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The Concept of the Political: Expanded Edition Enlarged Edition

21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226738925
ISBN-10: 0226738922
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Editorial Reviews


“Contains much of what is fundamental in Schmitt’s understanding of the political nature of man and the state, including his contentious definition of the political as the distinction between friend and enemy. . . . Its scholarship is unquestionable.”

(Joseph W. Bendersky Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory)

“The best introduction to Schmitt’s thought.”

(Mark Lilla New York Review of Books)

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 126 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Enlarged edition (May 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226738922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226738925
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By New Age of Barbarism on May 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
This edition of Carl Schmitt's _Der Begriff des Politischens_ is translated by George Schwab and contains several interesting writings on Schmitt and his thought. In addition to _The Concept of the Political_ proper, this book also contains a "Foreward" by Tracy B. Strong, an "Introduction" by George Schwab, and ends with a series of notes on the book by Leo Strauss. Carl Schmitt was a legal scholar and political theorist during the time of the Third Reich who was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition. While unfortunately Schmitt joined the Nazi party, this should not prevent one from reading his otherwise important works which have much to say about the political and provide trenchant critiques of liberalism. Schmitt can be rightfully considered as one of the conservative revolutionaries, including such figures as Junger, Spengler, and Heidegger, who opposed liberalism in the period before the Second World War. Schmitt's writings were an important influence on Heidegger in particular, but have also seen a resurgence in their importance among the New Right and the Left as well. Schmitt was influenced by such political thinkers as Machiavelli, Hegel, and Hobbes, but also by Catholic counter-revolutionaries such as de Maistre and Donoso Cortes. This book lays out the essential details of his thought.

In _The Concept of the Political_, a book which profoundly criticizes liberalism, Schmitt essentially argues that the political must be understood in terms of the "friend-enemy" distinction. Schmitt explains how the state presupposes the concept of the political.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Scott on March 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
The other reviews of this book already give the potential reader a good insight into what they are buying, and so I will comment on a fascinating conceptual tension within the book. Like all political realists (or so Schmitt would claim), Schmitt begins his theorizing from the empirical fact that "man is a dangerous and dynamic being". Schmitt allows that the nature of man may not be evil, but man's nature is inarguably problematic. Schmitt then inquires as to how man's problematic nature reveals itself conceptually. His answer is the enemy recognition. We know man is evil because he is prone to locating in the stranger, the other (that person or group who holds inimical aesthetic, religious, ethical beliefs), a potential source of violent conflict. A tension (there are many in the book!) then materializes when Schmitt speaks of the necessity of the state to make the proper enemy recognition if peace and security are to be maintained. It is of course a perilous folly if the state fails to make the proper enemy recognition (see Hindenburg's 1933 alliance with Hitler, Neville Chamberlain's appeasement, and Stalin's secret pact with Hitler for three failed enemy recognitions before WWII). But how does the state make the proper enemy recognition, and not simply needlessly multiply conflict in order to root out the enemy? Thus, the Soviet archives tell us that Stalin erroneously viewed the West as a threat (particularly a rebuilt Germany) after WWII, and so seized Eastern Europe as a buffer zone. The tension of the enemy recognition is that it is the source of all of our troubles, but yet it must be made when necessary. Sounds like the stuff of which politics is made...
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ulrich on November 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
Others have described the book quite well, so I simply wanted to add a corrective to Mr. Dermeval's review, which criticized Schmitt's analysis as being crudely bipolar relative to Weber. While I agree that Weber's analysis is superlative, it does not in fact contradict Schmitt's theory at all. Schmitt views "the political" as a particular process that pervades human life to varying degrees, depending upon the particular degree of friend/enemy antagonism that is involved in a given social situation. Obviously, not every judgment that involves some aspect of the political rises to the highest point of friend/enemy antagonism. Battles over health care rights, for example, are inherently less "political" in Schmittian terms than is an outright war. The health care conflict is resolved with more rational and bureaucratic elements -- for example, determining which approach will likely be lowest in total cost. Schmitt's theory takes full account of this varying intensity of the political in social life; in fact it is premised on it.

It is thus a mistake to think that the "friend/enemy" distinction is fully manifested in every judgment made by a state. Many (if not most) such judgments are apolitical decisions made on generally rational grounds, consistent with Weber's description of the state. On Schmitt's theory, such particular rational judgments are not truly (i.e. distinctively) political, even though made by a political entity. Such judgments *become* political to the extent they involve one group seizing advantage over another group, rather than a purely rational technical analysis based on accepted criteria.
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