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Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty Paperback – January 15, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 116 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (January 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226738892
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226738895
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Political Theology is about the nature, and thus about the prerogatives, of sovereign political authority in the West.... It is perhaps the piece that best serves as an introduction to Schmitt's thought." - from the Foreword by Tracy B. Strong"

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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I recommend going over this book very carefully and thoroughly--best not before bedtime.
Amol Shelat
Whatever its merits-- and there are many-- there is much to take exception with in Schmitt's book and in the concepts it has influenced.
Signs and Wonders
Schmitt implies that this determination also gives each of us our identity and so purpose in life.
The Southerner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Amol Shelat on July 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
After many years, Carl Schmitt's works have finally reached the shores of the English-speaking world. Having been isolated by much of the scholarly community due to his complicity and support for Nazi Germany, it is only in recent decades that his works have garnered interest.

Ideas

Political Theology, like many of his most famous works, was written during a prolific period of his life in Weimar Germany. Indeed, this book bears the marks and concerns of the fragile political system in which he lived. Disenchanted with parliamentary democracy and the legal reasoning of his time, Schmitt develops in this book a devastatingly sharp critique of liberal democracy and legal normativism--a critque which has become very pertinent to our current political climate (2006).

In place of this, Schmitt probes into the historical and ideological framework of the state and politics so as to discover its essential characteristics, which he argues is defined and circumscribed by the exception. In short, the exception is a moment of true decision by a soveriegn, by which the legal norm is created. For, as the famous opening lines of the book proclaim, "Sovereign is he who decides on the exception."

Translation and Introduction

Now, George Schwab has done an excellent translation of this work so as to make it clear and readable. As such, I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in Carl Schmitt, early 20th century political theory, Weimar Germany, or recent political works by Giorgio Agamben and Chantal Mouffe. Moreover, I also recommend reading the foreword and introduction, which provide a clear and succint overview of Schmitt's political theory.

Lastly, Schmitt's works are not very accessible to a quick reading.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Signs and Wonders on October 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book was becoming too influential to remain out of print for long, and its first sentence alone --"sovereign is he who decides on the exception"-- has likely been cited by more scholars than have ever actually read the second sentence. Still, though influenced by second-hand readings of Schmitt, most scholars manage to get quite a bit right about Schmitt's thesis, if only because it is simple, aphoristic and open-ended. Whatever its merits-- and there are many-- there is much to take exception with in Schmitt's book and in the concepts it has influenced. The notion of "the exception" requires particularly rigorous clarification because it has too often been elevated to the political-theological realm, been imbued with a fierce alterity or normless negativity, and sometime de-secularized as an equivalent of a miracle. Part of this is conflation of two senses of "exceptional": (1) "Norm vs. exception", which is a juridical distinction; and (2) the notion of "ordinary vs. extraordinary," which is more of a cultural or aesthetic distinction. The first of these-- the more banal definition-- is the one that is relevant to legal issues [OED: "The action of excepting (a person or thing, a particular case) from the scope of a proposition, rule, etc.; the state or fact of being so excepted. Something abnormal or unusual; contrasted with the rule"]. In political-theological terms, however, "The exception in jurisprudence is analogous the miracle in theology." Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters On The Concept Of Sovereignty (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985), 36. This is fine as an analogy, but Schmitt-- elsewhere rigorous about separating politics, aesthetics, economics, etc.-- here drags "the miracle" back into the juridical realm.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Southerner on August 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is actually a pretty simple book, definitely more digestible than 3/4 of 'Legality and Legitimacy' because less juristic terminology is used. It's only 60 pages long.

Schmitt ends PT as follows:

"Authority and anarchy could thus confont each other in absolute decisiveness and form a clear antithesis [...] This radical antithesis forces [Bakunin] of course to decide against the decision; and this results in the odd paradox whereby Bakunin, the greatest anarchist of the nineteenth century, had to become in theory the theologian of the anti-theological and in practice the dictator of the anti-dictatorship"

Schmitt mentions Bakunin,a famous Anarchist, in reference to Donoso Cortes, a Spanish Catholic, in a broader observation about the relationship between Sovereignty (Politics) and Theology. Cortes, whom Schmitt supports, decides for decision, for sovereignty, and so doesn't contradict himself. Bakunin decides against sovereignty, and therefore for indecision.

Sovereignty is the purpose of politics but Schmitt is showing us, I believe, that the sovereign impulse is itself inescapable, Bakunin being an example. Now heretofore in the book Schmitt links this paradox with liberalism, of course; liberalism decides to never decide but at best to choose a cautious half-measure in compromise, which always means 'discussion', that is, parliamentarian separation of powers. It is then interesting that at the book's climax, the conjunction between theology and politics, he chooses an Anarchist to represent Neutralization, and yet they have everything in common, or at least all that needs be common; liberal parlimentarianism is in basic agreement with Anarchism about the evil of sovereignty, hence the separation of powers.
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