'Potentia' as 'potestas': An interpretation of modern politics between Thomas Hobbes and Carl Schmitt

Philosophy and Social Criticism 36 (2):231-252 (2010)
Abstract
The present article discusses the relationship between might ( potentia ) and power ( potestas ) as it has unfolded throughout the modern age, from Thomas Hobbes to Carl Schmitt. Hobbes indicates the way forward for a progressive linguistic and conceptual coincidence of potentia and potestas : the goal of Hobbesian political philosophy (the search for peace and security) necessitates the reduction of potentia to potestas through the elimination of the content of actus . Schmitt accepts this reduction, by assigning priority to potestas : the image of modern technology as a privileged dimension of potentia—potestas comes together as the modern state. Instead of taking the route of potentia understood as an opening-up to new possibilities and as human self-affirmation, the language of potentia—potestas has triggered a process, which is that of a naturalization of power relations, that is based on and justified by the social inequality arising from the differing extent of ownership of the instruments of technological production
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