Suite à la demande de nombreux visiteurs des sites http://euro-synergies.hautetfort.com et http://vouloir.hautetfort.com, qui souhaitaient avoir un accès direct aux textes que j'avais personnellement écrits, j'ai décidé de les consigner sur un blog personnel. Celui-ci s'adresse essentiellement à ceux qui, pour des raisons diverses, ont décidé de faire des recherches sur certaines aventures "métapolitiques" des quatre dernières décennies.
Je leur souhaite bon travail.
met Carl Schmitt in the village of Plettenberg, the place of his birth
and retirement. For four remarkable hours we conversed with the man who
remains unquestionably the greatest political and legal thinker of our
time. “We have been put out to pasture,” said Schmitt. “We are like
domestic animals who enjoy
the benefits of the closed field we are allotted. Space is conquered.
The borders are fixed. There is nothing more to discover. It is the
reign of the status quo . . .”
always warned against this frozen order, which extends over the Earth
and ruins political sovereignties. Already in 1928, in The Concept of the Political,
he detects in the universalist ideologies, those “of Rights, or
Humanity, or Order, or Peace,” the project of transforming the planet
into a kind of depoliticized economic aggregate which he compares to a
“bus with its passengers” or a “building with its tenants.” And in this
premonition of a world of the death of nations and cultures, the culprit
is not Marxism but the liberal and commercial democracies. Thus Schmitt
offers one of the most acute and perspicacious criticisms of
liberalism, far more profound and original than the “anti-democrats” of
the old reactionary
also continues the “realist” manner of analyzing of politics and the
state, in the tradition of Bodin, Hobbes, and Machiavelli. Equally
removed from liberalism and modern totalitarian theories (Bolshevism and
fascisms), the depth and the modernity of his views make him the most
important contemporary political and constitutional legal theorist. This
is why we can follow him, while of course trying to go beyond some of
his analyses, as his French disciple Julien Freund, at the height of his
powers, has already done.
intellectual journey of the Rhenish political theorist began with
reflections on law and practical politics to which he devoted two works,
in 1912 and 1914, at the end of its academic studies in Strasbourg.
After the war, having become a law professor at the universities of
Berlin and Bonn, his thoughts were focused on political science.
Schmitt, against the liberal philosophies of the Right, refused to
separate it from politics.
His first work of political theory, Political Romanticism (1919),
is devoted to a critique of political romanticism which he opposes to
realism. To Schmitt, the millennialist ideals of the revolutionary
Communists and the völkisch reveries of the reactionaries seemed
equally unsuitable to the government of the people. His second great theoretical work, Die Diktatur [Dictatorship]
(1921), constitutes, as Julien Freund writes, “one of the most
complete and most relevant studies of this concept, whose history is
analyzed from the Roman epoch up to Machiavelli and Marx.”
distinguishes “dictatorship” from oppressive “tyranny.” Dictatorship
appears as a method of government intended to face emergencies. In the
Roman tradition, the dictator’s function was to confront exceptional
conditions. But Machiavelli introduces a different practice; he helps to
envision “the modern State,” founded on rationalism, technology, and
the powerful role of a complex executive: this executive no longer
relies upon the sole sovereign.
shows that with the French jurist Jean Bodin, dictatorship takes to the
form of a “practice of the commissars” which arose in the sixteen and
seventeenth centuries. The “commissars” are omnipotent delegates of the
central power. Royal absolutism, established on its subordinates, like
the Rousseauist model of the social contract which delegates absolute
power to the holders of the “general will” set up by the French
revolution, constitutes the foundation of contemporary forms of
From this point of view,
modern dictatorship is not connected with any particular political
ideology. Contrary to the analyses of today’s constitutionalists,
especially Maurice Duverger, “democracy” is no more free of dictatorship
than is any other form of state power. Democrats are simply deceiving
themselves to think that they are immune to recourse to dictatorship and
that they reconcile real executive power with pragmatism and the
transactions of the parliamentary systems.
In a fundamental study on parliamentarism, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy (1923),
Schmitt ponders the identification of democracy and parliamentarism. To
him, democracy seems to be an ideological and abstract principle that
masks specific modalities of power, a position close to those of
Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca. The exercise of power in “democracy”
is subject to a rationalist conception of
the state which justified, for example, the idea of the separation of
powers, the supposedly harmonious dialogue between parties, and
ideological pluralism. It is also the rationality of history that founds
the dictatorship of the proletariat. Against the democratic and
parliamentarian currents, Schmitt places the “irrationalist” currents,
particularly Georges Sorel and his theory of violence, as well as all
non-Marxist critiques of bourgeois society, for example Max Weber.
liberal bourgeois ideology deceives everyone by viewing all political
activity according to the categories of ethics and economics. This
illusion, moreover, is shared by liberal or Marxist socialist
ideologies: the function of public power is no longer anything but
economic and social. Spiritual, historical, and military values are no
longer legitimate. Only the economy is moral, which makes it possible to
validate commercial individualism and at the same time invoke humane
ideals: the Bible and business. This moralization of politics not only
destroys all true morals but transforms political unity into neutralized
“society” where the sovereign function is no longer able to defend the
people for whom it is responsible.
approach consists in analyzing the political phenomenon independently
of all moral presuppositions. Like Machiavelli and Hobbes, with whom he
is often compared, Schmitt renounces appeals to the finer feelings and
the soteriology of final ends. His philosophy is as opposed to the
ideology of the Enlightenment (Locke, Hume, Montesquieu, Rousseau,
etc.) and the various Marxian socialisms as it is to Christian political
humanism. For him, these ideologies are utopian in their wariness of
power and tend to empty out the political by identifying it with evil,
even if it is allowed temporarily—as in the case of Marxism.
the essence of Schmitt’s critique relates to liberalism and humanism,
which he accuses of deception and hypocrisy. These theories view the
activity of public power as purely routine administration dedicated to
realizing individual happiness and social harmony. They are premised on
the ultimate disappearance of politics as such and the end of history.
They wish to make collective life purely prosaic but manage only to
create social jungles dominated by economic exploitation and incapable
of mastering unforeseen circumstances.
subject to this type of liberalism are always frustrated in their
dreams of transforming politics into peaceful administration: other
states, motivated by hostile intentions, or internal sources of
political subversion, always emerge at unforeseen moments. When a state,
through idealism or misunderstood moralism, no longer places its
sovereign political will above all else, preferring instead economic
rationality or the defense of abstracted ideals, it also gives up its
independence and its survival.
does not believe in the disappearance of the political. Any type of
activity can take on a political dimension. The political is a
fundamental concept of collective anthropology.
As such, political activity can be described as substantial, essential,
enduring through time. The state, on the other hand, enjoys only
conditional authority, i.e., a contingent form of sovereignty. Thus the
state can disappear or be depoliticized by being deprived of the
political, but the political—as substantial—does not disappear.
state cannot survive unless it maintains a political monopoly, i.e.,
the sole power to define the values and ideals for which the citizens
will agree to give their lives or to legally kill their neighbors—the
power to declare war. Otherwise partisans will assume political
activity and try to constitute a new legitimacy. This risk particularly
threatens the bureaucratic states of modern liberal social democracies
in which civil war is prevented only by the enervating influence of
These ideas are expressed in The Concept of the Political, Schmitt’s most fundamental work, first published in 1928, revised in 1932, and clarified in 1963 by its corollary Theory of the Partisan.
Political activity is defined
there as the product of a polarization around a relation of hostility.
One of the fundamental criteria of a political act is its ability to
mobilize a population by designating its enemy, which can apply to a
party as well as a state. To omit such a designation, particularly
through idealism, is to renounce the political. Thus the task of a
serious state is to prevent partisans from seizing the power to
designate enemies within the community, and even the state itself.
no circumstances can politics be based on the administration of things
or renounce its polemical dimension. All sovereignty, like all
forced to designate an enemy in order to succeed in its projects; here
Schmitt’s ideas meet the research of ethologists on innate human
behavior, particularly Konrad Lorenz.
of his “classical” and Machiavellian conception of the political,
Schmitt endured persecution and threats under the Nazis, for whom the
political was on the contrary the designation of the “comrade” (Volksgenosse).
Schmittian definition of the political enables us to understand that
contemporary political debate is depoliticized and connected with
electoral sideshows. What is really political is the value for which one
is ready to sacrifice one’s life; it can quite well be one’s language
or culture. Schmitt writes in this connection that “a system of social
organization directed only towards the progress of civilization” does
not have “a program, ideal, standard, or finality that can confer the
right to dispose of the physical life of others.” Liberal society,
founded on mass consumption, cannot require that one die or kill for it.
It rests on an apolitical form of domination: “It is precisely when it
remains apolitical,” Schmitt writes, “that a domination of men resting
on an economic basis, by avoiding any
political appearance and responsibility, proves to be a terrible
economism and “pluralism” mask the negligence of the state, the
domination of the commercial castes, and the destruction of nations
anchored in a culture and a history. Along with Sorel, Schmitt pleads
for a form of power that does not renounce its full exercise, that
displays its political authority by the normal means that belong to it:
power, constraint, and, in exceptional cases, violence. By ignoring
these principles the Weimar Republic allowed the rise of Hitler; the
techno-economic totalitarianism of modern capitalism also
rests on the ideological rejection of the idea of state power; this
totalitarianism is impossible to avoid because it is proclaimed humane
and is also based on the double idea of social pluralism and
individualism, which put the nations at the mercy of technocratic
Schmittian critique of internal pluralism as conceived by Montequieu,
Locke, Laski, Cole, and the whole Anglo-Saxon liberal school, aims at
defending the political unity of nations, which is the sole guarantor of
civic protection and liberties. Internal pluralism leads to latent or
open civil war, the fierce competition of economic interest
groups and factions, and ultimately the reintroduction within society
of the friend-enemy distinction which European states since Bodin and
Hobbes had displaced outwards.
a system naturally appeals to the idea of “Humanity” to get rid of
political unities. “Humanity is not a political concept,” writes
Schmitt, who adds:
idea of Humanity in doctrines based on liberal and individualistic
doctrines of natural Right is an ideal social construction of universal
nature, encompassing all men on earth. . . . which will not be realized
until any genuine possibility of combat is eliminated, making any
grouping in terms of friends and enemies impossible. This universal
society will no longer know nations. . . . The concept of Humanity is an
ideological instrument particularly useful for imperialistic expansion,
and in its ethical and humane form, it is specifically a vehicle of
economic imperialism. . . . Such a sublime name entails certain
consequences for one who carries it. Indeed, to speak in the name of
Humanity, to invoke it, to monopolize it, displays a shocking pretense:
to deny the humanity of the enemy, to declare him outside the law and
outside of Humanity, and thus ultimately to push war to the extremes of
define politics in terms of the category of the enemy, to refuse
humanitarian egalitarianism, does not necessarily lead to contempt for
man or racism. Quite the contrary. To recognize the polemical dimension
of human relations and man as “a dynamic and dangerous being,”
guarantees respect for any adversary conceived as the Other whose cause
no less legitimate than one’s own.
idea often recurs in Schmitt’s thought: modern ideologies that claim
universal truth and consequently consider the enemy as absolute, as an
“absolute non-value,” lead to genocide. They are, moreover, inspired by
monotheism (and Schmitt is a Christian pacifist and convert). Schmitt
claims with good reason that the conventional European conception that
validated the existence of the enemy and admitted the legitimacy of
war—not for the defense of a “just” cause but as eternally necessitated
by human relations—caused fewer wars and induced respect for the enemy
considered as adversary (as hostis and not inimicus).
Schmitt’s followers, extending and refining his thought, have with Rüdiger Altmann coined the concept of the Ernstfall (emergency
case), which constitutes another fundamental criterion of the
political. Political sovereignty and the credibility of a new political
authority is based on the capacity to face and solve emergency cases.
The dominant political ideologies, thoroughly steeped in hedonism and
the desire for security, want to ignore the emergency, the blow of fate,
the unforeseen. Politics worthy of the name—and this idea pulverizes
the abstract ideological categories of “right” and “left”—is that which,
secretly, answers the challenge of the emergency case, saves the
community from unforeseen trials and tempests, and thereby authorizes
the total mobilization of the people and an intensification of its
Liberal conceptions of politics see the Ernstfall merely
as the exception and “legal normality” as the rule. This vision of
things, inspired by Hegel’s teleological philosophy of history,
corresponds to the domination of the bourgeoisie, who prefer safety to
historical dynamism and the destiny of the people. On the contrary,
according to Schmitt, the function of the sovereign is his capacity to
decide the state of the exception, which by no means constitutes an
anomaly but a permanent possibility. This aspect of
Schmitt’s thought reflects his primarily French and Spanish
inspirations (Bonald, Donoso Cortès, Bodin, Maistre, etc.) and makes it
possible to locate him, along with Machiavelli, in the grand Latin
tradition of political science.
In Legality and Legitimacy (1932),
Schmitt, as a disciple of Hobbes, suggests that legitimacy precedes the
abstract concept of legality. A power is legitimate if it can protect
the community in its care by force. Schmitt accuses the idealistic and
“juridical” conception of legality for authorizing Hitler to come to
power. Legalism leads to the renunciation of
power, which Schmitt calls the “politics of non-politics” (Politik des Unpolitischen),
politics that does not live up to its responsibilities, that does not
formulate a choice concerning the collective destiny. “He who does not
have the power to protect anyone,” Schmitt writes in The Concept of the Political,
“also does not have the right to require obedience. And conversely, he
who seeks and accepts power does not have the right to refuse
dialectic of power and obedience is denied by social dualism, which
arbitrarily opposes society and the sovereign function and
imagines, contrary to all experience, that exploitation and domination
are the political effects of “power” whereas they much more often arise
from economic dependency.
Schmitt elaborates a critique of the dualistic State of the nineteenth
century based on the conceptions of John Locke and Montesquieu aiming at
a separation between the sphere of the State and the private sphere. In
fact, modern technocracies, historically resulting from the
institutions of parliamentary representation, experience
interpenetrations and oppositions between the private and public, as
shown by Jürgen Habermas. Such a situation
destabilizes the individual and weakens the State.
to Schmitt, it is this weakness of the democracies that allowed the
establishment of one party regimes, as he explains in Staat, Bewegung, Volk [State, Movement, People].
This type of regime constitutes the institutional revolution of the
twentieth century; in fact, it is today the most widespread regime in
the world. Only Western Europe and North America preserved the pluralist
structure of traditional democracy, but merely as a fiction, since the
true power is economic and technical.
one party state tries to reconstitute the political unity of the
nation, according to a threefold structure: the state proper includes
civil servants and the army; the people are not a statistical population
but an entity that is politicized and strongly organized in
intermediate institutions; the party puts this ensemble in motion (Bewegung) and constitutes a portal of communication between the state and the people.
who returns again and again to Nazism, Stalinism, theocracies, and
humanitarian totalitarianisms, obviously does not endorse the one party
state. He does not advocate any specific “regime.” In the old Latin
realist tradition inherited from Rome, Schmitt wants an executive who is
both powerful and legitimate, who does not “ideologize” the enemy and
can, in actual cases make use of force, who can make the state the
“self-organization of society.”
thus becomes a subject of political theory.
Schmitt is interested in geopolitics as a natural extension of
politics. For him, true politics, great politics, is foreign policy,
which culminates in diplomacy. In The Nomos of the Earth (1951),
he shows that the state follows the European conception of politics
since the sixteenth century. But Europe has become decadent: the
bureaucratic state has been depoliticized and no longer allows the
preservation of the history of the European people; the jus publicium europaeum which
decided inter-state relations is declining in favor of globalist and
pacifist ideologies that are incapable of founding an effective
international law. The ideology of human rights and the vaunted
humanitarianism of international institutions are paradoxically
preparing a world where force comes before law. Conversely, a realistic
conception of the relations between states, which allows and normalizes
recognizes the legitimacy of will to power, tends to civilize the
relationship between nations.
is, along with Mao Tse-Tung, the greatest modern theorist of
revolutionary war and of the enigmatic figure of the partisan who, in
this era of the depoliticization of states, assumes the responsibility
of the political, “illegally” designates his enemies, and indeed blurs
the distinction between war and peace.
“a false pacifism” is part of a world where political authorities and
independent sovereignties are erased by a world civilization more
alienating than any tyranny. Schmitt, who influenced the constitution of
the Fifth French Republic—the French constitution that is most
intelligent, most political, and the least inspired by the idealism of
the Enlightenment—gives us this message: liberty, humanity, peace are
only chimeras leading to invisible oppressions. The only liberties that
count—whether of nations or individuals—are those guaranteed by the
legitimate force of a political authority that creates law and order.
Schmitt does not define the values that mobilize the political and
legitimate the designation of the enemy. These values must not be
defined by ideologies—always abstract and gateways to
totalitarianism—but by mythologies. In this sense, the functioning of
government, the purely political, is not enough. It is necessary to add
the “religious” dimension of the first function, as it is defined in
Indo-European tripartition. It seems to us that this is the way one must
complete Schmitt’s political theory. Because if Schmitt builds a bridge
between anthropology and politics, one still needs to build another
between politics and history.
 Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the
Political, trans. George Schwab, expanded edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007)—trans.
 Cf. Julien Freund, L’Essence du politique (Paris: Sirey, 1965), and La Fin de la Renaissance(Paris: PUF, 1980).
 Carl Schmitt, Gesetz und Urteil. Eine Untersuchung zum Problem der Rechtspraxis [Law and Judgment: An Investigation into the Problem of Legal Practice]  (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1968) andDer Wert des Staates und die Bedeutung des Einzelnen [The Value of the State and the Meaning of the Individual] (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1914)—trans.
 Carl Schmitt, Political Romanticism, trans. Guy Oakes
(Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 1985).—trans.
 Carl Schmitt, Die Diktaur: Von den Anfängen des modernen Souveränitätsgedankens bis zum proletarischen Klassenkampf [The Dictator: From the Origins of Modern Theories of Sovereignty to Proletarian Class Struggle] (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1921)—trans.
 In his Preface to the French edition of The Concept of the Political: Carl Schmitt, La notion de politique (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1972).
 Carl Schmitt, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, trans. Ellen Kennedy (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1986). See also Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Theory of Sovereignty , trans. George Schwab (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1986)—trans.
 Carl Schmitt, Theory of the Partisan: Intermediate Commentary on the Concept of the Political, trans. G. L. Ulmen (New York: Telos Press, 2007)—trans.
 Cf. The Concept of the Political, 53–54—trans.
 Carl Schmitt, Legality and Legitimacy, trans. Jeffrey Seitzer (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004)—trans.
 Staat, Bewegung, Volk: Die Dreigleiderung der politischen Einheit [State, Movement, People: The Three Organs of Political Unity] (Hamburg: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, 1934)—trans. It concerns a series of
studies on one-party states, primarily Marxist, that appeared in 1932.
 Carl Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of Jus Publicum Europaeum, trans. G. L. Ulmen (New York: Telos Press, 2006)—trans.
 Cf. “The Era of
Neutralizations and Depoliticizations” , trans. Matthias Konzett and John P. McCormick, in the expanded edition of The Concept of the Political—trans.