Schmitt

Critical Animal has a discussion of Schmitt and Heidegger here, beginning from my Radical Philosophy piece on Carl Schmitt. The discussion doesn’t directly engage with my reading of Schmitt, and I appreciate very much that it has sparked some thoughts, but I would like to offer a few thoughts/clarifications.

My piece is about the use of Schmitt’s work The Nomos of the Earth, and related works – i.e. the stuff that engages with issues of international politics, rather than domestic. There is already an extensive literature on Schmitt’s work on the political, the decision, the exception, etc. I was trying to add to some of that work – particularly building on and name-checking Mark Neocleous’s piece that also appeared in RP on ‘Reading Schmitt Politically’.

As such, my engagement is with people who have read that part of his work, most of whom work within international relations, rather than geography, although the geography engagement is coming. My RP piece is being reprinted in a collection of essays by geographers (and others) coming out with Routledge next year.

I do think there is a definite difference between Schmitt and Heidegger. I have no wish to exonerate Heidegger – my Speaking Against Number is, to my mind, very critical – but I don’t think Heidegger is nearly as culpable as Schmitt. Heidegger wasn’t as actively involved in the party for nearly as long as Schmitt, and most of Heidgger’s work is not as explicitly political. In fact, one of the things I tried to show in the RP piece is that the things that are explicitly being taken up in Schmitt’s writings in IR are those used by him, a little earlier, to justify extreme positions. In contrast, the things in Heidegger’s work that are being taken up today – the stuff on tools, on ontology, his reading of the tradition, etc. – are not so directly linked to those deeply unpleasant things he did say.

I think both Heidegger and Schmitt should be read. They should also be taught. But there is a difference between both of those positions and thinking that there is something that can be used for progressive political purposes. With Heidegger, I think there is, though it comes with several cautions, clarifications and warnings; with Schmitt I have serious doubts, and those doubts are magnified many times when it comes to his work on Nomos, territory and Groβraum.

PS – Philosophy in a Time of Error has a response here.

This entry was posted in Carl Schmitt, Martin Heidegger, Speaking Against Number. Bookmark the permalink.

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