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The Concept of the Political

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,920 ratings  ·  97 reviews
In this, his most influential work, legal theorist and political philosopher Carl Schmitt argues that liberalism's basis in individual rights cannot provide a reasonable justification for sacrificing oneself for the state. This edition of the 1932 work includes the translator's introduction (by George Schwab) which highlights Schmitt's intellectual journey through the turb ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published June 1st 1996 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1927)
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3.98  · 
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 ·  1,920 ratings  ·  97 reviews

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Schmitt was a Nazi, or at least closely associated with them. Let's get that ugly fact out in front of the bullet-speckled walls. He penned anti-Semitic articles and openly praised the Nazi government during the Night of the Long Knives. Why he did this is still up to historical debate.

But Schmitt survives as something a more than a historical curio or a naked apologist for terror because of the originality of his ideas and how they still matter. Just a few weeks ago, I read a paper by none oth
Justin Evans
Two ways to make a big deal of a book: make sure its author was momentarily a Nazi, and, by the logical principle of contagion, follow the logic: author was a nazi --> book is certainly nazified; reader reader book --> reader becomes a nazi. Bam! This is the most dangerous book you'll ever read!

Except it's barely 'political' in that sense at all, and is more of an essay than a book. The thought process is clear and not unreasonable: if there's something called politics, it must have certa
Matthew W
May 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Carl Schmitt, like Martin Heidegger, has the scary Nazi stain permanently covering his philosophical legacy. Despite his "tainted" reputation, "The Concept of the Political" is still regarded by those on the "right" and "left", as one of the best overviews on how politics work (or more like how they don't work).

Schmitt brings up such things as how whenever the leaders of a country want to go and mass murderer a bunch of people in war, the leaders go on about protecting "humanity." Of course, th
Leopold Benedict
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) is most recognised for his idea of friend-foe distinction. The ability of a group of people to define their enemies and friends constitutes the political. The ultimate consequence and litmus test of this this process is war. I find it interesting, that the friend-foe distinction is not the result of his thought process, but its starting point. He postulates the friend-foe distinction as the axiom of the political sphere and develops his thinking on concepts such as liber ...more
Barnaby Thieme
"Of the conservative thinkers I have read in the last few years, Schmitt is by far the worst. I disagree with him on every level – philosophical, ethical, practical, formal, psychological, and empirical. He epitomizes what Nietzsche describes as the worst characteristics of German intellectual life – ponderous, metaphysical, impatient, hostile, totalizing in his rigid framework, and completely humorless. I haven’t disagreed with a work so completely since I read Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones, which i ...more
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fantastic political piece of work on the nature of politics, or as Schmitt puts it; 'the political.'

Schmitt fundamentally describes politics as a realm whereby groups of people with shared characteristics compete for collective power over other groups with opposing characteristics. Schmitt is the political theorist who famously coined the 'friend/enemy' distinction, meaning that within the realm of politics, a group has allies and opponents. Schmitt argued that if your group had no enemies, t
“The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy”. A very interesting exploration of what the political and non-political realm encompasses, a detailed categorization of different types of conflicts, as well as a strong criticism of liberalism as a system which destroys democracy (the way Schmitt understood and accepted democracy). Asserts the need of having a strong state as the decision maker and the ultimate power.
Sebastian Schwark
Sep 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theory
dangerous, yet brilliant.
Joe Kraus
Mar 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
Setting aside, for the moment at least, that this is the work of a Nazi and anti-Semite, I’m struck by the notion that Schmitt is part of what we might call the last wave of the major structuralists. That is, there’s a species of Modernism that begins with Marx and Freud (who posited clear structures to revolution and the psyche) through to Saussure (linguistics) and Levi-Strauss (anthropology) that deals with the dissolution of traditional notions of order by proposing specific and limited stru ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Jun 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
The conscience of a conservative is laid bare for the world to see in this book. Their foundational assumptions are laid out by this author. Yes, the author is writing as a conservative and not as a fascist, but the difference as he expresses his views are only of degrees not of kind.

The line between his version of conservatism and fascism is very fine. I won’t argue politics because it always comes down to first principles. Business school used to teach theory y and theory x, whether employees
Daniel Polansky
Schmitt: Tell me who your enemy is, and I will tell you who you are.
Me: Republicans, imperialists, doctrinaire liberals, academicians, people who underline things in library books, people who ride their bikes on the sidewalk, people who think Pearl Jam are a serious band, anyone who ever liked Forest Gump, people who are rude to waiters, e-sports enthusiasts, celebrity gossip journalists--
Schmitt: ...I think I left the oven on.
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Today we even recognize the secret law of this vocabulary and know that the most terrible war is pursued only in the name of peace, the most terrible oppression only in the name of freedom, the most terrible inhumanity only in the name of humanity. Finally, we also see through the mood of that generation which saw only spiritual death or a soulless mechanism in the age of technicity.

We recognize the pluralism of spiritual life and know that the central domain of spiritual existence cannot be a
Ruben Klein
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this philosophical work with the help of the book 'Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue' by Heinrich Meier and many other works of Carl Schmitt.

My objective in reading this book was to bring Carl's theological (political) worldview to the foreground.

All I can say is that this philosopher made me reconsider the unproblematic simplicity of my liberal democratic worldview. Challenging my naive intuition with biting ideas. Must read for those who want to underpin their political
Metodi Pachev
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
C. Schmitt does never cease to amaze me. This man did not only introduce a simple paradigm that remains unquestionably valid after almost 100 years, but also did other astonishing things, coining the term 'depoliticization', predicting the likeliness of the break of a (second) world war and many more.
Jul 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, fpa, hm, gm
A frank explanation of politics, and the fact of an ever-present adversary in some form. No 'political science' is really science, and most 'political theory' is nonsense, but Schmitt seems to be saying things that match up with reality here.

I need to read this again.
Steven Wedgeworth
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Schmitt is a challenging thinker, and not a little controversial, but he makes some very sound criticisms of late liberalism. His critique of wars and political forces that seek world domination in the name of humanity, justice, or other abstract values is very necessary for today.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, kraut
Very interesting and convincing. Also very relevant today with the crisis in liberal democracies. Get a version with Strauss's notes: they will only give you a deeper appreciation of Schmitt. The notes are also prescient in some ways of the great ideological clash that was to come.
Mar 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I read the bulk of The Concept of the Political quite rapidly, but I nonetheless got a few interesting though scattered reflections from Schmitt’s influential essay. It’s hard to talk about Schmitt without raising the fact of his unmitigated allegiance to the Nazi party, and while this piece was written prior to the full realisation of Hitler’s nightmare, there’s certainly elements of his argument that one can’t help but think are called into question by their later influence. Nonetheless, Schmi ...more
Fred R
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I think of Schmitt as like Heidegger, another highbrow Nazi whose intellectual work stands as the apotheosis of German cultural resistance to Manchester liberalism and Voltairean tolerance, to say nothing of American post-Puritan ‘humanitarianism’. To that end, his fulminations against disingenuous value-neutral liberalism and the depoliticization of modern life are really assaults on the intellectual framework behind the Versailles treaty, and concomitant Allied propaganda about the Hunnish beh ...more
Leo Martinez
Jul 19, 2019 rated it liked it
“Heartbreaking: The Worst Person You Know Just Made A Great Point”
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely phenomenal and invaluable critique of modern liberalism, a huge stick in the way of so called "enlightened centrists"(not to be confused with moderates that still holds a coherent political line of thought) that wants to eradicate the political entirely and make everything into soulless entertainment
Pat Blanchfield
Dec 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
What a wham-bam shazzam tour-de-force! After finishing it, I'm not sure if I'm leaning more left or rightwards.

"It is a manifest fraud to condemn war as homicide and then demand of men that they wage war, kill and be killed, so that there will never again be war. War, the readiness of combatants to die, the physical killing of human beings who belong on the side of the enemy - all this has no normative meaning but an existential meaning only, particularly in a real combat situation with a real
Andrew Han
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book is organized into four parts. First, there are helpful Foreward and Introduction sections that outline and orient the contents of the following three parts; then Schmitt's "Concept of the Political"; then Schmitt's "Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticization"; and finally, a critique by Leo Strauss.

First, some commentary should be made on Schmitt's Nazi associations. On the one hand, the case could be made that he was a product of his times. In particular, he was enraged by the treatme
Daniel Atzori
Jan 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
By defining 'the concept of the political' as the friend-enemy grouping, Schmitt articulates an incisive critique of liberalism and of its alleged attempt of 'neutralizing the political' by depoliticizing the economy. Schmitt affirms the importance of reviving the political which, in his view, has been concealed by liberalism. Leo Strauss' notes are important to understand the distance between Hobbes and Schmitt, since the former is seen as the father of liberalism, and the latter as his most or ...more
Feb 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: top-of-the-pops
You'd think a "Nazi philosopher" would be on the outs, but serious, modern, liberal people are more into him than ever. Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule are really into him, and they make his work the basis for their new theory of the American Constitution in "The Executive Unbound." Apparently you cannot dismiss him--perhaps he is at bottom incoherent and ultimately a very bad guy--but you cannot dismiss some of his concerns. I'm still trying to figure out what to think.
Nov 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
schmitt suggests that the concept of the political is rooted in the "friend-enemy" distinction. not a moral enemy, a business enemy...but an existential "other" that always implies the possibility of conflict and war. it's eerie how this book, written in the late 20's, speaks very much to the current political landscape - i mean, US and china? yeah.
Rui Coelho
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
When a social tension (be it moral, economic, religious, etc) intensifies, a clear line is drawn between friends and enemies. Schmitt considers this latent possibility of violent conflict the essence of politics. After definig politics as this game of alliances, he goes on to clarify the role of the State and revolutionary partisans.
An essencial read to understand Tiqqun (specially Civil War).
Miles Maftean
Apr 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I liked it, strictly for the critique it presents for a liberal constitutionalist democracy. I might not necessarily agree with the substance of his argument, but he has quite the realist outlook on politics and makes sure not to have too much intellectual hogwash in his conceptualization.
Luke Echo
May 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised by the Existentialist aspect of Schmitt's arguments.
Jun 23, 2008 rated it liked it
As Richard Bernstein once called out to a friend of mine while she was reading this book:

"Don't be seduced!"
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Carl Schmitt's early career as an academic lawyer falls into the last years of the Wilhelmine Empire. (See for Schmitt's life and career: Bendersky 1983; Balakrishnan 2000; Mehring 2009.) But Schmitt wrote his most influential works, as a young professor of constitutional law in Bonn and later in Berlin, during the Weimar-period: Political Theology, presenting Schmitt's theory of sovereignty, appe ...more
“The concept of progress, i.e., an improvement or completion (in modern jargon, a rationalization) became dominant in the eighteenth century, in an age of humanitarian-moral belief. Accordingly, progress meant above all progress in culture, self-determination, and education: moral perfection. In an age of economic or technical thinking, it is self-evident that progress is economic or technical progress. To the extent that anyone is still interested in humanitarian-moral progress, it appears as a byproduct of economic progress. If a domain of thought becomes central, then the problems of other domains are solved in terms of the central domain - they are considered secondary problems, whose solution follows as a matter of course only if the problems of the central domain are solved.” 9 likes
“The political enemy need not be morally evil or aesthetically 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 is, 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 judgment of a disinterested and therefore neutral third party.” 5 likes
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