Carl Schmitt and the Intensification of Politics

By (author) Kam Shapiro

Publication date:

25 July 2008

Length of book:

152 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9780742533417

This book explores Carl Schmitt's efforts to distinguish sources of sovereignty and political identity in an age of rapid and volatile social change. In Schmitt writings, Shapiro finds a dynamic conception of the relationship between political power and social form, organic traditions and their strategic deployment. As these writings indicate, the political constitution of a sovereign people involves the channeling of attachments and antagonisms of various kinds. The book explicates this process as it appears in changing contexts, following Schmitt's turn from Catholic politics to secular nationalism, and finally beyond the nation-state during and after the Second World War. These shifts in Schmitt's approach reflect a general intensification of politics as its grounds are rendered increasingly fluid and volatile by accelerated movements of finance, warfare and communication. The result is a both a transformation in the practice of government - requiring flexible and rapid adjustments to changes across the globe - and in the nature of legitimacy, whereby an ethos of belief grounded in relatively stable cultural and social rituals is supplanted by a more fluid and mobile pathos of identification.
Kam Shapiro makes the case not only that one can find a potentially fascist aesthetic in the work of Carl Schmitt, but also the material for a critical response to it, much as one might find a remedy in the illness itself. This is dangerous territoryand Shapiro guides us skillfully through it, never loosing his political and moral feet, while never yielding to a desire to score easy points. A final chapter places Schmitt in the company of the present conduct of American foreign policy — it is disturbing because it is an accurate picture.