Thursday, November 11, 2010

The enemy: an intellectual portrait of Carl Schmitt - Balakrishnan (2000)

Balakrishnan, G., & Schmitt, C. (2000). The enemy : an intellectual portrait of Carl Schmitt. London; New York: Verso.

Actually, Carl Schmitt did not (and does not) come to me as a name of respected man. As the common nickname (= Crown Jurist of Nazi), all writings of Schmitt have to be suspected regarding to the Nazi and all of its negative connotations.

However, my first impression of Carl Schmitt was very fascinating. When I was in Seoul (Seoul National University), I encountered his book, Political Theology, and I thought that the guy is very smart, provocative, thoughtful and radical. However, my enthusiasm at that time was easily changed into disappointment after I learned basic bio of Carl Schmitt.

After six years later, I re-picked up one more book which introduces the whole trajectory of Carl Schmitt’s writings. Although I am not much aware of the author (Gopal Balakrishnan, I infer this author as Indian because the first name is so familiar in India), I am sure the author has able enough to write Schmitt’s biography and writings. His writing is excellent and I believe the author’s evaluation is appropriate and valid

The first dimension of Schmitt’s academic career starts with dictatorship. Simply put, when the dictatorship starts and how it can be justified with whose decision? Actually, this question, I believe, goes beyond my ability because I have the slightest background of legal studies. The book, The Dictatorship: From the Beginnings of the Modern Conception of Sovereignty to the Proletarian Class Struggle, represents this stage.

The second is the religion and law. Put simply, the law is the secularized religious concepts. This thesis, while controversial, seems very valid intuitively to me. The book, Political Theology, represents this period.

The third point is critics of modern parliamentary democracy. Simply, the consensus building or majority rule based on popular representatives are not sufficient, realistic, or desirable. Very radical point, but valid argument. Probably, some modern political theorists who heavily relied on Carl Schmitt (e.g., Mouffe) are fascinated by this criticism. Whether this is right or wrong, his critic of parliamentary democracy explains many political or civil controversies clearly, and the fragile nature of modern pluralistic democracy. Probably, Roman Catholicism and Political Forms, and Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy (The author prefers the directly translated title “The Intellectual: Historical Condition of Contemporary Parliamentarism”) represents that.

The fourth point is the meaning of “the political.” Personally, the birth of “the political” ranks the second in Western Political Thoughts (The first, in my view, is Machiavelli’s thought). “The political” is freed from any normative constraints, but finally goes to the strongest form of norm for any political action or behaviors. The political is distinguished from ‘politics’ but it makes politics ‘work’ and ‘meaningful’ (at least for Schmitt). This concept is powerful in modern ‘new’ politics, neo-Nazi, racism, religious politics, and others. There are many things in modern world which cannot be understood as utilitarian theory (e.g., Downs’s model). The book, The concept of the political, (I swear by myself) is a book that should be read and read several times, but with the greatest care. As G. Lukacs concluded (though I have no capability to agree or disagree), Schmitt’s intuition can be easily turned into intelligence of evil.

The fifth point is legality versus legitimacy. This question arises again in Harbermas and other modern thinkers. Legality and legitimacy can be distinguished (should be)..

Other dimensions are about his relationships with Nazi (esp. with Goering and other Nazi Scholars), and his readings of other classic thinkers (e.g., Hobbes, Machiavelli, Spengler, Weber, de Tocqueville, etc.). Especially, the chapter 16 (The Leviathan Myth) was interesting, but my knowledge over the Leviathan was not so deep… In the future, I should read Hobbes and de Tocqueville with more care.

Before closing, I think the title is So Great! The ‘enemy’ seems the best summary of Schmitt’s writings. The enemy is not evil, dirty, disgusting. The enemy is needed, respected, and warrants my positions. This is so realistic, but very dangerous….

Anyway, good book, interesting… As a final word, I think any readers should distinguish Schmitt from Schmitt’s messages. Personally, I believe Carl Schmitt was a dirty person like me and others who pursue self-interests (e.g., more publications, higher academic positions,…) However, his messages have some virtues that should be eschewed. Although his intelligence, probably some of his intelligence, comes from devil’s whispering, I believe it has something we can learn from the bad thing.

1 comment:

  1. 안녕하세요!!:)너무 뜬금없으시겠지만 다름이아니라 The Enemy: An Intellectual Portrait of Carl Schmitt검색 타고 왔습니다. 칼슈미트를 법학자로서가 아니라 한인간으로서 생애와 어린시절 등을 조사하고 있는 중입니다. 혹시 읽으신 The Enemy: An Intellectual Portrait of Carl Schmitt 책 목차중 THE YOUNG CARL SCHMITT은 칼슈미트의 어린시절을 다루고있는것 같은데 이목차뿐아니라 사상적인 부분은 말고 칼슈미트의 전반적인 삶의 이야기가 이책에도 잘 나와있나요?
    국립중앙도서관에 책을 보러가기전에 혹시나 해서 질문 댓글 드립니다. 감사합니다~!