The real enmity of Carl Schmitt’s concept of the political

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Philosophy Department

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Research Article

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Journal of International Political Theory

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© The Author(s) 2015. Carl Schmitt’s use of the friend–enemy distinction to define the political is intimately connected to the question of how to define who is a friend and who is an enemy. This article shows that Schmitt bases it on the perceived threat posed by another. Because the political is social, this means that the political decision is intimately connected to war, which leads Schmitt to offer a tripartite analysis of war grounded in different forms of enmity called classical, real or absolute. While a number of commentators have suggested that Schmitt’s insistence that the political is the most intense antagonism should lead him to connect the political with absolute enmity, I show that the Schmittian political is and must be located against a real enemy. This not only clarifies an issue in Schmittian scholarship but also provides insights into how warring states should treat their enemy.

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