Carl Schmitt  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Carl Schmitt (11 July 1888 – 7 April 1985) was a German philosopher, jurist, political theorist, and professor of law.

Schmitt published several essays, influential in the 20th century and beyond, on the mentalities that surround the effective wielding of political power. His ideas have attracted the attention of numerous philosophers and political theorists, including Walter Benjamin, Leo Strauss, Jacques Derrida, Étienne Balibar, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben, Antonio Negri, Gianfranco Miglio, Paolo Virno, Slavoj Žižek, Alain Badiou, Jacob Taubes, Gillian Rose, Chantal Mouffe, Eric Voegelin, Reinhart Koselleck, Álvaro d'Ors, Ernst Jünger, Alain de Benoist, and Paul Gottfried. Much of his work, especially from the Weimar period, remains both influential and controversial today.

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Influence

Through Walter Benjamin, Giorgio Agamben, Andrew Arato, Chantal Mouffe and other writers, Schmitt has become a common reference in recent writings of the intellectual left as well as the right. These discussions concern not only the interpretation of Schmitt's own positions, but also matters relevant to contemporary politics: the idea that laws of the state cannot strictly limit actions of its sovereign, the problem of a "state of exception" (later expanded upon by Agamben).

Schmitt's argument that political concepts are secularized theological concepts has also recently been seen as consequential for those interested in contemporary political theology. The German-Jewish philosopher Jacob Taubes, for example, engaged Schmitt widely in his study of Saint Paul, The Political Theology of Paul (Stanford Univ. Press, 2004). Taubes' understanding of political theology is, however, very different from Schmitt's, and emphasizes the political aspect of theological claims, rather than the religious derivation of political claims.

Schmitt is described as a "classic of political thought" by Herfried Münkler, while in the same article Münkler speaks of his post-war writings as reflecting an: "embittered, jealous, occasionally malicious man" ("verbitterten, eifersüchtigen, gelegentlich bösartigen Mann"). Schmitt was termed the "Crown Jurist of the Third Reich" ("Kronjurist des Dritten Reiches") by Waldemar Gurian.

Timothy D. Snyder has asserted that Schmitt's work has greatly influenced Eurasianist philosophy in Russia by revealing a counter to the liberal order.

According to historian Renato Cristi in the writing of the present Constitution of Chile Pinochet collaborator Jaime Guzmán based his work on the pouvoir constituant concept used by Schmitt as well as drawing inspiration in the ideas of market society of Friedrich Hayek. This way Guzmán would have enabled a framework for an authoritarian state with a free market system.

American neoconservatism

Some have argued that neoconservatism has been influenced by Schmitt. Most notably the legal opinions offered by Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo et al. by invoking the unitary executive theory to justify highly controversial policies in the war on terror—such as introducing unlawful combatant status which purportedly would eliminate protection by the Geneva Conventions, torture, NSA electronic surveillance program—mimic his writings. Professor David Luban said in 2011 that "[a] Lexis search reveals five law review references to Schmitt between 1980 and 1990; 114 between 1990 and 2000; and 420 since 2000, with almost twice as many in the last five years as the previous five".

China

Schmitt has become an important influence on Chinese political theory in the 21st century, particularly since Xi Jinping became Party general secretary in 2012. Sinologist Flora Sapio has highlighted the friend–enemy distinction as a particular topic of interest in China, commenting, "Since Xi Jinping became China’s top leader in November 2012, the friend-enemy distinction so crucial to Carl Schmitt’s philosophy has found even wider applications in China, in both ‘Party theory’ and academic life. Leading Chinese Schmittians include the theologian Liu Xiaofeng, the public policy scholar Wang Shaoguang, and the legal theorist and government adviser Jiang Shigong.

The first important wave of Schmitt’s reception in China started with Liu's writings at the end of the 1990s. In the context of a transition period, Schmitt was used both by liberal, nationalist and conservative intellectuals to find answers to contemporary issues. In the 21st century, most of them are still concerned with state power and to what extent a strong state is required to tackle China’s modernization. Some authors consider Schmitt’s works as a weapon against liberalism. Others think that his theories are helpful for China’s development.

A critical reception of his use in a Chinese context does also exist. These differences go together with different interpretations of Schmitt’s relation with fascism. While some scholars regard him as a faithful follower of fascism, others, such as Liu Xiaofeng, consider his support to the National Socialist regime only as instrumental and attempt to separate his works from their historical context. According to them, his real goal is to pave a different and unique way for the modernization of Germany—precisely what makes him interesting for China. Generally speaking, the Chinese reception is ambivalent: quite diverse and dynamic, but also highly ideological. Other scholars are cautious when it comes to Schmitt’s arguments for state power, considering the danger of totalitarianism, they assume at the same time that state power is necessary for the current transition and that a “dogmatic faith” in liberalism is unsuitable for China. By emphasizing the danger of social chaos, many of them agree with Schmitt—beyond their differences—on the necessity of a strong state.


See also




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