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The Enemy: An Intellectual Portrait of Carl Schmitt Hardcover – 14 Aug 2000


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""Carl Schmitt is probably the major twentieth-century political theorist whose work remains internationally unknown. Balakrishnan's comprehensive and sophisticated intellectual biography should rectify this. Here is a book which everyone interested in modern political theory should read."" -- Michael Mann

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Gopal Balakrishnan is Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute. He is the editor of Mapping the Nation. And a member of New Left Review's editorial committee.

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62 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Carl Schmitt: The Political As Friend-Foe Distinction. 1 Mar. 2003
By New Age of Barbarism - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
_The Enemy_ provides an excellent and thorough introducion to the life and thinking of the German political philosopher and jurist Carl Schmitt. The book traces the developments in his thoughts from his earliest days as a Catholic schoolchild in the Rhineland to his eventual professorship in constitutional law and his involvement with the Third Reich regime and the subsequent developments in his thought after the Third Reich had fallen. Schmitt is normally considered to belong with the "conservative revolutionaries" such as Ernst Junger, Oswald Spengler, Martin Heidegger, and several other important figures in the Weimar republic prior to the advent of the Third Reich. These thinkers were important for their political and philosophical thought which was firmly opposed to liberalism, bolshevism, and modernism. An important aspect behind Schmitt's thought was his Catholicism (however tenuous that link may have become for him at various moments in his life). Certain interpreters of Schmitt have made the claim that Schmitt's writings can be understood on the basis of a "fundamentalist" Catholicism , in which the crisis in the modern world is perceived in apocalyptic terms involving an encounter between Christ and Antichrist. Schmitt became a jurist and a professor of constitutional law and a great deal of his writing is concerned with the application of his political principles to the legal status of the constitution. Schmitt's thinking is heavily influenced by the German Romantics such as Schlegel and Hegelianism, but also has a Latin character influenced by such Catholic counter-revolutionaries as Joseph de Maistre and Donoso Cortes, as well as the writings of Thomas Hobbes in his _Leviathan_, and the writings of Machiavelli. Perhaps Schmitt is most famous for his understanding of the political in terms of the "friend-enemy" distinction. He outlined this distinction in his famous work _The Concept of the Political_. Schmitt came to occupy a central place in the Third Reich regime and was often regarded as the "Crown Jurist" of that regime. The particular problematic of Schmitt's involvement with the Third Reich and his adherence to certain anti-Semitic beliefs is firmly covered in this book. After the defeat of the Third Reich, Schmitt would come to partially renounce some of his earlier alignment with it; however, he would also come to regard the process of denazification which involved him spending several years in captivity as equally abominable. Much of Schmitt's work focused on a particular interpretation of Thomas Hobbes in hiw book _Leviathan_. Schmitt may have believed in an apocalyptic myth involving an obscure quasi-Messianic figure, the Katechon (see the discussion in the book; but also see Paul's epistle to the Thessalonians where it is explained that the Katechon refers to a "restrainer" who is to come). The book also discusses Schmitt's relationship with the new international order subsequent to the Nazi regime. The importance of Schmitt's thought here in regards to our modern era which is closely coming to approximate a New World Order and a system of international law based in the United Nations (i.e. the League of Nations in Schmitt's time) cannot be overestimated. Schmitt's later works include a book entitled _Land and Sea_ which outlines the differences between land and sea powers and a work entitled _The Law of the Earth_. The relationship between a landlocked continental German power and a seafaring English power rooted in the Calvinistic religion plays an important role in Schmitt's writings. Schmitt's later days were spent in relative obscurity as a figure who was considered anathema by the new intellectuals; however, he continued to write and work and gather a group of students around him. Carl Schmitt is a fascinating figure who encountered the dark side and whose thinking still poses interesting questions for the modern world. His distinction between friend and enemy continues to occupy an important place in the role of political theory and although some on the Left have attempted to usurp his ideas, his ideas remain firmly grounded in the tradition of right wing intellectuals of the conservative revolution. This book provides an excellent introduction and outline of his life and thought and is to be highly recommended to all those interested in this figure.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Great Book On A Fashionably Dangerous Attorney 26 April 2008
By Review Guy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best all-around survey of and introduction to Carl Schmitt's thought. Balakrishnan does a good job of identifying each of the many, many "turns" in Schmitt's thought and situating each of them within the contemporaneous political developments in German-speaking Europe. There is some basic discussion of Schmitt's personal and religious life, as well as his political allegiances and the vicissitudes of his unstable status within the German establishment. This book is scholarly, clear and readable. If there's a problem with The Enemy, it is that Schmitt's thought does not lend itself to summary. He seems not only to have 'evolved' intellectually over time, but also to have taken simultaneously contradictory positions in contemporaneous works.

Schmitt's brand of legal nihilism is fashionably dangerous. But, in my view, he is an artifact of a bygone moment in German history and has little to teach contemporary Anglo-American lawyers. Schmitt is frequently cited as an intellectual ancestor of Bush's lawyers John Yoo and David Addington but I suspect any similarity is accidental. In any event, the comparison is less than enlightening. However dubious their legal advice, Yoo and Addington both speak the language of precedent, jurisprudence and constitutional authority. Schmitt's arguments were grounded in a muscular continental mysticism - the gestalt of force and submission. Yoo and Addington are perhaps overly concerned with the defense of the republic, but they take its legitimacy for granted. Schmitt was suspicious of the very possibility of parliamentary rule. He sensed that deliberation was an arbitrary process with no logical endpoint. He feared that parliamentary politics was foundationless - that it was, to steal a phrase from Steven Hawking, 'just turtles all the way down.' Schmitt sought sovereign power as the font of political legitimacy - the solid ground beneath the State's feet. He seems to have concluded that sovereign power comes into being through an act of will or faith. This notion is alien to Anglo-American legal thought, where legal authority is derived from text, tradition, history, or natural law. Schmitt is compelling because he shows us an alternative law and politics of reactionary postmodernism - critical legal theory in service to naked power.

In the end, Schmitt is historically important for his two aphorisms: "He is sovereign who decides the exception." and "Tell me who your enemy is and I will tell you who you are." Meditate upon these long enough and you won't need this or any other book on Carl Schmitt.
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