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  • Carl Schmitt and the Global Age
  • Carlo Galli (bio)
    Translated by Elisabeth Fay (bio)


Schmitt's thought is the deconstruction of modern political theory. This is true both in internal politics, for the exception/decision theory and for the theory of the "political" (Schmitt, 1972d), which is a genealogy of the Hobbesian rational state theory, and in international politics, for the theory of nomos and the theory of the partisan (which are genealogical complications of geopolitics and state-based international right). Thus, the conflictual element in Schmitt's political thought—the enemy has an ineradicable role in the creation of order, both in the theory of the "political," in the theory of decision of the secularized theologico-political matrix, as well as in the theory of constituent power—is not an apologia for absolute conflict, but serves the orientation of order and the political unity inherent in modern political theory, not to mention Schmittian thought. In Schmitt, this functionality is never completely instrumental to the conflict of order, nor completely subordinate to it. Rather, it is the perpetual disturbance of that order by originary, [End Page 1] internal conflict, as well as the perpetual indeterminateness of order through the conflict that originally determines it.

If we consider the "political" from the viewpoint of internal politics, we see that it is the permanent presence of conflict at the origin of order and, through decision, at order's interior. It is thus a radical and determinate conflict that always exists in relation to order, inasmuch as it is a deficiency that demands and provokes a regulating political resolution. In short, the "political" is a function of deconstruction, but at the same time, performs a structuring function. It is crisis, but also order. Thus, modern political form's use of the "political" makes it architectural nihilism.

The spatial difference between internal and external—which corresponds to the distinction between enemy and criminal, war and peace, police and military—that constitutes modern politics is welcomed by Schmitt as strategic. Nonetheless, confining disorder to the exterior while keeping peace in the interior requires the state to recognize, preserve, and manage the originary disorder. For the state to be closed, capable of setting boundaries and separating order from disorder, it must be open to the "political." It must, in other words, know how to initiate both coercion to form and the coimplication of order and disorder when deciding in the case of exception.

The thesis that proposes a dialectic of Modernity is central to Schmitt's thought. Political, ideological, and material forces—a social interlacing of individualism, liberalism, liberal democracy, normativism, moralism, technology, and capitalist and communist economies—deform the state, robbing it of its sovereign governing capabilities, substituting indeterminate universality for concreteness, and requiring that the "political" take the place of economics, law, and technology (and this has been the case since the Hobbesian origin of the state). Logics of modernity run from concrete to abstract, from determinate to universal, and from political to social.

The evolution of modernity requires that decision be supplanted by reason as the origin of order. For Schmitt, reason is as much liberal discussion as it is every attempt to eliminate completely conflict and political actions and to trust instead in rational hypotheses of automatic reconciliation. Society—most of all the political organizations born within society, the political parties and advocacy groups that are the essence of democracy—invades the [End Page 2] state, and ends up transforming its own pretext of stability and form into mobilization and formlessness. The result is the "total-through-weakness state" posited by Schmitt in 1931-32, to which he opposes the total state, then the empire and the greater space. Schmitt's objective, already evident in his early work, is to oppose this drift toward modern nihilism and this abstraction of the concrete, to delay it and to combat it from the interior, to renew the capacity of modernity for concreteness by using its highest moments of crisis as points of departure, and to be able to see the katechon—the slowing, formative force of immanence processes that deal with the opening into transcendence and the irruption of the eternal, but not...


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