Friday, January 09, 2015

The State of Exception and the Freedom of the Oppressed: Schmitt, Taubes, and Benjamin

"All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts not only because of their historical development--in which they were transferred from theology to the theory of the state, whereby, for example, the omnipotent God became the omnipotent lawgiver--but also because of their systematic structure, the recognition of which is necessary for a sociological consideration of these concepts. The state of exception in jurisprudence is analogous to the miracle in theology. Only by being aware of this analogy can we appreciate the manner in which the philosophical idea of the state developed over the last few centuries." (Carl Schmitt)

"I had quickly come to see Carl Schmitt as an incarnation of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor. During a stormy conversation at Plettenburg in 1980 Carl Schmitt told me that anyone who failed to se that the Grand Inquisitor was right about the sentimentality of Jesuitical piety had grasped neither what a Church was for, nor what Dotoevsky--contrary to his own conviction--had 'really conveyed, compelled by the sheer force of the way in which he posed the problem." I always read Schmitt with interest, often captivated by his intellectual brilliance and pithy style. But in every word I sensed something alien to me, the kind of fear and anxiety one has before a storm, an anxiety that lies concealed in the secularized messianic dart of Marxism. Carl Schmitt seemed to me to be the Grand Inquisitor of all heretics... he can be read and understood both as a jurist and as an apocalyptic prophet of the counterrevolution." (Jacob Taubes)

"Carl Schmitt thinks apocalyptically but from above, from the powers that be; I think from the bottom up. Common to us both is the experience of time and history as delimited respite, as a term or even a last respite. Originally that was also a Christian experience of history." (Jacob Taubes)

"The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the 'state of exception' in which we live has become the rule. We have to find a concept of history corresponding to this. Then our task will come to be the creation of a real 'state of exception' ; and in this our position in the struggle against fascism will improve." (Walter Benjamin)

"Schmitt's fundamental vocabulary is here introduced by Benjamin, made use of, and so transformed into its opposite. Carl Schmitt's conception of the 'state of exception' is dictatorial, dictated from above; in Benjamin it becomes a doctrine in the tradition of the oppressed" (Jacob Taubes)

"If I understand anything at all of the mystical historical construction that Benjamin here constructs with one eye on Schmitt's theses, then this: what is superficially a process of secularization, of desacralization, the dedeification of public life, a process of step-by-step neutralization right up to the 'value freedom' of science as an index of a tech-industrial form of life; this process also has an inner face that testifies to the freedom of God's children (as in the letters of St. Paul), hence an expression of a reformation that is nearing its completion" (Jacob Taubes).

To Carl Schmitt: Letters and Reflections (Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture)

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