Saturday, August 28, 2010

Keith Preson on Carl Schmitt

Keith Preston, Carl Schmitt (Part I)
Weimar: State of Exception 

While Schmitt was certainly a thinker of the Right, it is a mistake to group him together with proponents of the “conservative revolution” such as Moeller van den Bruck, Oswald Spengler, Edgar Jung, or Hugo von Hofmannsthal. There is no evidence of him having expressed affinity for the views of these thinkers or joining any of the organizations that emerged to promote their ideas. Schmitt’s conservatism was squarely within the Machiavellian tradition, and he counted Machiavelli, Hobbes, Jean Bodin and conservative counterrevolutionaries such as Joseph De Maistre and Juan Donoso Cortes as his influences.

During the Weimar era, Schmitt expressed no sympathy for the mystical nationalism of the radical Right, much less the vulgar racism and anti-Semitism of the Nazi movement. He was closer to the anti-liberal thinkers that James Burnham and others subsequently labeled as “the neo-Machiavellians.” These included Vilfredo Pareto, Robert Michels, Gaetano Mosca, and Georges Sorel along with aristocratic conservatives like Max Weber. These thinkers expressed skepticism regarding the prospects of liberalism and democracy and emphasized the role of elites, the irrational, and the power of myth with regards to the political. Though Schmitt never joined a political party during the Weimar era, within the spectrum of German politics of the time he can reasonably be categorized as something of a moderate. He had admirers on both the far Right and far Left, including sympathizers with the Conservative Revolution as well as prominent intellectuals associated with the Marxist Frankfurt School, such as Walter Benjamin, Franz Neumann, and Otto Kirchheimer.
Schmitt’s own natural affinities were mostly likely closest to the Catholic Center Party, which along with the Social Democrats who had led the revolution of 1918 were the most consistently supportive of the republic and the constitutional order, and which represented the broadest cross-section of economic, class, regional, and institutional interests of any of the major parties during Weimar.


 A Note on Sources on Schmitt

A Forgotten Thinker On Nation-States vs. Empire by Paul Gottfried
Google Books
Professor Gottfried has his own website. You can purchase his book on Carl Schmitt through his website (assuming that copies are still available at Amazon). The website has not been updated for some time.

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