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Document Details :

Title: Theology without God
Subtitle: Carl Schmitt's Profane Concept of the Political
Author(s): LIEVENS, Matthias
Journal: Bijdragen
Volume: 72    Issue: 4   Date: 2011   
Pages: 408-431
DOI: 10.2143/BIJ.72.4.2152703

Abstract :
Many authors have tried to uncover a theological ‘hidden core’ in Carl Schmitt’s work. This article questions this ‘theological turn’ in the interpretation of Schmitt, most strongly represented by the work of Heinrich Meier. Carl Schmitt indeed describes his work as an instance of political theology, but this does not mean he is a theologian in the strict sense of the word. Many theological readings of Schmitt underestimate the deeply profane thrust of his basic concepts, such as sovereignty, the political, or decision. ‘Political theology’ had a specific function in Schmitt’s thinking, which is at odds with the religious, premodern view of the Catholic counterrevolutionaries with which Schmitt is often compared. This paper argues that Schmitt’s starting point is not a theological position, but the attempt to think ‘the political’ against other ‘types of spirit’. In theology, he finds the closest possible analogy to political thinking, against liberalism, positivism, economic-technical or natural-scientific thinking. The logic of the concept of the political itself, however, remains deeply profane. In this sense, Schmitt is not an advocate of a return to a pre-secularized era. In a paradoxical way, he shows that both this era and the situation that arises when secularization leads to the complete domination of economic-technical or natural-scientific thinking, have something in common: their ‘spirit’ both leads to the absolutization of enmity and to the demise of ‘the political’. As an advocate of ‘the political’, therefore, he is both an inheritor of secularization and warns for its possibly dangerous, depoliticizing effects when it is taken too far. The paper finally argues for a reinterpretation of the katechon in Schmitt’s work, as the figure who wards off this final depoliticization and thus keeps history open, profane and political.