Monday, April 7, 2008

Concept of the Simple

I noticed that the class response missed something rather key. It seemed like we kept trying to muddy the waters of what the political was, and who it pertained to. Yes the work was a bit contradictory at times. It often provided a convoluted reason for conflict that jumped between Platonist essentialism and materialist analysis. At one point economics, morality etc have little to do with the enemy, and then it seems that the enemy is created as it stems from those same moral and economic conflicts.

However, we shouldn’t let this confound what the political is. Schmidt’s discussion of the political was pretty explicit in its dualistic, dialectic obsession. He wasn’t interested in muddy waters. He discussed things in a way that Descartes called clear and distinct ie the boiled down definitions. Schmidt really should have titled it “The Concept of the Simple” because he’s not dealing in anything but simple distinctions. He wants an all encompassing, universal definition; he can’t get too complicated when dealing with absolutes. This is why he likes dialectics so much. It logically helps boil everything down to one simple distinction, to their essential properties. Putting forth an either/or dichotomy forces him and the reader to categorize something as essentially a or b. In this case something is either political or non political.

The political is not complicated for Schmidt, which as Mel points out is a key reason why I didn’t like the text. You are political based on a basic either/or question. Are you willing to use deadly force in this conflict? If yes then you have a political situation. If no, it is not political. That’s it.


Chris said...
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Chris said...


Now that's a good reason to hate Carl Schmitt. He's not interested in Muddy Waters, one of the all-time greatest bluesmen? Disgraceful.

Next you'll be telling me that Max Weber doesn't like Canned Heat, or that Anders Stephanson and Robert Johnson never got along after Johnson sold his soul to the devil.

Political scientists. What a bunch of jerks.

Andrew said...

Yes. See! Philosophy is so much cooler and hipper. Sartre listened to the Doors don't ya know?

Rinske said...

On a more serious note, while Schmitt does present a very simple idea of what is political and what is not, I didn't feel that in class we were muddying the issue. Although the idea of separating the political from the non-political as he presents it seems simple, however, as we discussed, as much as Schmitt might not have wanted to muddy this, with just the short time in class we came up with several scenarios that may be questionable. Also although that was the main point of the book, the framing of it, such as the foe/enemy contrast are not simple distinctions.