The Concept of the Political

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The Concept of the Political
The Concept of the Political (German edition).jpg
Cover of the German edition
AuthorCarl Schmitt
TranslatorGeorge Schwab
SubjectPolitical philosophy
PublisherRutgers University Press
Publication date
Media typePrint
ISBN0-226-73886-8 (1996 University of Chicago Press edition)
LC ClassJA 74 .S313

The Concept of the Political (German: Der Begriff des Politischen) is a 1932 book by the German philosopher and jurist Carl Schmitt, in which the author examines the fundamental nature of the "political" and its place in the modern world.

The book was an elaboration of a journal article of the same title ("The Concept of the Political"), published in 1927.[1]


For Schmitt, the political is reducible to the existential distinction between friend and enemy.[2] Schmitt attacks the "liberal-neutralist" and "utopian" notions that politics can be removed of all warlike, agonistic energy, arguing conflict existed as embedded in existence itself, likewise constituting an ineradicable trait of anthropological human nature. Schmitt attempts to substantiate his ideas by referencing the declared anthropological pessimism of "realistic" Catholic (and Christian) theology. The anti-perfectibilist pessimism of Traditional Catholic theology Schmitt considers esoterically relevant to the inner ontological being of politics and political activity in the contemporary world, modern people subconsciously secularizing theological intellectual ideas and concerns. Schmitt criticizes political "radicals" as basically ignorant, deluded, pseudo-messianic in mentality, and oblivious to the stark, hard knowledge of unveiled human nature, its esse, encoded in ancient theology, wherein Original Sin held central, axial place, intertwining his own ideas of meta-politics with a reformulated "metaphysics of evil".[3]

Ideas and theories[edit]

For Schmitt, the political arises from the fact of human diversity: identities and practices, beliefs and way of life can, in principle, be in conflict with one another whether there are actions being committed to against the other. Any differences that Schmidt calls substance can give rise to enmity, enmity gives rise to politics and this is a source of conflict because it can lead to war. One main aim of politics is to manage enmity. The domestic political is no longer so when a conflict becomes a revolution or civil war, this is polarized since it traverses politics, the issue and concept of the sovereignty as state borderlines is disputed and violence is used. This is the basis of the friend-enemy distinction.[4][5]

“Sovereign is he who decides on the exception”.[6] Schmitt says the borderline concept is of “one pertaining to the outermost sphere”. Schmitt says that although the sovereign “stands outside the normally valid legal system, he nevertheless belongs to it”. Sovereignty is more than the technical, it is the personal privilege of the ruler.[violencenote 1]

Schmitt states; "significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts".[7]

Gulli suggests Schmitt's point of the concept as; "Sovereignty is decision and domination". The decision would make X arise to the level and status of sovereign, thus the decision is treated to be of the sovereign. The decision of the matter of the exception is always decided by the sovereign, and it always carries the understated or explicitly stated (institutionally, politically motivated, or mandated) use of violence. The decision has with it the special powers and inherent power. The state of the 17th was able to codify all social customs, rituals and economics without it ever used politically.[8]


  1. ^ For Schmitt, politics isn't merely the domestic use of power and an exercise of authority to the exception, it is politics and with it the violence and conflict ridden affairs, this may be of foreign policy, warfare, civil war, and revolution.

Publication history[edit]

The Concept of the Political was first published in 1932 by Duncker & Humblot (Munich). It was an elaboration of a journal article of the same title, published in 1927.[1] The 1932 version has significant, and controversial, revisions. However, it is likely that these revisions were made in response to the reaction of Leo Strauss.[3]


  1. ^ a b Carl Schmitt (1927), "The Concept of the Political", Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, 58(1), pp. 1–33. Cf. George Schwab, 'Introduction', in Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, University of Chicago Press, 2007, p. 5 n. 8.
  2. ^ Edward Fairhead, 'Carl Schmitt’s politics in the age of drone strikes: examining the Schmittian texture of Obama’s enemy' (2017), Journal for Cultural Research, available at:
  3. ^ a b Meier, Heinrich. Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue. University of Chicago Press, 2006.
  4. ^ Schmitt, Carl (May 15, 2007). The Concept of the Political. Translated by Schwab, George. Foreword by Tracy B. Strong and Notes by Leo Strauss (Enlarged ed.). Chicago: United States: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226738925.
  5. ^ "The Concept of the Political". Counter-Currents Publishing. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  6. ^ Schmitt, Carl. (2005). Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, trans. GeorgeSchwab. Chicago: United States: Chicago andLondon: The University of Chicago Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0226738895.
  7. ^ Schmitt, Carl (1996). The Concept of the Political, trans. George Schwab. Chicago: United States: University of Chicago Press. pp. 36, 48, 65.
  8. ^ Gullì, Bruno (2009). "Sovereign is he who decides on the exception" (PDF). Glossator. 1: 23–24. ISSN 1942-3381. Retrieved 18 May 2019.

External links[edit]