Carl Schmitt and the Crisis of the Liberal Democracy


di Shazhada Rahim Abbas

At one point, Shigalyev, one of major character in Dostoevsky’s famous novel “The possessed” says, “My conclusion stands in direct contradiction to the idea from which I started. Proceeding from unlimited freedom, I end with unlimited despotism.” Since the end of the cold war, the liberal thinkers began limiting the subject of democracy to the category of the liberalism and certainly declared liberal democracy as the fate of humanity.

However, they failed to understand the fact that the term politics is purely a dialectical phenomenon and without contradiction it possess no meaning. It was famous German jurist and philosopher Carl Schmitt, who defined the ontological basis of politics from the standpoint of friend-enemy dialectics. For Schmitt, all political concepts have a polemical sense because the whole concept of ‘political’ is structured around the friend-enemy dialectic.

Likewise, in his magnum opus “Nomos of the Earth” Carl Schmitt anticipates the fact that politics always arises from humanity’s division and thus, the political world has never been ‘universe’ rather it has always been pluriverse. Contrariwise, the so-called liberal notion of common humanity under the guise of universalism and globalization is the beginning of all problems of politics.

In the contemporary era, the political and ideological dynamics of the globally hyper-connected cum fragmented world can only be understood by taking into account the Schmittian concept of the großraum (Great space or organic space). Moreover, through his various reactionary political concepts such as friend-enemy dialectic, political theology, the Katechon, großraum, and the Nomos, Carl Schmitt attempted to sketch the inherent contradiction within liberal democracy.

Today, the dying liberalism, and the dysfunctional liberal democracy in the face of rising multipolar world order clearly illustrates the fact that the so-called political correctness dystopia of liberalism was farce. After the end of the cold war, it was the famous commentator on Carl Schmitt Garry Ulmen, who anticipated the post-cold war world order from the Schmittian perspective. According to Ulmen, the post-cold war world order would be shaped by the concerted debate between Fukuyama’s ‘The end of history’ and Huntington’s “clash of civilization’.

By in large, Ulmen refuted both with the “Spenglerian Spirit’ in Huntington’s “clash of civilization’ and “Hegelian Spirit” in Fukuyama’s “End of History”. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that both Fukuyama and Huntington are trapped in the Wilsonian liberal dystopia and are unable to think beyond the liberal categories.

Consequently, after the end of cold war, the United States under the guise of liberal democracy and globalization attempted to establish the global empire (Pax-Americana) to quench its thirst for global hegemony and domination. Although, in the last three decades, few liberal scholars tried to resurface the core ideas of Carl Schmitt’s political philosophy but they intentionally ignored the revolutionary fervor of the Schmittian concepts to defend liberalism.

In this respect, famous liberal scholar Jurgen Hebermas is worth remembered. In his various political writings, Hebermas deliberately used the key philosophical ideas of Carl Schmitt to explore the possibility of the creation of Kantian cosmopolitan order at the global stage. According to Hebermas, the Kantian version of cosmopolitan world order can be achieved by establishing by world polity through the formation various regional entities (großraum).

However, here Hebermas ignores the fact that the contemporary liberalism itself is the brainchild of Kantian romantic philosophy, which can certainly not be restructured on the same fractured foundations. As Carl Schmitt writes in his famous book “Romanticism”; “it is left to the private individual to be his own priest. But not only that, it is also left to him to be his own poet, his own philosopher, his own king and his own master builder in the cathedral  of his personality. The ultimate root of romanticism and the romantic phenomenon lie in the private priesthood”.

In conclusion, it can be said that individualism, which is the central foundation of Liberalism is now taking humanity towards singularity through technological drift. Moreover, it is technological drift within liberal capitalism, whose apocalyptic aftermath was predicted by Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt respectively. Hence, in Schmittian perspective, the end of cold war has exposed the fragility of liberal democracy and liberalism as a core ideology of the western modernity—it is time to revisit Schmitt to save human civilization from liberal technological singularity.

Foto: Idee&Azione

7 giugno 2021