Chapter

Violence in the State of Exception: Reflections on Theologico-Political Motifs in Benjamin and Schmitt

Marc de Wilde

in Political Theologies

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print November 2006 | ISBN: 9780823226443
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823237043 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fso/9780823226443.003.0008
Violence in the State of Exception: Reflections on               Theologico-Political Motifs in Benjamin and Schmitt

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This chapter explores the status of theologico-political motifs in the work of Walter Benjamin and Carl Schmitt. In their work, the concept of political theology stands neither for an explicitly theological discourse in politics nor for some kind of hidden theological agenda. Rather, it marks the continuous resurfacing of theological figures of thought in what seems an otherwise relentlessly secularized world. The theological, in their view, resurfaces not only in fundamental political beliefs, ideologies, and myths but also, more obliquely, in theories of sovereignty, in theories and practices demonstrating the force of law, and, last but not least, in the state of exception. This chapter includes a close reading of Benjamin's 1921 chapter “Critique of Violence” and Schmitt's 1922 study “Political Theology”. Although it is uncertain whether Schmitt was familiar with Benjamin's chapter, for both the concept of political theology implies the task of inventing or reinventing a politics that bears witness to divine violence, albeit without being able to understand itself as a direct representation of that violence.

Keywords: Walter Benjamin; Carl Schmitt; theologico-political motifs; political theology; politics; sovereignty; state of exception; divine violence; law

Chapter.  6703 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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