Notes over Chapter 1 of “Political Theology”

Brief notes on Chapter 1 of Schmitt’s “Political Theology.”

P. 2  Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution allowed the President of
the Republic legislative powers under emergency conditions.  It was
the legal framework under which von Hindenburg turned over power to
Hitler in 1933.

P. 9.  Jean Bodin “The Republic”
“The sovereign Prince is only accountable to God.”

The liberal state, on the other hand,  invokes popular constitution
and a separation of powers to conceal the “question of sovereignty.”
(p. 11)

P. 12,  “The existence of the state is undoubted proof of its
superiority of over the validity of the legal norm. The decision frees
itself from all normative ties and becomes in the true sense absolute.
The state suspends the law in the exception on the basis of its right
of self-preservation, as one would say. “

P. 13, “The exception is that which cannot be subsumed; it defies
general codification, but it simultaneously reveals a specifically
juridical formal element: the decision in absolute purity.”

Generally, Schmitt emphasizes the importance of the very principle of
exception.  The quote from Kierkegaard that ends the first chapter
seems to serve this purpose.  There is a fundamental division between
those who privilege the norm or the exception.  Schmitt
prioritizes theoretically the exceptions that push to “the outermost sphere.”

The exception is that element which undermines the rationalist claims
of the liberal constitutional state.  State-builders in this vein
write various provisions into the constitution attempting to foresee
crisis and simultaneously enable and prescribe the mode of exception,
but the emergency situation cannot be foreseen and exceeds all
rational prediction (P. 6-7).

P. 13, Schmitt later focuses on decisionism as a school of juridical
thought. To quote him later, in an extreme definition of decisionism:
“Der Führer has made the law, der Führer protects the law”.
The passage here at the bottom P. 13 seems to summarize and introduce
the principle.

Despite their extreme political disparities, Schmitt and Walter Benjamin corresponded with and respected each other.  Here is Benjamin on the state of exception, written shortly before his death in occupied France in 1940:

“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “state of
exception” in which we live is the rule. We must arrive at a concept
of history which corresponds to this. Then it will become clear that
the task before us is the introduction of a real state of exception;
and our position in the struggle against Fascism will thereby improve.”
Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History


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