Carl Schmitt—Political Theologian? - Aaron Roberts

Monday, November 30, 2015

Aaron Roberts, a recent Duke Ph.D., published in The Review of Politics.  Roberts' research interests concern the intersection of contemporary, normative political theory and the history of political thought.

“Political theology” is now a fixture within political theory's lexicon. Although Carl Schmitt's Political Theology (1922) is identified as the contemporary locus classicus for the concept, that work's primary task is only to elaborate a “sociology of juristic concepts.” Beginning in the 1990s, however, Schmitt's entire corpus has increasingly been interpreted as one motivated by “political theology” in a stronger sense—as political action based upon faith in (Christian) revelation. I challenge this thesis by (1) examining its history, (2) drawing attention to the many aspects of Schmitt's (mostly Weimar-era) work that are deeply at odds with this thesis, and (3) reexamining his (mostly postwar) remarks ordinarily cited to bolster the thesis. Ultimately, the core of Schmitt's thought lies elsewhere; returning to the purported father of political theology brings clarity to the bourgeoning discussion of this topic within the discipline.

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