January 13th, 2006

"Politics? Totally. . ."

Inspired by my friend and colleague Eric's Printculture entries on Giorgio Agamben yesterday and today, I'm revisiting Carl Schmitt's Political Theology. I either hadn't read the 1934 preface Schmitt wrote for the book's second edition or didn't pay much attention when I did, because otherwise I would surely have inscribed a mental note about this passage:
We have come to recognize that the political is the total, and as a result we know that any decision about whether something is unpolitical is always a political decision, irrespective of who decides and what reasons are advanced.
While I've long been of the opinion that Schmitt is to be credited, whether with praise or blame, for helping to pave the way for the conviction that "everything is political" -- and, as a corollary, that said conviction should be regarded with suspicion as a consequence -- I hadn't come across the right quote with which to support that view. This passage fits the bill and is concise as it is clear for good measure. I have to admit that I'm struggling to find anything to argue with in Schmitt's formulation. But the urge to keep trying is strong. G-d knows I don't want to follow Paul Piccone and company down the well-ordered path to an authoritarian post-Left where an idiosyncratic synthesis of Schmitt and Gramsci à la de Benoist serve to insert garlic cloves into the flesh of a modern welfare state that has already been scored and trussed for roasting. Incidentally, while I was writing this I found an interesting piece that traces Schmitt's influence on UC Berkeley Professor of Law and Bush Administration apologist John Yoo that gives a good sense of the thorny issues raised by attempts to make use of Schmitt's work for progressive ends, namely that it is well-suited for the pursuit of reactionary ones.