The Enemy of Liberalism

The Concept of the Political

by Carl Schmitt, translated and introduced by George Schwab, with a new foreword by Tracy B. Strong
University of Chicago Press, 111 pp., $9.95 (paper)

The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes: Meaning and Failure of a Political Symbol

by Carl Schmitt, translated by George Schwab, translated by Erna Hilfstein
Greenwood Press, 121 pp., $49.95

Roman Catholicism and Political Form

by Carl Schmitt, translated by G.L. Ulmen
Greenwood Press, 68 pp., $39.95

Glossarium: Aufzeichnungen der Jahre 1947-1951

by Carl Schmitt, edited by Eberhard Freiherr von Medem
Berlin: Duncker and Humblot, 364 pp., 78DM

Staat, Grossraum, Nomos: Arbeiten aus den Jahren 1916-1969

by Carl Schmitt, edited by Günther Maschke
Berlin: Duncker and Humblot, 668 pp., 198DM

Der Fall Carl Schmitt: Sein Aufstieg zum “Kronjuristen des Dritten Reiches”

by Andreas Koenen
Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 979 pp., 128DM

Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue

by Heinrich Meier, translated by J. Harvey Lomax, foreword by Joseph Cropsey
University of Chicago Press, 136 pp., $19.95

Die Lehre Carl Schmitts: Vier Kapitel zur Unterscheidung Politischer Theologie und Politischer Philosophie

by Heinrich Meier
Stuttgart: Metzler Verlag, 267 pp., 38DM

Der Katechon: Zu Carl Schmitts fundamentalistischer Kritik der Zeit

by Günter Meuter
Berlin: Duncker und Humblot, 553 pp., 128DM

Carl Schmitt: Eine Biographie

by Paul Noack
Berlin: Propyläen, 360 pp., 26.90DM

Die eigentlich katholische Verschärfung: Konfession, Theologie und Politik im Werk Carl Schmitts

edited by Bernd Wacker
Munich: Fink Verlag, 324 pp., 68DM

Carl Schmitt was born in the small Westphalian town of Plettenberg and died there in 1985 at the age of ninety-six. Virtually unknown in America, he is today considered in many European countries, especially in Germany, to be one of the most significant political theorists of the century. His books, the most important of which were written during the Weimar years, remain in print in many languages and are the subject of intense scholarly debate. Not even increased awareness of the circumstances surrounding Schmitt’s active collaboration with the Nazi regime has dampened interest in the man and his writings.

The story of that collaboration is distressing. On May 1, 1933, while a professor of law at the University of Cologne, Schmitt applied to join the Nazi Party. Although he was hardly in the vanguard of the movement, as his party membership number (2,098,860) attests, his decision was not really surprising. During the previous decade he had become prominent as an anti-liberal political and legal theorist, and as an outspoken critic of the Versailles Treaty and the Weimar Constitution. As German parliamentary democracy disintegrated in the 1920s under the strains of political extremism on both left and right, Schmitt advocated temporary dictatorial rule by the Reich president, which he argued would be legal under the emergency powers granted by Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution.

When the German government finally invoked Article 48 in 1932 and appointed a Reich commissar for the state of Prussia in an attempt to block the Nazis from coming to power there, Schmitt defended the appointment before the State Constitutional Court. He lost the case, but his arguments in favor of temporary dictatorship so impressed Nazi officials that after they came to power a few months later, they invited him to become one of the regime’s legal counselors. Schmitt accepted, and within months newspapers were calling him the “crown jurist” of the Third Reich.

Like a number of other German intellectuals, including Martin Heidegger, Ernst Jünger, and Gottfried Benn, Schmitt publicly supported the Nazis in the early days of the Third Reich. But as Andreas Koenen shows in his detailed new book on the Schmitt “case,” he went further than they did, becoming a committed, official advocate of the Nazi regime. Under the patronage of Hermann Göring, he was appointed to the Prussian State Council, received a professorship in Berlin, and edited an important legal journal. The Nazis obviously hoped that Schmitt would supply juridical respectability to Hitler’s actions, and they were not disappointed. Soon after joining the party he wrote pamphlets defending the Führer principle, the priority of the Nazi Party, and racism, on the grounds that “all right is the right of a particular Volk.” After the Night of the Long Knives in June 1934, when Hitler had Ernst Röhm and his other adversaries in the SA executed (among them a close friend of Schmitt’s), Schmitt published an infamous and influential article arguing that Hitler’s act “was …

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Letters

A Bone for the Nazis June 12, 1997