. By the universalism implicit in its claims for equality, democracy challenges the legitimacy of the political order, as liberal legitimacy rests on discussion and the compromise of shifting majority rules. Third, liberalism will tend to undermine the possibility of the political in that it wishes to substitute procedure for struggle. Thus, last, legitimacy and legality cannot be the same; indeed, they stand in contradiction to each otherY
The driving force behind this argument lies in its claim that politics cannot be made safe and that the attempt to make politics safe will result in the abandonment of the state to private interests and to "society." The reality of an empirical referent for this claim was undeniable in the experience of Weimar. (It is worth remem- bering that Schmitt was among those who sought to strengthen the Weimar regime by trying to persuade Hindenburg to invoke the temporary dictatorial powers of article 48 against the extremes on the Right and the Left.)18
There is here, however, a deeper claim, a claim that the political defines what it is to be a human being in the modern world and that those who would diminish the political diminish humanity. Schmitt lays this out as the "friend-enemy" distinction. What is important about this distinction is not so much the "who
16 CP 35. 17 I have loosely followed here the excellent analysis in Kennedy, Telos
71 , p. 42 . 18 As Paul Piccone and G. L. Dlmen point out to Jeffrey Herf in "Reading
and Misreading Schmitt," Telos 74 (Winter 1987-88), pp. 133-14°.
XVI Tracy B. Strong
is on my side" quality, but the claim that only by means of this distinction does the question of our willingness to take responsi- bility for our own lives arise. "Each participant is in a position to judge whether the adversary intends to negate his opponent's way of life and therefore must be repulsed or fought in order to preserve one's own form of existence. "19 It is this quality that attracts the nonliberal Left and the Right to Schmitt. It is precisely to deny that the stakes of politics should be so high that liberals resist Schmitt. If a liberal is a person who cannot take his own side in an argument, a liberal is also a person who, as Schmitt notes, thereby raising the stakes, if asked "'Christ or Barabbas?' [re- sponds] with a proposal to adjourn or appoint a committee of investigation. ,,20
The Relation between Politics and Ethics
Schmitt claimed that liberalism's reliance on procedure led to a depoliticization and dehumanization of the world. It was the daring of the claim for the political that drew Leo Strauss's atten- tion in the critique he wrote of The Concept ofthe Political in 1932. Schmitt had written: "The political adversaries of a clear political theory will ... easily refute political phenomena and truths in the name of some autonomous discipline as amoral, uneconomical, unscientific and above all declare this-and this is politically rele- vant-a devilry worthy of being combated.,,21 Schmitt's claim was not just that the political was a separate realm of human activity, parallel to ethics, economics, science, and religion, but that inquiry
19 CP 27 (my italics). 20 Carl Schmitt, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy (Cambridge: MIT
Press, 1985), p. 62. 21 CP 65-66.
into the political was an inquiry into the "order of human things," where the important word is "human.,,22
To claim this was to claim that the possibility of dying for what one was was the final determining quality of the human. Schmitt's existential Hobbesianism thus saw moral claims as im- plicitly denying the finality of death in favor of an abstract univer- salism in which human beings were not particularly involved in what they were. As Herbert Marcuse noted, "Carl Schmitt inquires into the reason for such sacrifice: 'There is no rational end, no norm however correct, no program however exemplary, no social ideal however beautiful, and no legitimacy or legality that could justify men's killing one another.' What, then, remains as a possible justification? Only this: that there is a state of affairs that through its very existence and presence is exempt from all justification, i.e. an 'existential,' 'ontological' state of affairs,-justification by mere existence.',23 It is this quality in Schmitt that is at the basis of the accusations of irrationalism and decisionism.24
Two questions are at stake here. The first is whether it is possible to escape the hold of an ethical universalism; the second is that if it is possible, where then does one find oneself-what does it mean to go "beyond good and evil"? Schmitt clearly thought that he had given a positive answer to the first question: that people will only be responsible for what they are if the reality of death and conflict remain present.25 Such considerations transcend the
22 Leo Strauss, Notes on Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political (hence- forth NCP), below, par. I.
23 Herbert Marcuse, Negations (Boston: Beacon, 1968), pp. 30-3 I. Martin Jay, quite unfairly, adduces this essay to claim against Ellen Kennedy that Marcuse was fundamentally hostile to Schmitt. See note 5 above.
24 Richard Wolin extends Habermas's critique and claims that Schmitt's critique of liberalism has "its basis in the vitalist critique of Enlightenment ratio- nalism." ("Carl Schmitt, the Conservative Revolutionary: Habitus and the Aes- thetics of Horror," Political Theory 20, no. 3 (August 1992), pp. 424-447, at 432.
25 CP 77. For an exploration of the relation of Schmitt to Max Weber on
XVlll Tracy B. Strong
ethical and place one-this is Schmitt's answer to the second ques- tion-in the realm of nature. As Strauss notes: "Schmitt returns, contrary to liberalism, to its author, Hobbes, in order to strike at the root of liberalism in Hobbes's express negation of the state of nature.,,26
However, as Strauss brilliantly shows, it is highly contestable that Schmitt actually has achieved what he believes himself to have accomplished. Strauss demonstrates that Schmitt remains con- cerned with the meaningfulness of life-he is afraid that modernity will make life unmeaningful. He thus, as Strauss concludes, re- mains within the horizon of liberal moralist. "The affirmation of the political," writes Strauss, "is ultimately nothing other than the affirmation of the moral."n Schmitt has, albeit unwillingly, moralized even his would-be amorality.
It is out of the scope of this foreword to indicate how Schmitt might have done otherwise. Strauss indicates that Schmitt has merely prepared the way for a radical critique of liberalism. How- ever, Schmitt "is tying himself to his opponents' view of morality instead of questioning the claim of humanitarian-pacifist morality to be morals; he remains trapped in the view that he is attacking."28 It is important to note that the nature of Strauss's critique of Schmitt indicates that whatever his own critique of liberalism will be, it cannot be a simple reaffirmation of moral truths. Rather (and all too gnomically) "IT IS TO UNDERSTAND SOCRATES," as the highlighted words beginning the Introduction and chapters 3 and 4 of Strauss's Natural Right and History (a book overtly about liberalism and not Socrates) let us know.29 One should also note
these matters, see W. J. Mommsen, Max Weber and German Politics, 1890-1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), esp. pp. 389 ff.
26 NCP, par. 14. 27 NCP, par. 27. 28 NCP, par. 30. 29 On these matters see the excellent book by Heinrich Meier, Carl Schmitt
and Leo Strauss (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), esp. p. 86. The
here, as Heinrich Meier points out, that Schmitt never engaged in a full-fledged confrontation with Nietzsche.3o
To some of those on the Left, Schmitt's according of primacy to the political thus appears to open the door to a kind of postmod- ernism.31 Here, his insistence on the centrality of antagonistic rela- tions and his resistance to an abstract, not to say "thin," under- standing of agency fit in well with those who see liberalism as a historical event. To see liberalism as a historical event means that one understands it as the inheritor and bearer not only of rights and freedoms but also of structures of power and domination, of colonial and class exploitations, of the hatred of, rather than the opposition to, the Other.32
Such a response to Schmitt is, however, a highly selective choice of some elements of his doctrine. It tacitly introduces ele- ments of democracy by pluralizing his notion of sovereignty and suggesting that the decision about the exception is a decision that each person can make. It is to claim that value-pluralism is not inherently undesirable.33 Against this one can insist that Schmitt,
other chapters in Natural Right and History all begin with the word "The." For a critique of the Strauss critique of Schmitt, see John P. McCormick, "Fear, Technology, and the State: Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, and the Revival of Hobbes in Weimar and National Socialist Germany," Political Theory 22, no. 4 (November
1994), pp. 61 9-652. 30 See Meier, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss, p. 65, n. 72. Wolin, Political
Theory 20, no. 3, finds strongly Nietzschean elements in Schmitt. However, the elements that he finds are simply the same ones that he dislikes in Schmitt.
31 See Piccone and Ulmen, Telos 74, p. 138. 32 See William Connolly, "Beyond Good and Evil: The Ethical Sensibility
of Michel Foucault," Political Theory 21, no. 3 (August 1993), pp. 365-389. A similar theme, with different politics, may be found in Vilmos Holczhauser, Komens und Konfiikt: Die Begriffe des Politischen bei Carl Schmitt (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1989).
33 A fact also noted by Ellen Kennedy, in Telos 73, p. 66; and by Steven Lukes (in critique of Habermas), "Of Gods and Demons," in David Held and John B. Thompson, Habermas: Critical Debates (London: Macmillan, 1982), also cited by Kennedy.
xx Tracy B. Strong
no matter what else he might be, was not a democrat. He did not conceive sovereignty as something each individual might have but rather as the exercise of power by the state. It is to this central and "tough" notion of sovereignty that conservatives respond. The question raised here is whether one can accept the formulations of The Concept of the Political as (in Schmitt's words) "the starting point for objective discussion" and not emerge from them in the direction that Leo Strauss took.34 I leave unanswered and barely asked if there could be a Straussianism of the Left in America, an alliance of Berkeley and Chicago, as it were.35
Legitimation and Enemies
In The Concept ofthe Political, Schmitt identifies as the "high points of politics" those moments in which "the enemy is, in con- crete clarity, recognized as the enemy." He suggests that this is true both theoretically and in practice.36 There are two aspects of this claim worthy of note. The first is the semi-Hegelian form it assumes. The concrete recognition of the other as enemy and the consequent establishment of one's own identity sounds something like Hegel's Master and Slave, especially if read through a Kojevian lens. I suspect, in fact, that it is this aspect which led the SS journal Das Schwarze Korps to accuse Schmitt of neo-Hegelianism.37
But only the form is Hegelian. There are two elements in Schmitt's claim about enemies which are not Hegelian. First is a suggestion that unless one is clear about the fundamental nonratio-
34 For some preliminary ideas see Gourevitch and Roth, "Introduction," to Leo Strauss, On Tyranny, as well as the material from Strauss and Kojeve in that book.
35 I find that Holmes, Anatomy ofAntiliberalism, p. 88, raises and dismisses the question about Alasdair MacIntyre.
36 CP 67. See the discussion in Meier, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss, pp. 28 ff.
37 See Gottfried, Carl Schmitt, p. 31; Bendersky, Carl Schmitt, pp. 240 ff.
nality of politics, one will likely be overtaken by events. Following the passage about the "high points of politics," Schmitt goes on to give examples of those who were clear about what was friend and enemy and those who were not. He cites as clear-headed some German opponents of Napoleon; Lenin in his condemnation of capitalism; and-most strikingly-Cromwell in his enmity to- ward Spain. He contrasts these men to "the doomed classes [who] romanticized the Russian peasant," and to the "aristocratic society in France before the Revolution of 1789 [who] sentimentalized 'man who is by nature good.' "38 The implication here is that ratio- nality-what is rational for a group to do to preserve itself as a group-is not only not universal but hard to know. We are not far here from Alasdair MacIntyre's Whose Justice? Whose Rational- ity?39 The important aspect to Schmitt's claim is that it is by facing the friend-enemy distinction that we (a "we") will be able to be clear about what "we" are and what it is "rational" for "us" to do.
Schmitt insists in his discussion of the friend-enemy distinc- tion on the public nature of the categories. It is not my enemy but our enemy; that is, "enemy" is a political concept. Here Schmitt enlists the public quality to politics in order to prevent a universal- ism which he thinks extremely dangerous. The argument goes like this. Resistance to or the refusal to accept the fact that one's rational action has limitations determined by the quality of the identity of one's group leads to two possible outcomes.
The first is that one assumes one shares with others universal qualities which must then "naturally" engender an ultimate con- vergence of interests attainable through negotiation and compro-
38 CP 68. See Bellamy and Baehr, European Journal of Political Research
23, pp. 180 ff. 39 See Alasdair Macintyre, Whose Justice? Whose Rationality? (Notre
Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988). Holmes, Anatomy ofAntiliberalism, p. 88, draws attention to this possible link.
XXll Tracy B. Strong
mise. Here events are most likely not only to prove one wrong but to destroy a group that acts on such a false belief. (One thinks of Marx's caustic comments about the social-democrats in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon). This is the case with the "doomed" Russian classes and the "aristocratic society" of France.
The other, more dangerous possibility is that one will claim to speak in the name of universal humanity. In such a case, all those by whom one is opposed must perforce be seen as speaking against humanity and hence can only merit to be exterminated. Schmitt writes:
Humanity as such and as a whole has no enemies. Everyone be- longs to humanity . . . "Humanity" thus becomes an asymmetrical counter-concept. If he discriminates within humanity and thereby denies the quality of being human to a disturber or destroyer, then the negatively valued person becomes an unperson, and his life is no longer of the highest value: it becomes worthless and must be destroyed. Concepts such as "human being" thus contain the possibility of the deepest inequality and become thereby "asymmetrical.,,4o
These words were written in 1976, but they were prepared for in the conclusion to The Concept ofthe Political: "The adversary is thus no longer called an enemy but a disturber of peace and is thereby designated to be an outlaw of humanity."41 Schmitt wants here to remove from politics, especially international politics but also internal politics of an ideological kind, any possibility of justi- fying one's action on the basis of a claim to universal moral princi- ples. He does so because he fears that in such a framework all claims to good will recognize no limits to their reach. And, thus, this century will see "wars for the domination of the earth" (the phrase is Nietzsche's in Ecce Homo), that is, wars to determine
40 Carl Schmitt, "The Legal World Revolution," Telos 72 (Summer 1987), p.88.
41 CP 79: cf CP 54 ff.
once and for all what is good for all, wars with no outcome except an end to politics and the elimination of all difference.
On a first level, the question that Schmitt poses here is whether liberalism can meet the challenges posed by international politicsY Rousseau suggested that a country would be better off avoiding international politics; Hobbes made no attempt to extend the notion of sovereignty beyond state borders. Any answer to this question must deal with the fact that this century has seen not only the dramatic extension of countries claiming to adhere to universal values but also unprecedented attempts at local and uni- versal genocide and the development of extremely aggressive re- gionalisms. For Schmitt these all went together. He thought there was no natural limit to what one might do to make the world safe for liberalism. The evidence is mixed.
On a second level, one must ask how a man who wrote with some eloquence about the dangers of universalism could have written what he wrote in support of Nazi policies. Three possible answers present themselves. The first is that he was morally blinded by ambition-that he would say what was necessary to attain and remain in prestigious posts. The second is that he did not understand what the Nazis were doing. The last is that he thought (or persuaded himself for some period of time) that the opponents of the regime were, in fact, enemies, who, in fact, posed a threat to the German identity. If the last is true, as I believe it to be, then what needs attention in Schmitt's theory is not the
42 Questions also raised by scholars like Hans Morgenthau, whose early
work in Germany focused on the political (and not legal) quality of international relations; and Henry Kissinger, whose The Necessity for Choice (New York: Harper, 1961) and "The White Revolutionary: Reflections on Bismarck," Daeda- lus 97, no. 3 (Summer 1968), pp. 888-924, while not mentioning Schmitt, clearly draw on him, as did some of Kissinger's practice as a statesman. Note the parallel title in Wolin's article, "Carl Schmitt, the Conservative Revolutionary." See Al- fons Sollner, "German Conservativism in America: Morgenthau's Political Real- ism," Telos 72 (Summer 1987), pp. 161-172.
attack on universalism but the overly simplistic notion of friend. There is a way in which Schmitt allowed his notion of enemy to generate his idea of friend.43
Schmitt and Nazism
Does one’s judgment on Schmitt come down to the way one reads the facts of Schmitt’s adherence to the Nazi Party? Among his more sympathetic commentators there is a tendency to apolo- gize and excuse. At least one response given by those who sympa- thize with Schmitt’s work will not do. This is the one repeated by the editors of Telos to Professor Jeffrey Herf: they rehearse answers like that of Paul Tillich, who responded to a student who objected to Heidegger on the grounds of his participation in the Nazi party by pointing out that Plato had after all served the tyrant Dionysos of Syracuse and we do not therefore refrain from reading him.44
While the quality of a person’s thought can in no way be reduced to a person’s actions, this is only because no action admits, in a mo- ment, of only the meaning that time will give to it. One cannot sim- ply draw a line between thought and life as if choices in life could be judged by criteria foreign to thought. Context matters, and not in a self-evident way.45 However, to ask the question of what Schmitt thought he was doing—his intentions—can also not be fi- nal. To understand everything is precisely not to excuse it. Purity of intentions matters for little and is often dangerous in politics.46
xxiv Tracy B. Strong
43 See Jacques Derrida, The Politics of Friendship (Verso. London and New York, 1997), p. 106 and chapters four and five, passim.
44 Telos 74 (Winter 1987–88), p. 140. 45 For a revelatory discussion of this matter in relation to the case of
Heidegger’s silences on himself, see Babette Babich, “The Ethical Alpha and the Linguistic Omega: Heidegger’s Anti-Semitism and the Inner Affinity between Germany and Greece,” in her Words in Blood, Like Flowers (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2006), pp. 227–242.
46 This was the point of Max Weber’s essay “Politics as a Vocation.” See Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (New York: Viking, 1964), Epilogue.