A “Catholic Layman of German Nationality and Citizenship”?

Reinhard Mehring

in The Oxford Handbook of Carl Schmitt

Published in print January 2017 | ISBN: 9780199916931
Published online December 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780199983254 | DOI:
A “Catholic Layman of German Nationality and Citizenship”?

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Carl Schmitt positioned his constitutional theory in the context of a “political theology” and referred to himself repeatedly as a Catholic. Schmitt scholarship has long pursued this self-depiction without establishing a convincing “Catholic” doctrine, political position, or life praxis. This chapter provides an overview and critical interrogation of Schmitt’s self-description. By emphasizing his political and theological distance from his early background and from the political Catholicism of the interwar period, the chapter analyzes his systematic connection of theism, personalism, and decisionism, and considers Schmitt as a “religious” author and person. Schmitt’s apocalyptically dramatized perception and stylization of life as a permanent “state of exception” can be seen as a religious practice of testing contingency and sovereignty and self-assigning to “salvation.” Schmitt must thus be understood not as a part of majority Catholicism, but beyond it, among the religious movements in the history of modern secular faith.

Keywords: Catholicism; theology; religious practice; theism; personalism; decisionism; state of exception

Article.  10959 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory ; Politics and Law

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