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📙 Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought) by Carl Schmitt, George Schwab — free download


This book was becoming too influential to remain out of print for long, and its first sentence alone --"sovereign is he who decides on the exception"-- has likely been cited by more scholars than have ever actually read the second sentence. Still, though influenced by second-hand readings of Schmitt, most scholars manage to get quite a bit right about Schmitt's thesis, if only because it is simple, aphoristic and open-ended. Whatever its merits-- and there are many-- there is much to take exception with in Schmitt's book and in the concepts it has influenced. The notion of "the exception" requires particularly rigorous clarification because it has too often been elevated to the political-theological realm, been imbued with a fierce alterity or normless negativity, and sometime de-secularized as an equivalent of a miracle. Part of this is conflation of two senses of "exceptional": (1) "Norm vs. exception", which is a juridical distinction; and (2) the notion of "ordinary vs. extraordinary," which is more of a cultural or aesthetic distinction. The first of these-- the more banal definition-- is the one that is relevant to legal issues [OED: "The action of excepting (a person or thing, a particular case) from the scope of a proposition, rule, etc.; the state or fact of being so excepted. Something abnormal or unusual; contrasted with the rule"]. In political-theological terms, however, "The exception in jurisprudence is analogous the miracle in theology." Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters On The Concept Of Sovereignty (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985), 36. This is fine as an analogy, but Schmitt-- elsewhere rigorous about separating politics, aesthetics, economics, etc.-- here drags "the miracle" back into the juridical realm. In this way Schmitt's theory that "Sovereign is he who decides [in and upon] the state of exception" can be rephrased in Weberian terms as the "charismatic" exceptional: a "certain quality" "not accessible to the ordinary person." The personal qualities unique also claim that this person, in extraordinary times will be revealed to be the true sovereign. This lends itself to the unreflective conflation of the two senses of the word "exception" and inflects sovereignty with the cult of charisma.

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