Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Politics of Balls /Dialectics on Opium

Carl Schmidt: a testament to why even dead Nazis are pernicious bastards

So reading the Concept of the Political is something like reading the deranged ramblings of a facile monkey trying to ape the movements of a far greater thinker *cough* Weber. Surprise! Everyone politics has to do with the use of force! It’s not like Weber didn’t say something incredibly similar 9 years prior to this essay. Oh wait, he did!

It seems like Schmidt’s primary contribution to political thought is his unique obsession with force. Unlike Weber who gets into the mechanics of rule and the use of legitimate force, Schmidt just talks about force. Regardless of who or what you are, so long as you can get a bunch of dudes to kill, you have become political. Probably the best quote is when he says that once pacifists engage in a war to end all wars, only then will they have shown to have “political energy” in that they convinced enough people to group themselves between “friend and enemy”

This has interesting and dangerous metaphysical consequences, namely that the political becomes solely about drawing lines, about defining who is Other. In order to be political one must be willing not only to kill but to consider their enemy as something worthy of destruction. Yet at the same time you should consider loving that enemy in the private sense! Oh Schmidt how odd you are. Though what’s most peculiar is his justification for all this. Not morality or something rational, but on grounds of some weird realist notion of foreign nations. It’s as if there’s this platonic wonderland where you find your other and then seek to annihilate him or her. Of course that’s what he says at first. Schmidt seems to realize that he sounds like the mentally handicapped. Then he explains it all away by stating that that reasons for political matters, aka conflict, arise out of these other things in addition to the state’s drive for strength and expansion. Those axiomatic hallmarks of the political can never go away.

As if to make things worse Schmidt bases much of his argument on these silly dialectical notions. I know most German theorists felt a need to copulate with Hegel, but the intellectual necrophilia is rather obscene here. He gives no evidence or reason to institute dialectical categories in a discussion of the political. Good vs. evil and beauty vs. ugliness do not mean that you can divide the political world in two as well. This is glaringly obvious when Schmidt glosses over starving people into submission as just another example of disciplining unsuccessful competitors. Because intermediate forms of violence, like blacklisting someone from work, and non murder forms of violence (like rape) do not factor into his equivocation, we get a stilted view of the political. His obsession of using either or propositions completely screws up his theory. There’s no nuance, just totalitarian certainty.

Really it all boils down to political theory of crass warlordism. Whoever has the most guns wins the game. We all rush into a head-on collision with death to prove our political point. To show that we have the biggest balls. But that’s a rather foolish prescription for society. For in Schmidt’s world the only solution is a political force so big that it annihilates all internal political wills and keeps other states at bay. Some would call this dictatorship. Other would call it fascism. I just think Schmidt’s a fool.

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