Monday, September 20, 2004

[Excerpts] Schmitt, The Concept of the Political

Exerpts from Carl Schmitt's The Concept of the Political.

The concept of the state presupposes the concept of the political.

According to modern linguistic usage, the stat is the political status of an organized people in an enclosed territorial unit. This is nothing more than a general paraphrase, not a definition of the state. Since we are concerned here with the nature of the political, such a definition is un warranted. It may be left open what the state is in its essence – a machine or an organism, a person or an institution, a society or community, an enterprise or a beehive, or perhaps even a basic procedural order. These definitions and images anticipate too much meaning, interpretation, illustration, and construction, and therefore cannot constitute any appropriate point of departure for a simple and elemenarary statment.

In its literal sense and its historical appearance the state is a specific entity of a people. Vis-á-vis the many conceivable kinds of entities, it is in the decisice case the ultimate authority.
p 19-20

The political must [...] rest on its own ultimate distinctions, to which all action with a specifically political meaning can be traced. Let us assume that in the realm of morality the final distinctions are between good and evil, in aesthetics beautiful and ugly, in economics profitable and unprofitable. [...]

The specifice political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy. This provides a definition in the sense of a criterion and not as an exhaustive definition or one indicative of substantial content.
p 26

The political enemy need not be morally evil or aestetically ugly; he need not appear as an economic competitor, and it may even be advantageous to engage with him in business transactions. But he is, nevertheless, the other, the stranger; and it is sufficient for his nature that he ism in a specially intense way, existentially something different and alien, so that in the extreme case conflicts with him are possible. These can neither be decided by a previously determined general norm nor by the judgement of a disintrested and therefore neutral third party.

Only the actual participants can correctly recognize, understand, and judge the concrete situation abd settle the extreme case of conflict. [...] Emotionally the enemy is treated as being evil and ugly, because every distinction, most of all the political, as the strongest and most intensiv of the distinictions and categorizations, draws upon other distinctions for support. This does not alter the autonomy of such distinctions.
p 27

The enemy is not merely any competitor or just any partner of a conflict in general. He is also not the private adversary whom one hates. An enemy exists only when, at least potentially, one fighting collectivity of people confronts a similar collectivity.
p 28

A world in which the possibility of war is utterly eliminated, a completely pacified globe, would be a world without the distinction of friend and enemy and hence a world without politics.
p 35

A war need be neither something religious nor something morally good nor something lucrative. War today is in all likelihood none of these. This obvious point is mostly confused by the fact that religious, moral and other antithesis can intensify to political ones and can bring about the decisive friend-or-enemy constellation. If, in fact, this occurs, then the relevant antithesis is no longer purely religious, moral, or economic, but political. The sole remaining question then is always whether such a friend-and-enemy grouping is really at hand, regardless of which human motives are sufficiently strong to have brought it about.
p 36

Every religious, moral, ethical, or other antithesis transforms into a political one if it is sufficiently strong to group human beings effectively according to friend or enemy. [...] A religious community which wages wars agains members of other religious communities ir engages in other wars is already more than a religious community; it is a political entity. [...] Also a class in the Marxian sense ceases to be something purley economic and becomes a political factor when it reaches this decisive point, for example, when Marxists approach the class struggle seriously and treat the class adversary as a real enemy and fights him either in the form of a war of state against state or in a civil war within a state.
p 37

If a part of the population declares that it no longer recognizes enemies, then, depending on the circumstance, it joins their side and aids them. Such a declaration does not abolish the reality of the friend-and-enemy distinction.
p 51

Political thought and political instinct prove themselves theoretically and practically in the ability to distinguish friend and enemy. The high points of politics are simultaneously the moments in which the enemy is, in concrete clarity, recognized as the enemy.
p 67

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