Wednesday, 19 April 2000

From "The Concept of the Political"

By Carl Schmitt, trans. George Schwab.

The best example of this polarity of state and society is contained in the theses of Franz Oppenheimer. He declares his aim to be the destruction of the state. His liberalism is so radical that he no longer permits the state to be even an armed office guard. The destruction is effected by advancing a value- and passion-ridden definition. The concept of state should be determined by political means, the concept of society (in essence nonpolitical) by economic means. But the qualifications by which political and economic means are then defined are nothing more than typical expressions of that pathos against politics and state. They swing in the polarity of ethics and economics and unveil polemical antitheses in which is mirrored the nineteenth-century German polemical tension of state and society, politics and economy. The economic way is declared to be reciprocity of production and consumption, therefore mutuality, equality, justice, and freedom, and finally nothing less than the spritiual union of fellowship, brotherlieness, and justice [...] The political way appears on the other hand as a conquering power outside the domain of economics, namely, thievery, conquest, and crimes of all sorts. A hierarchical value system of the relation of state and society is maintained. But whereas Hegel's systematized conception of the German state in the nineteenth century considered it to be a realm of morality and objective reason high above the appetitive domain of egoistic society, the value judgment is now turned around. Society as a sphere of peaceful justice now stands infinitely higher than the state, which is degraded to a region of brutal immorality. The roles are changed, the apotheosis remains.

But this in actuality is not permissible and neither moral nor psychological, least of all scientific, to simply define by moral disqualifications, by confronting the good, the just, and the peaceful with filthy, evil, rapacious, and criminal politics. With such methods one could just as well the other way around define politics as the sphere of honest rivalry and economics as a world of deception. The connection of politics with thievery, force, and repression is, in the final analysis, no more precise than is the connection of economics with cunning and deception. Exchange and deception are often not far apart. A domination of men based upon pure economics must appear a terrible deception if, by remaining nonpolitical, it thereby evades political responsibility and visibility.

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