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  • Theorising Schmitt’s Friend-Enemy through Deleuzian Folding and First-Person Shooters
  • Ian Cook (bio)

The friend-enemy distinction is one of the most influential concepts of modern politics. It dominates both theory and practice in international relations and conditions the imaginations of political leaders and those they lead. For realists, friend-enemy manifests an individual disposition writ large, as they project a Hobbesian conception of the state of nature onto an international level. War, for Hobbes, “is first and foremost a de facto condition of human nature,” and is a result of “the passions of human beings” (Thivet 2008, 702, 705). For realists, “states are motivated by a survival instinct…” (Maoz, Terris, Kuperman, and Talmud 2007, 101). Schmitt’s importance, in this context, is as “the forerunner of political realism, as exemplified in the work of Hans Morgenthau, E. H. Carr and Hedley Bull” (Chandler 2008, 45). Indeed, unlike the approach of the Greeks of the classical era, who “did not place friendship directly into a relation to war…[,] the modern notion of ‘the friend’ already includes this relation in the opposition between ‘the friend’ and ‘the enemy’, as Schmitt has already argued in The Concept of the Political…” (Lambert 2008, 44).

Schmitt’s views on the nature of friend-enemy, however, can also be read against the background of Deleuze’s work, and this gives them a different character. In this article, Schmitt’s notion of the autonomy of the political will be read in terms of Deleuze’s concepts of fold, vinculum, strata, and plateau. Rather than treat friend-enemy as an existential, ethical, economic, or psychological distinction, it will be read as a distinction constituted through the folds of the political.

While Schmitt was sometimes unable to maintain the separateness of the political, by insisting that friend-enemy belongs to the political and to no other stratum or plateau, Schmitt provides an opportunity for theorising this distinction in Deleuzian terms. In short, friend-enemy is a monad produced through the folds that constitute the political. Crucially, the political is a stratum or plateau that is at a distance from, and has minimal contact with, [End Page 215] other strata or plateaus. Some of the implications of this are explained through a discussion of friend-enemy as it is enfolded in first-person shooters (FPSs), with particular reference to the other folds that some gamers seek to enfold with those of FPS gaming.

This article is in four parts. The first presents Schmitt’s ideas concerning friend-enemy and the political. Deleuze’s ideas concerning enfolding are then introduced. The third part reconceives Schmitt’s ideas concerning the political in a Deleuzian manner. Two sections comprise the fourth, and final, part, in which the understanding of friend-enemy presented is applied to FPSs. The first of these sections outlines of the characteristics of FPSs. The second is a demonstration of the ways that FPSs express Schmitt’s friend-enemy as understood through Deleuze’s concept of enfolding.

Schmitt’s Friend-Enemy Distinction and the Political

Friend-enemy is, for Schmitt, at the very heart of the political. “The…political can be understood only in the context of the ever present possibility of the friend-and-enemy grouping…” (Schmitt 1996, 35). Indeed, “the possibility which underlies every political idea [is]…the distinction of friend and enemy” (35). While other bases for constituting like and unlike exist, it is only when they produce the friend-enemy effect that they express and instantiate the political. Thus, “every religious, moral, economic, ethical, or other antithesis transforms into a political one if it is sufficiently strong to group human beings effectively according to friend and enemy” (37). For Schmitt, “an enemy exists only when…one fighting collectivity of people confronts a similar collectivity. The enemy is solely the public enemy…” (28). For “a private person has no political enemies” (51).

Individuals do not determine friend-enemy; this is the role of the state. “In its entirety the state as an organized political entity decides for itself the friend-enemy distinction” (29–30). For Schmitt, friend-enemy must be understood in a “concrete and existential sense” and not “in a private-individualistic sense...


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