Carl Schmitt on the Secularisation of Religious Texts as a Resacralisation of Jurisprudence?

Michael Salter
University of Central Lancashire
Carl Schmitt, an increasingly influential German law professor, developed a provocative and historically oriented model of “political theology” with specific relevance to legal scholarship and the authorship of constitutional texts. His “political theology” is best understood neither as an expressly theological discourse within constitutional law, nor as a uniquely legal discourse shaped by a hidden theological agenda. Instead, it addresses the possibility of the continual resurfacing of theological ideas and beliefs within legal discourses of, for instance, sovereignty, the force of law and states of emergency (or “exception”) that present themselves as relentlessly secular, even—in the case of Kelsenian jurisprudence—”scientific”. This article illustrates and then critically evaluates Schmitt’s theory in terms of the authorship of constitutional texts in particular. It includes two case studies—genocidal colonial land appropriation and Kelsenian positivism in order to illustrate aspects of his political theology. Whilst Schmitt is defended against reductionist interpretations, I show that there remains considerable unfinished business before a Schmittian approach to legal theory merits full acceptance
Keywords Carl Schmitt  Genocide  Hans Kelsen  Secularisation  Liberal constitutionalism
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DOI 10.1007/s11196-012-9265-x
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