The Power of Political Theology: an Analysis of Carl Schmitt’s Sovereign Dictatorship and Friend-Enemy Distinction through Friedrich J. W. Schelling and Sigmund Freud

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Abstract

In this paper, I draw together Carl Schmitt’s take on sovereign power and its dictatorial exceptionalism with his political theology and his insistence on the friend-enemy distinction in order to take steps towards a critique of his work. To explain why we would be remiss to take Schmitt’s insights into political theology prescriptively, I turn to Friedrich W. J. Schelling’s !&"' Freiheitsschri!. I then take-up Sigmund Freud’s !'%' Das Unbehangen in der Kultur in order to shed light on the psychological underpinnings of the friend-enemy distinction as it actually plays itself out in everyday life. I explain Schmitt’s analogy between divine power and sovereign power in Section II. In Section III, I argue that the role of the sovereign dictator in the state of emergency is especially problematic given Schmitt’s insistence on the friend-enemy distinction. In Section IV, I turn to Schelling’s view of God, and of the manifestation of divine principles in the human world, and argue that Schmitt’s theologized sovereign dictator is a force of evil. In section V, I engage with Freud’s understanding of the role of religion and his view of the e+ects of repression of the powerful drives (eros and thanatos) in civilized society. I then argue that the practical unravelling of Schmitt’s political theology and his concept of the political, when put to the test of psychoanalytic inquiry, is that they end up demonizing those who are deemed “enemies”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-82
Number of pages20
JournalRussian Sociological Review
Volume22
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • civilization
  • Dictatorship
  • eros
  • evil
  • god
  • sovereign power
  • state of exception
  • thanatos

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • General Social Sciences

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