Little room for exceptions: on misunderstanding Carl Schmitt

History of European Ideas 47 (7):1169-1183 (2021)
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Abstract

ABSTRACT Carl Schmitt is generally considered as the father of exceptionalism – the theory that the heart of politics lies in the sovereign power to issue emergency measures that suspend everyday normality. This is why his name comes up anytime state governments, whether liberal or not, impose limits on constitutional rights and freedoms to cope with emergencies. This article problematises such a received understanding. It argues that Schmitt held an exceptionalist view for a limited period of time and that even in that period his thinking cannot be regarded as unshakably exceptionalist. This interpretation offers a new entry point to Schmitt’s overall theory. While it can hardly be defended from allegations of reactionary conservatism, it remains a juristic theory of the legal order that tries to answer the question of what ensures the stability of social life. The backdrop of this view is an institutional theory of law and politics that is hardly reconcilable with any form of exceptionalism. In this light, the core of Schmitt’s thinking turns out to be the exaltation of legal science as a jurisgenerative practice that shelters a community’s institutional practices and the traditional identity.

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References found in this work

Santi Romano against the state?Lars Vinx - 2018 - Ethics and Global Politics 11 (2):25-36.
The Plight of European Jurisprudence.C. Schmitt - 1990 - Telos: Critical Theory of the Contemporary 1990 (83):35-70.

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