The political theorist Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) published his most important work in the 1920s and 1930s—in German. Though he lived to the age of 97, almost all of his postwar publications were cautious elaborations of themes he had deployed before the Second World War.
The most remarkable thing about Schmitt is his appeal to contemporary academics in the English-speaking world. Of the 13 books by Schmitt now available in English, all but three have appeared for the first time in English (or in new, revised editions) since 2004. By the far the most citations to Schmitt in (English-language) academic publications are from the past decade.
There are, I think, three explanations for Schmitt’s strange literary afterlife in the 21st century. To begin with, Schmitt was a professor of law and political science. He analyzed contradictions in constitutional doctrines and international law formulas, remaining close to the plane of political life. That makes him more interesting than the academic Marxists, flailing through reams of economic data, or the “cultural theorists,” with their fixation on ephemeral “signifiers.” Schmitt kept his eye on political power and how we talk about the exercise of political power.
Second, Schmitt was a Nazi. He was a full member of the Nazi Party throughout its time in power and did not repudiate the Nazis after the war. As Hollywood, the History Channel, and book publishers know, Nazis command market share. They remain our foremost image of evil and evil has an enduring fascination.
Part of the Schmitt renaissance was fed by the intensity—or hysteria—of debate surrounding American responses to the 9/11 attacks. Professors shrieked in rage over supposed parallels between this or that Bush administration policy and this or that teaching of the Nazi theorist Carl Schmitt.
That is far from the whole story of the Schmitt revival, however. The fascination with Schmitt preceded the Bush administration, and those most fascinated were overwhelmingly on the Left. There is a good reason, moreover, for Schmitt’s appeal to people on the Left. He was a fierce critic of liberalism. He made liberal pieties look empty, insipid, deluded. He practiced intellectual negation on a grand scale. He condemned the Enlightenment for dissolving political commitment into a smothering consensus. He did not so much advocate an alternative political program as an alternative political mood. And the mood nurtured by Schmitt encouraged extreme stances.
Schmitt was an existentialist before the term existentialism became popular. He called his doctrine “decisionism” but it amounted to much the same thing. In the postwar period, Schmitt welcomed interest in his work from intellectuals of quite varied stripes, even French Leftists. He corresponded with them and sometimes received them at his home in the Rhineland. One could fairly describe Schmitt as a precursor of postmodernism. He beckoned to something beyond the staid calculations of modern bourgeois society— something with more passion and more excitement.
It surely sounded better in the original German—and before it was so clear where this would all lead. Tracy Strong, in his introduction to a new edition of Schmitt’s most famous work, The Concept of the Political, says the resurgence of interest in Schmitt was eased by the emergence of new generations of scholars who did not have personal memories of the Nazi era. No doubt. But the Schmitt revival also reflects a tide of academic disdain for the liberal institutions and principles that Schmitt had so mocked.
Today’s academics no longer think of fascism as the alternative. But they are anxious to show they are not taken in by liberal pieties. Schmitt seems to offer at least some academics a thrill they don’t get elsewhere. Certainly they don’t get the same thrill from Liberty Classics.
The Nazi Thing
Almost every English edition of a Schmitt work offers an introduction by some earnest academic, acknowledging Schmitt’s service to the Third Reich but then trying to reassure the reader that he was not really an unthinking worshipper of Adolf Hitler. Schmitt did not join the Nazi Party until three months after Hitler became Chancellor. He did not write in support of racial theory. He did not offer explicit arguments for mass murder. He remained in an academic post during the war. Even his political activities were largely confined to academic circles. He was criticized by an SS publication in 1937 and kept a rather low profile thereafter.
Still, his connection to the National Socialists was not just a matter of misdirected careerism. In the 1920s, Schmitt had argued for the exercise of presidential emergency powers to protect the constitutional order. He also wrote quite a lot in disparagement of parliamentary authority and in praise of dictatorship. He did not criticize Hitler’s assumption of dictatorial powers after the Reichstag fire of February 1933. In fact, he published an essay praising the decisive steps by which the Nazis seized total power.
So far from criticizing the Nazi takeover of the Prussian regional government (whose elected leaders were not Nazis), Schmitt defended the Preussenschlag before the German courts—with arguments meant to confirm the end of ordinary legality. Schmitt did not criticize the abrupt execution of Brownshirt leaders in 1934. He openly praised that murderous exercise of extralegal power. He assumed the presidency of the National Socialist Jurists Association and did not shrink, in that role, from talking about the need to cleanse German law of Jewish influence. He is not known to have exerted himself to do anything to help Jewish colleagues who found themselves in great peril.
More telling, perhaps, than what Schmitt did do in the 1930s is what he did not do after 1945. He never expressed remorse for his own actions or offered any political analysis of how or why Germany took such a disastrously wrong turn in the Weimar years. In August of 1945, he prepared a memo for a German industrialist, arguing that the Allies would be justified in prosecuting perpetrators of actual atrocities but not those who supported the government in other ways. He insisted that no one could be held legally responsible for waging war.
One could say that Schmitt was too proud to grovel in apology or dissimulate a change of heart. In private, he expressed disgust at the eagerness of so many former supporters of the Nazi regime to reinvent themselves as good democrats. It was not an edifying spectacle. As the anti-Nazi writer Erich Kastner said in 1945, postwar Germany experienced an “epidemic of innocence.” Still, Schmitt was not even prepared to distance himself from his own pre-war writings—writings that helped nurture the mood of contempt for parliamentary liberalism in which National Socialism took root. Schmitt refused to submit to the de-Nazification procedure required to hold an academic post after the war, seeking instead to revive his reputation through republication of pre-war works, with very slight revisions. His postwar writings elaborated similar themes, without any acknowledgement of rethinking.
If Schmitt was not a convinced Nazi, he was certainly a nihilist. Heinrich Meier, a Munich-based scholar of German thought, has argued that Schmitt was, at heart, a believer in theological absolutes—a kind of Christian. But while Schmitt praised the authority structure of the Catholic Church in the 1920s, his writings say nothing about love, forgiveness, resurrection, redemption, nor anything of substance about Jesus. Schmitt published a new set of essays in 1967 called Political Theology II. The book expresses disdain for the liberalizing doctrines of the Second Vatican Council. It speaks as respectfully of Islam (“whose political relevance is immense and whose theological significance is undisputable”) and pagan mythology as of Christianity. Schmitt’s analysis is pitched at such a high level of abstraction, it might apply as well to some form of Satanism.
Schmitt praised what he called “decisionism”—taking a stand without hesitation. In effect, he praised intensity of commitment, without regard to its content. That is the essence of nihilism. Schmitt worked hard to persuade his readers that it was the essence of politics.
The Concept of the Political
The Concept of the Political, first published in 1927, remains Schmitt’s most famous work. It distinguishes different “domains” of modern life by their gravity. Where economics concerns gain and loss, where culture attends to the beautiful and the ugly, the “domain” of “the political” centers on the distinction between “friends and enemies.” Modern liberals, says Schmitt, try to dissolve “the political” into economics, culture, other “domains,” with the half-conscious intent of “neutralizing” conflict. But a world without conflict, Schmitt argues, is a world where no one can be asked to risk his life.
Leo Strauss, then a young scholar in Germany, published a brief commentary on Schmitt’s essay in 1932, respectful in tone but devastating in its central thrust. Strauss points out that Schmitt’s analysis never fully escapes the assumptions of liberal thought, so it ends up advocating “liberalism with a minus sign.” Liberals seek harmony, Schmitt seeks conflict—but with no clearer aim or grounding than that expressed by advocates of total toleration.
There is, of course, something exasperating about open-ended tolerance. To tolerate everything is to stand against nothing. One who stands against nothing is likely to be run over by those with more conviction. As Robert Frost said, “a liberal is someone who won’t take his own side in an argument.” On the other hand, no sane person wants to fight everyone. If you do have enemies, you will need friends, and it is usually better to have more friends than fewer—a very compelling argument for learning to tolerate the quirks of your friends (or potential friends) and to think carefully about your priorities when you identify enemies.
Strauss’s essay thus notes the fact that Schmitt cites, seemingly with approval, Thomas Hobbes’ famous depiction of man’s natural state as a war of all against all. But in Hobbes’ account (as Strauss notes), this condition is so dreadful that it prompts men to recognize a natural law that teaches submission to authority as a path to peace. Schmitt’s exposition, emphasizing conflict not between individuals but between groups, makes no effort to explain why some groups can be regarded as potential friends and others as necessary (or appropriate) enemies.
Schmitt actually goes to some trouble to deny that our attitude toward “the enemy” must be one of hatred. A serious enemy may properly earn our respect. Schmitt seems to deny that we can recognize the enemy by reference to some general theory. No one, he insists, will fight for an abstract theory; to ask men to do so would be grotesque. What defines the enemy is “existential threat”—but what determines an existential threat seems to be a matter of . . . sheer feeling, because it is not to be reasoned about.
Where The Concept of the Political seems to gesture toward foreign states as the ultimate enemy, the logic is hard to confine to foreigners—as Strauss gently noted. Certainly Schmitt, who notices many precedents from many countries, has nothing good to say about wartime legislative coalitions, as in Britain where Liberals and Conservatives put aside their differences in the midst of the Great War and even embraced the young Labour Party in a wartime coalition.
Schmitt expressed contempt for parliamentary government, even in the 1920s. The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy (1923) argued that parliamentary government was government by discussion, a 19th century ideal that no longer made sense in the modern world—precisely because the 19th century was still dominated by aristocrats, while the 20th century was an age of mass democracy. As Schmitt explained in the Preface to the second edition (1926): “modern mass democracy has made argumentive [sic] public discussion an empty formality.” The formalities of open parliamentary debate in public sessions, he wrote,
function like a superfluous decoration, useless and even embarrassing, as though someone had painted the radiator of a modern central heating system with red flames in order to give the appearance of a blazing fire.
The party formations in a modern parliament, he went on,
do not face each other today discussing opinions, but as social or economic power-groups calculating their mutual interests and opportunities for power . . . The masses are won over through a propaganda apparatus whose maximum effect relies on an appeal to immediate interests and passions.
Or not even that: in their “treatment of the masses,” party leaders offer, “posterlike, insistent suggestion or . . . the ‘symbol.’” In the last pages of the book, Schmitt observed that Mussolini’s fascist government had deployed the most effective “symbols.”
Modern democracy, in Schmitt’s account, is an appeal to the group—and not primarily the interest group but to the solidarity of the mass formation:
Every actual democracy rests on the principle that not only are equals equal but unequals will not be treated equally. Democracy requires, therefore, first homogeneity and second—if need arises—elimination or eradication of heterogeneity.
He cites, in illustration, Mustafa Kemal’s Turkish Republic, which established itself as a “modern democracy” by “its radical expulsion of the Greeks” from Turkish territory. Modern Australia, too, restricts immigration to “the right type of settler” (that is, whites):
A democracy demonstrates its political power by knowing how to refuse or keep at bay something foreign and unequal that threatens its homogeneity. The question of equality is precisely not one of abstract, logical-arithmetical games. . . . Equality is only interesting and valuable politically so long as it has substance and for that reason at least the possibility and the risk of inequality.
Schmitt’s account of “democracy” is not about “inclusion” or even about individual rights but almost the opposite: It is about the claim of “the masses” to enforce “homogeneity” within their political community. Reading such passages in retrospect, one looks for hints that “democracy” in Germany will require “elimination” of Jews or homosexuals or communists. But the whole argument is pitched at such a level of abstraction that it remains very hard to say who should be excluded—or in political terms, defined as a domestic “enemy.” The actual “substance” of “democracy” is not a matter of choosing effective means to achieve some particular ends but of expressing some higher form of solidarity, and with it, some form of rejection or repudiation.
In the same year that he first published his attack on parliamentary government, Schmitt also published a set of essays under the title, Political Theology. It, too, emphasizes symbols: “Every political concept originates in a theological concept. Sovereignty of state [derives] from sovereignty of God.” Whether the claim applies to “every political concept”—and I am dubious—one might think it reflects continuities in Western thought: as medieval Scholastics borrowed from Greek philosophers, so later thinkers borrowed from medieval predecessors. Schmitt’s appeal to theology, however, is not to a tradition of thought but to unarguable premises. For him, political concepts have “sociological power,” not because they are “self-evident” but precisely because they are dark and mysterious. In one of the essays in Political Theology II (1967), Schmitt suggests that Christian theology is powerful because doctrines of the Trinity could not be assimilated to reasoning and must therefore “command” belief.
The Law and the Exception
Schmitt’s disdain for parliamentary debate should have made him a promoter of executive authority. And in a way, he was that. In the 1920s, he advocated a broad interpretation of the emergency powers of the Reich President under the Weimar constitution, years before President Hindenburg was persuaded to exercise those powers. In his book on parliamentary government, Schmitt even gives a respectful (and mostly accurate) summary of the famous argument in Federalist 70 for “energy in the executive.”
So in recent years, even scholars with no totalitarian yearnings have invoked Schmitt’s authority to defend active administrative responses to foreign threats and domestic crises. Legal scholars Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule, in their 2010 book, The Executive Unbound, appeal to Schmitt’s “essential insights,” describing his work as “the best general analysis of institutional capacities and crisis management in the administrative state”—while assuring readers that they “reject his political extremism” and “will dispense with Schmitt’s more jurisprudential and abstract claims.”
In fact Schmitt’s legal doctrine is inseparable from its underlying “political extremism” and couched in such a way as to incite an extremist contempt for law. Schmitt’s most widely cited dictum appears in the first line of the first essay in the original edition of Political Theology: “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.” Schmitt immediately goes on to explain that the definition clarifies “a general concept in the theory of the state and [is] not merely a construct applied to any emergency decree or state of siege.”
In Schmitt’s analysis, the exception takes priority over the rule—not just at a moment of crisis, but in principle, because when the exception arrives, it proves who or what is really “calling the shots” (as we still say in English). “The exception is more interesting than the rule. The rule proves nothing; the exception proves everything.” Lest one mistake the point, he quotes Søren Kierkegaard: “Endless talk about the general becomes boring . . . the general is not thought about with passion but with a comfortable superficiality. The exception, on the other hand, thinks the general with intense passion.”
In Political Theology, as in later works, Schmitt expends many words in attacking the doctrines of German scholars who identified the state with its law. He focuses with particular critical energy on Hans Kelsen, the Austrian scholar whose Pure Theory of Law (1934) argued (in a neo-Kantian spirit) for a law expounded through logical deductions (and without regard for distracting policy concerns) from the fundamental grundnorm of the particular state, whatever it might be. Not coincidentally, Kelsen is often credited with inventing the notion of a separate constitutional court. (He served on the first such court, in the new Austrian Republic, formed after World War I.)
Schmitt derides the unreality of legalist doctrines like Kelsen’s. They do not explain how the law came to be authoritative—the political action that established the actual regime that lays down its particular laws. And they do not explain the central question, which is not so much “the norm of decision,” but “who should decide.” “What matters for the reality of legal life is who decides.” Schmitt sums up “Kelsen’s jurisprudence” as
the ideology of the lawyer-bureaucrat practicing in changing political circumstances, who, under the most diverse forms of authority and with a relativistic superiority over the momentary political authority, seeks to order systematically the positive decrees and regulations that are handed down to him.
There is, of course, something to this argument. Though Schmitt did not say so, Kelsen’s own career might illustrate the point. His tenure on Austria’s constitutional court was brief: he was removed for finding a right to divorce in the Austrian constitution, to the fury of the governing Catholic party.
Schmitt goes far in the other direction. He emphasizes the authority that founds and maintains the state—which is, in his account, always the political reality behind the routine of the law. In the 19th century, Hegel offered similar arguments in support of the importance of monarchical authority, even in a parliamentary state generally committed to the rule of law (as the Prussian kingdom of that age liked to think of itself).
One might, accordingly, have expected Schmitt to write a book in praise of monarchy. That was, after all, the established form of government in Germany until the revolution of November 1918, only a bit before Schmitt published the works that brought him fame. Nonetheless Schmitt’s first big book was not “Monarchy,” or even “Executive Power,” but Dictatorship, which first appeared in 1921. Schmitt expressed fascination with dictatorship even before he first published his critique of parliamentary government.
The central argument of Dictatorship is that, at least since Roman times, political writers have distinguished the sovereign’s routine authority from the special “commission” delegated to a temporary official for accomplishing special missions or coping with special circumstances. But the subtheme of the book is that, to the extent that these differ in practice, it is the temporary dictator who deserves more admiration, since he is the transformational figure. Writes Schmitt:
Dictatorship does not suspend an existing constitution through a law based on the constitution—a constitutional law; rather it seeks to create conditions in which a constitution – a constitution that it regards as the true one – is made possible.
Here, as elsewhere, Schmitt cites an impressive range of sources and historical precedents, but he often seems to shade them to his own ends. He speaks of President Lincoln’s “argument”—identifying it as the “first and foremost” example of such an argument in modern times—that “when the body of the constitution is under threat, it must be safeguarded through a temporary suspension of the constitution.” Left unmentioned is the fact that the courts and the U.S. Congress continued to operate throughout the Civil War, ensuring that Lincoln’s departures from strict legality (most of which did have some claim to legality) were kept in bounds and held to account.
In Political Theology, when arguing for the transposition of theological concepts to political categories, Schmitt observes that “the omnipotent God became the omnipotent lawgiver.” But then: “The exception in jurisprudence is analogous to the miracle in theology.” A few pages later, he gives another illustration from American history:
In America this [‘political metaphysics’] manifested itself in the reasonable and pragmatic belief that the voice of the people is the voice of God—a belief that is at the foundation of Jefferson’s victory in 1801.
Any older “theology” simply disappears, along with the actual, historical Jefferson who said—in reference to slavery—“I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.”
In fact, what disappears from Schmitt’s account of law and the exception is any sense that individuals have rights with some claim to respect from the law or from the authorities, even when the latter introduce exceptions to the law. In The Concept of the Political, Schmitt salutes the Austrian socialist who characterized rents as “tribute” enforced by the state against owners, and pours scorn on the notion that “private law” (the law protecting private property, private contracts and so on) stands on ground that is any less subject to political challenge than “public law” (regarding government powers and organization). Everything is potentially political, and determining the bounds or application of “the political” is itself a political choice.
Viewed in this way, the difference between “law” and “exception” is bound to seem formalistic. In fact, Kelsen famously said (in the early 1930s) that “pure law” could function in a dictatorship, demonstrating the reach of his own formalism. Schmitt shared the prevailing view in German jurisprudence that “law” is merely what is posited by political authority. He was simply more rigorous in drawing out the implication: that all law remains fundamentally “political” and “the political” is a “domain” beyond law.
The Law of Nations Without a Law of Nature
Given Schmitt’s emphasis on conflict, on sovereignty and the exception, he might have been expected to treat international law with complete disdain. But in fact he devoted considerable attention to international law in the later stages of his career. And despite initial appearances, what he wrote about international law follows, in a way, from the main themes of his earlier work.
In the 1920s, The Concept of the Political did seem to dismiss the reality of international law as contrasted with the reality of existential struggle:
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 in killing each other . . . If such physical destruction of human life is not motivated by an existential threat to one’s own way of life, then it cannot be justified.
To claim that a state fights for “humanity” is a delusion—or a rhetorical ploy:
When a state fights its political enemy in the name of humanity, it is not a war for the sake of humanity but a war wherein a particular state seeks to usurp a universal concept against its military opponent . . . in the same way as one can misuse [slogans like] peace, justice, progress and civilization in order to claim these as one’s own and to deny the same to the enemy.
But even here, Schmitt protests that the rhetorical evasions promoted by liberal states encourage a kind of extremism. Under liberal projects like the League of Nations, he writes,
War is condemned but . . . international police and measures to assure peace remain. The adversary is no longer called an enemy but a disturber of peace and is thereby designated to be an outlaw of humanity. A war waged to protect or expand economic power must, with the aid of propaganda, turn into a crusade and into the last war of humanity.
He later developed the underlying point in a 1937 article in a German scholarly journal, “The Turn to the Discriminating Concept of War.” It contrasts the doctrines advanced by advocates of the League of Nations with earlier understandings of war. The traditional view, in Schmitt’s telling, was that every sovereign state gets to decide for itself when to resort to war, whereas the League’s advocates assume a world in which belligerents can compel other states to accept their view of what wars are allowed. Schmitt’s 1938 book on Hobbes, The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes, summed up the claim this way:
By gathering moral energies that permit themselves to be mobilized in the struggle against ‘Machiavellism,’ the shapers of Anglo-Saxon world propaganda and American President Wilson were able to stage a modern ‘crusade of democracy’ and direct it at Germany.
In some of his post-1945 writings, Schmitt praised the international law of earlier times for acknowledging that states could fight wars that did not require treating the enemy as an international outlaw. He blamed the United States (and President Wilson in particular) for promoting a view of war as a moral crusade. The underlying logic seems more respectful of law—in a way. Non-states resorting to arms were, he insisted, rightly viewed as outlaws. The advent of “the partisan”—in World War II and in subsequent colonial conflicts—marked the advent of truly “total war,” no longer mediated by the authority of states. From this perspective, Schmitt argued that the older law of Europe had exerted a moderating effect by limiting to sovereign states rightful claims of force. Still, he insisted that in conflicts between states, each state must decide for itself what measures were necessary.
A similar logic was reflected in Schmitt’s contemporaneous remark about the Nuremberg trials: The Germans were punished for committing crimes against humanity while Americans were congratulated for committing crimes for humanity—against the Germans.
It is classic Schmitt, perfectly illustrating his capacity to infuriate—while still planting a nagging doubt. The truth is that the bombing of German cities in World War II was pursued with great determination and very few scruples, which made it much easier to pursue similar tactics against Japan, culminating in the dropping of two atomic bombs. It was not supposed to be direct war on civilians but civilians suffered greatly in the effort to gain military advantage from disrupting the industry of the Axis powers. If it was not much debated at the time, it has spurred plenty of debate since.
And yet, Schmitt’s equation of Allied and German war practices rests on a weird sort of legalism that brings symmetry only by abstracting from the most urgent moral claims. Schmitt could not deny that, on his own premises, the Allies were entitled to grant themselves exceptions from the normal rules against targeting civilians, after they gained the preponderance of power in the skies. Determining whether it was a proper course or not would mean appealing to the spirit of earlier norms against such attacks, something that the doctrines of Carl Schmitt would not help anyone to analyze. A defense of Allied strategy would require giving some thought to how the general rule should apply in the circumstances—and some thought to the meaning or purpose of the general rule.
Here, as elsewhere, Schmitt plays on the weak side of liberalism, its penchant for abstract formulas, for legalism, for willful blindness to a variety of human distinctions. Liberalism wants property rights for the rich and the poor, for the fruit of prolonged effort and for a windfall from a lucky investment. It wants to extend the same toleration to religious communities organized around centuries of considered practice as to yesterday’s improvised cult. It protects the speech of the learned scholar and the crackpot dabbler. And it asserts the equality of nations, not only the powerful and the weak, the rich and the poor, but the productive and the turbulent, the peaceful and the belligerent.
In real life, governments constantly find ways to work around the abstractions—to accommodate differences where these need to be considered. Political decisions do often seem to turn on our willingness to look beyond abstraction and notice who—what kinds of people—are seeking exceptions or demanding the benefits of the general rule. And it is hardly unknown for political decision-makers to give some attention to whether such claimants are loyal supporters or determined opponents.
Schmitt annoys and intrigues by playing on what is often the strength of liberalism: its refusal to get entangled in divisive or contested distinctions, while affirming broadly appealing principles—though often these principles do have broad appeal because each of us may interpret them in his own way. Thus the United States insists that it adheres to international law—but to its own interpretation of international law. Most Americans are devoted to the Constitution but not to every interpretation of it laid down by a majority of the Supreme Court.
Still, general rules often do matter. They help to organize the categories in which we see the world. One can’t see any particular thing without noticing the general category to which it belongs. Schmitt himself argued against abstractions at a very abstract level. When it most mattered, even liberals, distracted and confused by so much else, had little trouble recognizing the fundamental difference between Schmitt’s friends and their friends.
As the United States mobilized for war in the early 1940s, it demanded loyal assistance even from those to whom it denied full rights of citizenship. A journalist asked the prizefighter Joe Louis how he could serve in a segregated army. He said, “Whatever is wrong with America is not going to be fixed by Hitler.” It was a very sound assessment.
And a reminder that, even when political thinking requires some attention to friends and enemies, it is safer to think about which is which—and not limit yourself to one thought only. Whatever is wrong with liberalism is not going to be fixed by Carl Schmitt.
 Heinrich Meier, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue (University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp. 75-79.
At the outset of his provocative Liberty Forum essay, Jeremy Rabkin notes that the most remarkable thing about Carl Schmitt is “his appeal to contemporary academics in the English-speaking world.” Schmitt’s literary afterlife and the current level of interest in his works are, indeed, surprising given his infamous political trajectory and his ambiguous and unconvincing…
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