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Written in the intense political and intellectual tumult of the early years of the Weimar Republic, "Political Theology" develops the distinctive theory of sovereignty that made Carl Schmitt one of the most significant and controversial political theorists of the twentieth century.

Focusing on the relationships among political leadership, the norms of the legal order, and the state of political emergency, Schmitt argues in "Political Theology" that legal order ultimately rests upon the decisions of the sovereign.

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According to Schmitt, only the sovereign can meet the needs of an "exceptional" time and transcend legal order so that order can then be reestablished. Convinced that the state is governed by the ever-present possibility of conflict, Schmitt theorizes that the state exists only to maintain its integrity in order to ensure order and stability.


Suggesting that all concepts of modern political thought are secularized theological concepts, Schmitt concludes "Political Theology" with a critique of liberalism and its attempt to depoliticize political thought by avoiding fundamental political decisions. He forces an engagement with Schmitt's four chapters, offering a new version of each that is responsive to the American political imaginary. But back to Strong's foreword, which--as I have noted earlier--is the most interesting part of this new edition of Political Theology. Much of what Strong has to say is, of course, of an introductory nature and intended to make a wider audience familiar with Schmitt's thought.

For students who first encounter Schmitt's ideas this particularly welcome contribution situates Political Theology in the wider debates of modern political thought. Indeed, Strong's new foreword is more concise and balanced than George Schwab's original introduction, which is also included in this edition. Although the bibliographical references in the footnotes were obviously compiled in a hurry and often lack precise page numbers, places of publication, and so on, this well-written and well-researched introduction reaches far beyond Political Theology.

It might be doubted that Schmitt really was the "leading jurist during the Weimar Republic"--at least it seems so from our own point of view at the beginning of the twenty-first century, when Hugo Preuss and Kelsen are rarely read in any detail p. Schmitt clearly was the most controversial and most public of the Weimar jurists and, as a consequence, Strong is particularly interested in Schmitt's transition from conservative public lawyer in to outspoken member of the NSDAP between and Schmitt's alliance with the National Socialists is a tricky issue, especially since it tends to polarize much recent scholarship along ideological faultlines not always fruitful with regard to a better understanding of Schmitt's political and legal thought.

Strong himself opts for an interpretation that seeks to take into account the ambiguities of Schmitt's own remarks on this matter before, during and after the Second World War. Precisely because it is certain to be controversial, and precisely because it nevertheless seeks to achieve a more neutral ground, I should like to quote his interpretation at length: "The present volume, reissued with a new foreword but otherwise 'unchanged' in a second edition in November , after Schmitt had joined the Nazi party, can To see the choice that Schmitt or Heidegger, or many other German philosophers, theologians, artists, as well as people from all walks of life--not just in Germany, and not just then made as blind or ignorant or born from venal ambition, is, I think, to misunderstand their thought and their life.

It is also to sweep under the table what appeared as the appeal and apparent necessity of such a movement, and to avoid serious engagement with why it appeared as such Schmitt came, as did Heidegger, from a rural, Catholic, petit-bourgeois upbringing" pp. At least to some extent, then, Schmitt's background influenced his attraction to a radical expression of power that could be found in the absolutism of Catholic doctrine as well as in a certain understanding of the political that already gained shape in the final years of the Wilhelmine Empire.

Indeed, this attraction to power becomes obvious in his recently published diaries from to Strong thus concludes: "[I]t is the reality of taking power and manifesting sovereignty in the use of power that attracted Schmitt: his understanding of law required that he support Hitler" p. But, Strong, as we shall see, is also interested in why Schmitt remains relevant today. Written in April , Strong's foreword presents us with a detailed account of both current Schmitt scholarship and the main trends of the current reception of Schmitt's thought by both left-wing and right-wing interpreters.

Defining state sovereignty from the point of view of a decision that needs to cover the exceptional case not anticipated by existing constitutional provisions, Schmitt famously noted: "Sovereign is he who decides on the exception The assertion that the exception is truly appropriate for the juristic definition of sovereignty has a systematic, legal-logical foundation.

The decision of the exception is a decision in the true sense of the word. Because a general norm, as represented by an ordinary legal prescription, can never encompass a total exception, the decision that a real exception exists cannot therefore be entirely derived from this norm It is precisely the exception that makes relevant the subject of sovereignty, that is, the whole question of sovereignty.

The precise details of an emergency cannot be anticipated, nor can one spell out what may take place in such a case, especially when it is truly a matter of extreme emergency and how it is to be eliminated. The precondition as well as the content of jurisdictional competence in such a case must necessarily be unlimited The most guidance the constitution can provide is to indicate who can act in such a case" pp. By programmatically emphasizing that the "exception in jurisprudence is analogous to the miracle in theology," and by rejecting Kelsen's theory of a basic norm as inviting political relativism, Schmitt renders it obvious that he has little interest in the normal situation pp.

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  • Leaving aside the historical and philosophical details of Schmitt's account of the structural analogy between theology and law, it is noteworthy that one of the examples for the way in which this structural analogy has survived in modernity is the United States. Even though Schmitt, quite in contrast to Weber, repeatedly attacks the "economic-technical thinking" that marks the world of "American financiers" and "industrial technicians" as an "onslaught against the political," he nevertheless points to the continued presence of a quasi-theological foundation for American democracy, which in contrast to European liberalism supposedly highlights the deficiencies of secularization p.

    In America this manifested itself in the reasonable and pragmatic belief that the voice of the people is the voice of God" p. The idea of God allows for a broad resistance against the secularization of the political, Schmitt claims, since the latter remains "the cause and end of all things, as the point from which everything emanates and to which everything returns.

    The present US administration has ruled that certain prisoners in the 'war against terrorism' have in effect no status at all, not even that of a person charged with a crime" p.

    Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty - Paul W. Kahn - Google книги

    In April it was, of course, far from obvious that the U. Supreme Court would successfully intervene in the interpretation of such emergency powers with regard to so-called enemy combatants by ruling that "the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction," that is, the United States. But constitutional norms can also resist such changes--although it remains to be seen whether the U. Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld will have any consequences.

    Political theology and liberalism

    Against this background, the new edition of Schmitt's Political Theology is timely in an uncanny way. Most important of all, though, scholars of law and political theory and historians of the Weimar Republic once again have easy access to one of Schmitt's most important texts, which was out of print for a number of years and could only be purchased second-hand for a rather handsome amount.

    Better still, Strong's new foreword provides much-needed clarification of some of the most tricky issues in Schmitt's text. Peter C. On Kelsen, see Stanley L. See also Carl Schmitt, Legality and Legitimacy , trans. Jeffrey Seitzer, with foreword by John P.