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Carl Schmitt—Political Theologian?


“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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Michael Gillespie , Theological Origins of Modernity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008)

Derrida , Beast and the Sovereign (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009)

Hent de Vries and Lawrence E. Sullivan , eds. Political Theologies (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006)

William McCormick , “Jacques Maritain on Political Theology,European Journal of Political Theory 12, no. 2 (2013): 175–94

John McCormick , “Political Theory and Political Theology,Political Theory 26, no. 6 (1998): 831

William Hooker , Carl Schmitt's International Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)

Slavoj Žižek , , The Neighbor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005)

John Milbank , Theology and Social Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006)

Graham Hammill , eds., Political Theology and Early Modernity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012)

Jacob Taubes , To Carl Schmitt (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013)

Ronald Beiner , Civil Religion (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), esp. 359–60, 364, 368

Heinrich Meier , “Philosopher as Enemy,Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 17, nos. 1–2 (1994): 329

Joseph Bendersky , Journal of Modern History 69, no. 4 (1997): 892

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The Review of Politics
  • ISSN: 0034-6705
  • EISSN: 1748-6858
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-politics
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