Friday, December 01, 2006

About Schmitt (Updated)

Did anyone else notice Andrew Sullivan referring to NRO blogger Mark Levin as "Schmittian"? This would be the second time in two days I've seen Carl Schmitt's name pop up in popular political discourse. The other instance was Diane McWhorter's Slate article, which I have already described as "ridiculous" in these "pages." McWhorter links to a Chronicle article, but see also this post by Scott Horton at the excellent Balkinization blog and this article on Counterpunch. Oh, and also here on Crooked Timber. It seems that everyone's favorite fascist legal theorist is the poster boy for describing Bush's imperial presidency. Giorgio Agamben is certainly not afraid to raise the Schmittian spectre, and his research and theorizing seem to have ushered in the current explosion of Schmitt-talk. (In this area I have benefited greatly from my reading of State of Exception, a gift most generously bestowed upon me by the Sheriff.) Chantal Mouffe (one half of the Laclau-Mouffe team) has also been pivotal in resurrecting the old Nazi, as in her Challenge of Carl Schmitt.

(UPDATE: After much soul searching, I realized that no one does or should give a shit about what I think about Carl Schmitt and Plato. Please read on.)

Although Schmitt's idea of decisionism invites comparisons to Bush's declaration of his being "the decider," I think we ought to be careful with such parallels. Nazism and fascism are not charges to be dispersed glibly. Just as I think it is pernicious to describe jihadism as "Islamofascism" (because doing so implies that we are heroic warriors in the vein of Churchill, we can't be Neville Chamberlains, and the only solution is to bomb every Middle Eastern country in sight, "before it's too late"), so also describing the situation at home as fascistic, as McWhorter does, is largely useless because a) it's just not true that we're in the same state as Nazi Germany or Italy, b) there's no obvious answer to what you do in the face of fascism (overthrow the government?), and c) most people will simply scoff at you, when in fact you can make a much more forceful case for the abhorrent nature of this Administration without employing the term "fascist."

On the other hand, although Schmitt was a Nazi, we can't let that obscure all of his legal theory, which continues to remain important. When and if Schmitt's name can be sufficiently detached from fascism, we shouldn't shrink from exploring his influence upon the legal philosophy of John Yoo, David Addington, and Unitary Executive Theory, which is part of a much larger discourse of executive power.


Blogger The Sheriff said...

Your update made me a little sad.

5:27 PM  

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