Notes on Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political

"Notes on Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political," Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, Vol. 67, No. 6 (August-September 1932).  Reprinted in Gesammelte Schriften: Band 3.  Reprinted in Heinrich Meier, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue, University of Chicago Press, 1995.


[1] The treatise by Schmitt serves the question of the “order of the human things” (95), that is, the question of the state. In view of the fact that in the present age the state has become more questionable than it has been for centuries or more (23 f.), understanding the state requires a radical foundation, “a simple and elementary presentation” of what the basis of the state is, which means the basis of the political; for “the concept of the state presupposes the concept of the political” (20).

[2] This thesis, with which the investigation of the concept of the political is begun, must be understood in accordance with Schmitt’s own general principles of understanding. Following these principles, the sentence “the political precedes the state” can manifest the desire to express not an eternal truth but only a present truth. For “all spirit [is] only spirit of the present” (79); “all concepts of the spiritual sphere, including the concept of spirit, are in themselves pluralistic and are to be understood only in terms of their concrete political existence” (84); “all political concepts, ideas, and words [have] a polemical meaning; they have a concrete opposition in view, they are tied to a concrete situation . . .” (31).  In accordance with these principles, it must be asked: To what extent does the present situation compel us to recognize that the basis of the state is the political? Against what opponent does the political emerge as the basis of the state?

Google Books