On Schmitt’s so-called “Popularity” with the Left

Mary Kaldor (LSE) has this video up on the Guardian‘s “Comment is Free,” which mashes up some Schmitt:

1. First, he does not claim that emnity produces war, or some such, but that the existential position of politics is a state of war in which killing one’s enemy is always a potentiality. Saying that war produces emnity, as if this counters Schmitt, is not to realize that he says precisely this in the Concept of the Political.

2. She then manages to suggest that Schmitt didn’t realize the wonders beyond the binary of friend/enemy, such as parliamentary discussion, etc., when in fact his work was a critique that this all hid or concealed the sovereign decision that makes all such discussions possible.

3. She then confuses Schmitt’s avowed “existential” account for an “essentialist” one. She also conflates his political realism with a set of norms, which, again, he wanted to disentangle from the political.

Finally, while it’s true Schmitt is now widely read on the left, it’s weird to call him “popular,” as if there were avowed Schmittians (they are out there, but not on the left) behind leftist movements in the Chiapas or something. Yes, certainly Mouffee, Zizek, Agamben, etc., all write in response to Schmitt, but he is taken as an emblem of where reactionary politics lead. (Mouffe, however, is a bit harder to place in this.) He is a symptom of a political disorder, or better, a provocation to the Left (whatever that is, anyway), when his work seemed to be providing the language for the Bush War on Terror, etc. Just blindly stating that politics is more about shades of gray or whatever obviates thinking through Schmitt’s claims about how communities (you know, those places in which doxa and discussions are formed) come about in the first place; to put it otherwise, Schmitt is used to question an a priori decisionism implicit for various social contract theories to get off the ground. He must be rejected and all his claims challenged root and branch. But first what Schmittianism is must be understood.