Political theology à la Carl Schmitt

What does the political theology in the name of our project stand for? I will try to open the concept by using the ideas of Carl Schmitt.

As Schmitt states in his famous quote 'The central concepts of the modern state theory are all secularized theological concepts' (Politische Theologie, 1922). This is easier to understand if we know Schmitt's view how the controlling forces in the Western states have changed throughout their history. In the medieval worldview states were controlled by God and the Scriptures. Secular politics was a prerogative of the Catholic Church and the Pope who had a mandate straight from God. Now - after the phases of science, humanism and economics - we are living in a state where technology is the ruling element.

If we want to fully understand this analogy between political theory and theology we must study Schmitt's notion about the 'state of exception'. For Schmitt 'sovereign is the one who decides about the exception'. Exception is the miracle and the sovereign (state) is the God of the secularised time. Exceptions made by the sovereign can not be explained by the laws like the miracles made by God can not be explained by rational sense. Political theology tries to find the elements of transcendence which are often concealed in secular politics.

According to Schmitt 'the machine now runs by itself' - all transcendental elements have been stripped off the state. In the modern state the omnipotent God has been replaced by omnipotent lawgiver. Schmitt wants to restore the importance and weight that the concepts of political theory had in the 16th century. Schmitt is very critical towards liberalism and criticises the fragmentation of power. For him a strong state but also strong values were the only ways to face the challenges posed by the liberalising international system.

Even though Schmitt represented his ideas in the first half of 20th century and even thought some of his ideas can be seen as products of his time, are the theories of the political theology and the state of exception getting more attention especially in the context of war on terror.



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