Friday, 26 October 2012

Wen Jia Bao's Crimes Exposed

For the many friends who follow us in China, here is the full version of an article in The New York Times exposing the crimes of the Wen Jia Bao family alone.

And here is Bob Dylan (from 'Idiot Wind') with a Petrarchan stropha:

"You hurt someone that I loved best,
And covered up the truth with lies.
One day you'll be in the ditch,
Flies buzzing around your eyes -
BLOOD on your saddle."

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Politico-Economic Theology, Part Two - Overcoming Dezisionismus

To be sure, Protestant theology
presents a different, supposedly unpolitical doctrine, conceiving
of God as the "wholly other," just as in political liberalism the
state and politics are conceived of as the "wholly other." We
have come to recognize that the political is the total, and as a
result we know that any decision about whether something is
unpolitical is always a political decision, irrespective of who decides
and what reasons are advanced. This also holds for the question
whether a particular theology is a political or an unpolitical
theology. (PT, p2)

In what Schmitt calls “the age of neutralization”, the terminus ad quem of bourgeois romanticism is to attain the realization of “the system” so as to eliminate conflict from social life and with it to neutralize “the Political”. This is the aim of all scientism and rationalism – most evident in the bourgeois “science” of political economy. But by “the Political”, Schmitt means “conflict”, its ineluctability not only in the, for him, mythological Hobbesian state of nature or status naturae, but even and most important in the status civilis, in a society governed by a State. Hobbes saw the Political as the way out of the state of nature, which he conceived of as pre-political. His starting point was the in-dividuum, just like the point in Euclid, and its self-interest, which consisted principally of the a-voidance of its own death and the pre-servation of its own life operating fundamentally in line with the “laws” of Galilean-Newtonian mechanics. This is the foundation of the social pact, convention or con-ventum - and therefrom, mechanically or more geometrico, of the common-weal, or common-wealth or State. As in Euclid, Hobbes’s “point” or individuum merges miraculously into the “line” of the common weal, of the social contract.

Schmitt instead abandons such aporetic mystifications and starts with the State as an interested party in what is the political state of nature, which, contrary to Hobbes, does not begin with individual self-interest but rather with the division of humanity into “friends and foes”. For Schmitt therefore the state of nature is not pre-political, as it is in Hobbes, but rather the very essence of the political because its bellum civium – its conflict between “friend” and “foe”, rather than between atomized self-interested in-dividuals – is one in which even the Sovereign takes part. The Sovereign rules at all times – he never simply reigns. (Cf. the famous review of Schmitt by Leo-Strauss.)

Thus, in contrast to Hobbes, Schmitt ascribes to the auctoritas of the State a real substantive ascendancy over the veritas not only of the legal form and norm but of any “scientific” reality whatsoever. The Schmittian sovereign remains an “in-dividuum”, because the decision is in-divisible and must rest ultimately on one will: it is this Individualitat of the decision on the exception – what Schmitt calls the “personality” of the Sovereign - that precludes it from being absorbed into any “logico-scientific” schema. As we have learned from Nietzsche, this applies both to the legal-moral order and to the logico-mathematical and scientific one!

The decisive point about Bodin's
concept is that by referring to the emergency, he reduced his
analysis of the relationships between prince and estates to a
simple either/or.
This is what is truly impressive in his definition of sovereignty;
by considering sovereignty to be indivisible, he finally settled the
question of power in the state. His scholarly accomplishment and
the basis for his success thus reside in his having incorporated
the decision into the concept of sovereignty.(PT, p8)

This is why the State is not and cannot be “wholly other” or “neutral”, like the Protestant God or the State of Law of Political Economy. The State does not stand, as in Hobbes and the liberal tradition, au dessus de la melee: it is a partial interest in society; its interest is the preservation of itself as “the State”, as the legal order.
And this preservation depends on a political “decision”, on sovereignty that is not assigned by law but that is rather the very “content” of law. As the creator pacis terrestris (the opposite of Marsilius’s defensor pacis divinae), the State is for Schmitt not the pro-duct of the con-vergence or con-vention of individual self-interests, of their mediation, as found in the state of nature (the degree zero of politics, to invoke Barthes), even as the Hobbesian ultima ratio of avoiding (one’s own) death. Rather, the State is a direct product of the conflict, of the di-vergence of these self-interests – so that the State remains conceptually tied to the state of nature – it does not transcend it because it is a Unicum, an indivisible Will. There is no “meeting of the minds” (conventum mentium) or convergence of wills upon which the State can be founded because these wills are uni-vocal, one-sided, and incapable of “mediation” with one another.

The State is the sovereign that can preserve social peace not by “mediating” or “re-conciling” the conflicting interests of the state of nature, but by ensuring that “friends” keep their “foes” in check. The State is not a pro-duct of law, and thence sub-ordinate to law. Instead, the State as sover-reign, as suzer-rein, is above the law, it is a legibus solutus (ab-solute): therefore, as such, the State determines the “content” of the law in a conflictual and ineluctably antagonistic sense.

And this is precisely what Schmitt disputes. The genius of Hobbes was to posit the alienation of personal freedom (the freedom of the will) for the sake of the preservation of life intended in the “negative” sense of “fear of death”: this last is what supplies the con-ventum, the agreement on which the State as “common wealth” can be erected consistently – the “system” or “order” or “freedom from the will”. This is the “truth”, the rationalist inter esse of Hobbes’s political theory that is exalted in all the “liberalist” and contractualist interpretations of his theory (starting with Leo Strauss). But for Schmitt, no such inter esse linking the individual’s survival or welfare to the social contract exists or can exist. Therefore, the State is not super partes; it is not a “line” that magically results from a series of “points”: the State is a “partisan” that de-fines the political boundary between friend and foe, – a boundary that is absolutely inescapable not merely in foro externo, with regard to other, foreign States, but also and above all with regard to the conflicts internal to the “State”, in foro interno.

El Estado, en su condición de unidad política determinante,
concentra en sí una competencia aterradora: la posibilidad de declarar
la guerra, y en consecuencia de disponer abiertamente de la
vida de las personas. Pues el ius belli implica tal capacidad de disposición:
significa la doble posibilidad de requerir por una parte de los
miembros del propio pueblo la disponibilidad para matar y ser
muertos, y por la otra de matar a las personas que se encuentran del
lado del enemigo. Sin embargo la aportación de un Estado normal
consiste sobre todo en producir dentro del Estado y su territorio una
pacificación completa, esto es, en procurar «paz, seguridad y orden»
y crear así la situación normal que constituye el presupuesto necesario
para que las normas jurídicas puedan tener vigencia en general,
ya que toda norma presupone una situación normal y ninguna norma
puede tener vigencia en una situación totalmente anómala por
referencia a ella.
Esta necesidad de pacificación dentro del Estado tiene como
consecuencia, en caso de situación crítica, que el Estado como unidad
política, mientras exista como tal, está capacitado para determinar
por sí mismo también al «enemigo interior». Tal es la razón por
la que en todo Estado se da una forma u otra lo que en el derecho
público de las repúblicas griegas se conocía como declaración de
isok€ptLoq, y en el romano como declaración de hostil: formas de
proscripción, destierro, ostracismo, de poner fuera de la ley, en una
palabra, de declarar a alguien enemigo dentro del Estado; formas
automáticas o de eficacia regulada judicialmente por leyes especiales,
formas abiertas u ocultas en circunloquios oficiales. Según sea
el comportamiento del que ha sido declarado enemigo del Estado,
76 Carl Schmitt, El Concepto de lo Politico
tal declaración será la señal de la guerra civil, esto es, de la disolución
del Estado como unidad política organizada, internamente
apaciguada, territorialmente cerrada sobre sí e impermeable para
extraños. La guerra civil decidirá entonces sobre el destino ulterior
de esa unidad. Y a despecho de todas las ataduras constitucionales
que vinculan al Estado de derecho burgués constitucional, tal cosa
vale para él en la misma medida, si no en medida aún mayor, que
para cualquier otro Estado. Pues, siguiendo una expresión de Lorenz
von Stein, «en el Estado constitucional» la constitución es «la expresión
del orden social, la existencia misma de la sociedad ciudadana.
En cuanto es atacada, la lucha ha de decidirse fuera de la
constitución y del derecho, en consecuencia por la fuerza de las armas».

The classical idea of the State is that of an entity that successfully resolves or at least reconciles all conflict between its members within its geographical boundaries. The problem is that for the State to have a ratio essendi or raison d’etre there must still exist conflict within it or else, ultimately, between its members and the members of other States. This is a point that anarchist philosophers have elaborated all too well from the days of Proudhon and Bakunin. Inevitably, the existence of States signals the presence of conflict. And for Schmitt, as for Weber, this conflict cannot be “boiled down” or “reduced” to some other specific type of conflict, whether moral, ethical, religious, racial or indeed economic.

Todo antagonismo o oposición religiosa, moral, económica, étnica
o de cualquier clase se transforma en oposición política en
cuanto gana la fuerza suficiente como para agrupar de un modo
efectivo a los hombres en amigos y enemigos. Lo político no estriba
en la lucha misma; ésta posee a su vez sus propias leyes técnicas, psicológicas
y militares. Lo político está, como decíamos, en una conducta
determinada por esta posibilidad real, en la clara comprensión
de la propia situación y de su manera de estar determinada por
ello, así como en el cometido de distinguir correctamente entre
amigos y enemigos. Una comunidad religiosa que haga la guerra
como tal, bien contra miembros de otras comunidades religiosas,
bien en general, es, más allá de una comunidad religiosa, también
una unidad política. Sería también una magnitud política con sólo
que ejerciese de un modo meramente negativo alguna influencia sobre
ese proceso decisivo, si estuviese por ejemplo en condiciones de
evitar guerras por medio de la correspondiente prohibición a sus seguidores,
esto es, si poseyese la autoridad necesaria para negar efectivamente
la condición de enemigo de un determinado adversario.
Lo mismo se aplica para una asociación de personas basada en
un fundamento económico, por ejemplo un consorcio industrial o
un sindicato. También una «clase» en el sentido marxista del térmi
no deja de ser algo puramente económico y se convierte en una
magnitud política desde el momento en que alcanza el punto decisivo
de tomar en serio la lucha de clases y tratar al adversario de clase
como verdadero enemigo y combatirlo, bien de Estado a Estado,
bien en una guerra civil dentro de un mismo Estado. La lucha real
no podrá ya discurrir según leyes económicas, sino que, junto a los
métodos de lucha en el sentido técnico restrictivo del término, poseerá
sus propias necesidades y orientaciones políticas, y realizará
las correspondientes coaliciones, compromisos, etc. Si el proletariado
se apodera del poder político dentro de un Estado, habrá nacido
un Estado proletario, que no será una unidad menos política
que cualquier Estado nacional, sacerdotal, comercial o militar, que
un Estado funcionarial o que cualquier otra categoría de unidad política.
Si se llegara a agrupar de acuerdo con el criterio amigo/
enemigo a la humanidad entera partiendo de la oposición entre
burgueses y proletarios, formando Estados proletarios y estados capitalistas,
eliminando con ello todas las demás agrupaciones de
68 Carl Schmitt
amigos y enemigos, el resultado sería que se pondría de manifiesto
la plena realidad de lo político que contenían estos conceptos en
apariencia «puramente» económicos. Y si la fuerza política de una
clase o cualquier otro grupo dentro de un pueblo tiene entidad suficiente
como para excluir cualquier guerra exterior, pero ese grupo
carece por su parte de la capacidad o de la voluntad necesarias para
asumir el poder estatal, para realizar por sí mismo la distinción entre
amigo y enemigo y, en caso de necesidad, para hacer la guerra, la
unidad política quedará destruida.

 Although it may be possible for a State or different States to resolve and reconcile conflict in a more or less stable manner, there remains nevertheless a “real possibility” that this conflict and antagonisms, however diverse and insignificant, will reach the “decisive point”, the “limit case”, of total conflict, including civil war. It is senseless therefore to try to reduce conflict to its ultimate justification or rationalisation, as if conflict were dependent on any single “real” cause or root whether moral or religious or economic. All there is to conflict is the blunt fact of its “real possibility”: that alone is sufficient to allow us to categorise conflict as a separate reality irreducible to any other reality or casus belli that can only be pretexts for the underlying “real possibility” of conflict.

Lo político puede extraer su fuerza de los ámbitos más diversos
de la vida humana, de antagonismos religiosos, económicos, morales,
etc. Por sí mismo lo político no acota un campo propio de la
realidad, sino sólo un cierto grada de intensidad de la asociación o disociación
de hombres. Sus motivos pueden ser de naturaleza religiosa,
nacional (en sentido étnico o cultural), económica, etc., y tener
como consecuencia en cada momento y época uniones y separaciones
diferentes. La agrupación real en amigos y enemigos es en el
plano del ser algo tan fuerte y decisivo que, en el momento en que
una oposición no política produce una agrupación de esa índole,
pasan a segundo plano los anteriores criterios «puramente» religiosos,
«puramente» económicos o «puramente» culturales, y dicha
agrupación queda sometida a las condiciones y consecuencias totalmente
nuevas y peculiares de una situación convertida en política,
con frecuencia harto inconsecuentes e «irracionales» desde la óptica
de aquel punto de partida «puramente» religioso, «puramente» económico
o fundado en cualquier otra «pureza». En cualquier caso es
política siempre toda agrupación que se orienta por referencia al
caso «decisivo». Por eso es siempre la agrupación humana que marca
la pauta, y de ahí que, siempre que existe una unidad política, ella sea
la decisiva, y sea «soberana» en el sentido de que siempre, por necesidad
conceptual, posea la competencia para decidir en el caso decisivo,
aunque se trate de un caso excepcional.
El término «soberanía» tiene aquí su sentido correcto, igual que
el de «unidad». Ninguna de las dos cosas quiere decir que cada detalle
de la existencia de toda persona que pertenece a una unidad polí
tica tenga que estar determinado por lo político o sometido a sus órdenes,
ni que un sistema centralista haya de aniquilar cualquier otra
organización o corporación. Puede ocurrir que las consideraciones
de naturaleza económica estén por encima de cualquier otra cosa
que pueda querer el gobierno de un Estado económicamente neu
concepto de lo político 69
tral en apariencia; y no es raro que el poder, en un Estado aparentemente
neutral en lo confesional, tropiece con su propio límite en
cuanto entran en juego las convicciones religiosas. Lo que decide es
siempre y sólo el caso de conflicto. Si los antagonismos económicos,
culturales o religiosos llegan a poseer tanta fuerza que determinan
por sí mismos la decisión en el caso límite, quiere decir que
ellos son la nueva sustancia de la unidad política. Y si carecen de la
fuerza necesaria para evitar una guerra acordada en contra de sus
propios intereses y principios, eso significa que no han alcanzado
todavía el punto decisivo de lo político. Si poseen fuerza suficiente
como para evitar una guerra deseada por la dirección política pero
contraria a sus intereses o principios, pero no tanta como para determinar
por sí mismos una guerra por propia decisión, es que ya
no existe una magnitud política unitaria. Sea ello como fuere: como
consecuencia de la referencia a la posibilidad límite de la lucha
efectiva contra un enemigo efectivo, una de dos: o la unidad política
es la que decide la agrupación de amigos y enemigos, y es soberana
en este sentido (no en algún sentido absolutista), o bien es que
no existe en absoluto.

All attempts to attribute the source of conflict to analytical or scientific reasons outside of the category of conflict itself, of the category of the Political, end up being therefore for Schmitt indefensible attempts to rationalize conflict and indeed to justify war and political murder and even genocide. Of course, this leaves open the question that Schmitt does not address of how his own theory of the Political differs from all other “rationalisations” of war and murder. If indeed conflict is a mere “real possibility” of the very contingency and pro-jectuality of human ec-sistence, and indeed of Being itself, then two things follow that surely stand in contradiction with each other: - one is the “real possibility” of conflict, the mere contingency of agreement; but the other is the equally “real possibility” of agreement, of peace and co-operation – of what Schmitt calls “friendship”. The incongruity in Schmitt is that “enmity” assumes clear priority over “friendship” simply because “enmity” can result in “the final instance”, “the decisive point”, which presumably for Schmitt (as for Heidegger) is war, murder and death.

La oposición o el antagonismo constituye la más intensa y extrema
de todas las oposiciones, y cualquier antagonismo concreto
se aproximará tanto más a lo político cuanto mayor sea su cercanía
al punto extremo, esto es, a la distinción entre amigo y enemigo. (p.59)
Los conceptos de
amigo, enemigo y lucha adquieren su sentido real por el hecho de
que están y se mantienen en conexión con la posibilidad real de matar
físicamente. La guerra procede de la enemistad, ya que ésta es
una negación óntica de un ser distinto. La guerra no es sino la realización
extrema de la enemistad. (p.63)

What this onto-logical approach to the Political fails to explain is precisely (!) the very “real possibility of the Political” which, if it were only for the contingency of being-there, of human ec-sistence, would have absolutely no “reason” to be! It may very well be that there is no “ultimate reason” for friendship – but then, neither is there any ultimate reason for enmity; and above all, friendship ec-sists even if we cannot attribute a “reason” to its ec-sistence. It is to this onto-logical aspect of Schmitt’s theory of the Political that we now turn.


Ontological Aspects of Schmitt’s Dezisionismus

El concepto de lo político 57
Si la distinción entre el bien y el mal no puede ser identificada
sin más con las de belleza y fealdad, o beneficio y perjuicio, ni ser
reducida a ellas de una manera directa, mucho menos debe poder
confundirse la oposición amigo-enemigo con aquéllas. El sentido
de la distinción amigo-enemigo es marcar el grado máximo de intensidad
de una unión o separación, de una asociación o disociación.
Y este criterio puede sostenerse tanto en la teoría como en la
práctica sin necesidad de aplicar simultáneamente todas aquellas
otras distinciones morales, estéticas, económicas y demás. El enemigo
político no necesita ser moralmente malo, ni estéticamente
feo; no hace falta que se erija en competidor económico, e incluso
puede tener sus ventajas hacer negocios con él. Simplemente es el
otro, el extraño, y para determinar su esencia basta con que sea existencialmente
distinto y extraño en un sentido particularmente intensivo.
En último extremo pueden producirse conflictos con él
que no puedan resolverse ni desde alguna normativa general previa
ni en virtud del juicio o sentencia de un tercero «no afectado» o
En esto la posibilidad de conocer y comprender adecuadamente,
y en consecuencia la competencia para intervenir, están dadas
tan sólo en virtud de una cierta participación, de un tomar parte en
sentido existencial. Un conflicto extremo sólo puede ser resuelto
por los propios implicados; en rigor sólo cada uno de ellos puede
decidir por sí mismo si la alteridad del extraño representa en el conflicto
concreto y actual la negación del propio modo de existencia,
y en consecuencia si hay que rechazarlo o combatirlo para preservar
la propia forma esencial de vida. En el plano de la realidad psicológica
es fácil que se trate al enemigo como si fuese también malo y
feo, ya que toda distinción, y desde luego la de la política, que es la
más fuerte e intensa de las distinciones y agrupaciones, echa mano
de cualquier otra distinción que encuentre con tal de procurarse
apoyo. Pero esto no altera en nada la autonomía de esas oposiciones.
Y esto se puede aplicar también en sentido inverso: lo que es
moralmente malo, estéticamente feo o económicamente perjudicial
no tiene por qué ser también necesariamente hostil; ni tampoco lo
que es moralmente bueno, estéticamente hermoso y económicamente
rentable se convierte por sí mismo en amistoso en el sentido
específico, esto es, político, del término. La objetividad y autonomía
propias del ser de lo político quedan de manifiesto en esta mis
Carl Schmitt
ma posibilidad de aislar una distinción específica como la de amigo-
enemigo respecto de cualesquiera otras y de concebirla como
dotada de consistencia propia.

The point of the “facticity” of the conception of the Political and its dependence on the notions of contingency (the possibility of nothing-ness) and death in the negatives Denken is illustrated most tellingly by Lowith in a fascinating homologation of the political philosophy of Schmitt with the existential (though not necessarily “existentialist”!) onto-theo-logy of Heidegger.

El pathos de la decisión en favor de la pura decisividad supo encontrar
una aprobación generalizada en la época de entreguerras. Preparó
el camino para la decisión en favor de la decisividad de Hitler
e hizo posible el viraje político como"revolución del nihilismo". Pero
este pathos no estaba de ningún modo confinado al decisionismo
político, sino que caracterizaba no menos la teología dialéctica y la
filosofía de la existencia decidida. Esta conexión interna entre el decisionismo
político, filosófico y teológico85 será desarrollada en el siguiente
complemento al anterior tratado de 1935 sobre Carl Schmitt,
en relación con Martin Heidegger86 y Friedrich Gogarten. El ser y el
tiempo - un libro en apariencia completamente apolítico, que no hace
más que plantear la pregunta por el ser, aunque en el horizonte
del tiempo- apareció en el mismo año que El concepto de lo político
de Schmitt, y la teología dialéctica alcanzaba su mayor poder de seducción
en ese mismo momento.
Para comprender el trasfondo contemporáneo de los impulsos radicales
de Heidegger resulta útil ponerlos en relación con una expresión
de Rilke. El mundo burgués, escribe Rilke en una carta del
8 de noviembre de 1915, ha olvidado por medio de su fe en el progreso
y en la humanidad las "últimas instancias" de la vida humana;
ha olvidado que este mundo burgués "estaba superado de antemano
por Dios y la muerte". El mismo significado también tiene la
muerte en El ser y el tiempo (§ 63): como la insuperable "instancia
superior de apelación" de nuestro ser y poder. En El ser y el tiempo,
por supuesto, de Dios no se habla; Heidegger había sido por mucho
tiempo teólogo cristiano, como para poder contar, como Rilke,
las "historias del buen Dios". Lo único que es necesario para él es
la pregunta por el ser en cuanto tal y en su totalidad; una pregunta
para la cual la nada y la muerte resultan especialmente reveladoras.
La muerte es la nada ante la cual se manifiesta la radical finitud de
nuestra existencia temporal o, como se encuentra formulado en las
lecciones de Friburgo en torno al año 1920, la "facticidad histórica"
cuyo pathos es la resolución de asumir el ser-ahí [Da-sein] más propio.
La "libertad para la muerte" —con subrayado doble en El ser y el
tiempo (§ 53)—, por medio de la cual el Dasein en cada caso propio y
aislado en sí mismo alcanza su "poder-ser-total" [Ganz-sein-konnen],
se corresponde en el decisionismo político con el sacrificio de
la vida por el Estado total en el caso de emergencia de la guerra. El
principio es en ambos casos el mismo: el regreso radical a algo último,
al nudo que-es [Daß-sein] de la facticidad, es decir, a lo que
queda de la vida cuando se ha barrido con todos los contenidos vitales
tradicionales, con la quididad.

In the quotation above, Lowith homologates the “decision” in Schmitt’s political theory with the “freedom before death” (reminiscent of the “sickness unto death” of Kierkegaardian memory and then of Sartre’s “nausea”) that Heidegger underlines doubly in his magnum opus, Sein und Zeit. This is what Heidegger achieves for Schmitt: - the de-struction of form, of system, order and unity, of “totality” as the “truth” or necessity of all human concepts - which begins with the only “freedom” possible for Heidegger, that of freedom as contingency, as the possibility of nothingness:  and hence of the decision “auf Nichts gestellt”. It is this pro-jectuality that allows truth to be seen as “dis-closedness”, being as becoming, and therefore freedom as “resolve” (Ent-schlossenheit), as resoluteness - as Decision.

Interesting is the contrast with Hobbes who sees death in a political dimension, rather than an ontological one (like Nietzsche, not the “fact” that we die but “how” we die is important for him) by selecting the “fear” of violent death, and the related “clinging to life”, as the motive for the exit from the state of nature into the “political” one of the “common-wealth”. In effect, the only “free-dom” possible for Hobbes is in the state of nature where the human will has free rein. It is the “irrationality” of this state of nature, its bellum civium, that induces the free will to exercise its “rational decision” to opt for the status civilis, for the social contract establishing the common-wealth and obedience to the State in exchange for its protection.

Schmitt objects here that Hobbes’s polity in effect marks the transition or exit from a mythological state of nature that is un-political by definition (the war of all against all, “anarchy and chaos”) into an equally un-political “state” in which the adherents to the social pact “renounce” politics by alienating their “free-dom” and pledging obedience to a wholly mechanical State in exchange for its protection. Politics as conflict now exists in foro externo as Realpolitik or raison d’Etat between States but not within them, not in foro interno. If the State is to be truly super partes, then ultimately no politics is possible within its territory. (See our quotation above from Schmitt [CdP, p76].)

Freedom therefore means for Hobbes the “free-dom” to decide autonomously over one’s conduct in the state of nature and inevitably clashing with the free-dom of others. Unlike Heidegger’s existential notion of freedom, Hobbes’s is mechanical at one end and rationalistic at the other. As Lowith correctly notes above, Hobbes’s “freedom” contains the Ratio that leads to the inter esse of the “common wealth”. But this is not the “freedom” that Heidegger and Schmitt intend. For the German philosophers freedom means “contingency”, the possibility of annihilation, the opposite of logical necessity or teleological destiny. This “free-dom” cannot lead to any inter esse, to any “common weal or wealth” that is not a “police state”. For Hobbes freedom is a relation to other individuals – so that his state of nature contains a “political” notion of freedom, but one that annuls itself because this “free-dom” does not take an institutional form but remains rather one tied to the “anarchy and chaos” of the bellum civium, the civil war of the state of nature. In Heidegger the will becomes the very foundation of all reality, whereas in Hobbes it is the escape from the will – freedom from the will, from the destructiveness of this will – that is the aim of political theory for the sake of the rational preservation of life and the avoidance of death: only to see this will clash aporetically with its axiomatic mechanical self-interest. Heidegger’s will is reconcilable with life and politics because it is essentially ontological; Hobbes’s is not because it is an acquisitive will that is entirely atomic and a-political. Hobbes’s will is so unilateral, so one-sided, that it is not “free” to decide in favour of the preservation of “life” or, by extension, of the “common weal” – it can only at best opt for self-preservation, for the a-voidance of one’s own  death. This is the ultimate fallacy of “possessive individualism” from Hobbes to Smith and neoclassical theory, namely, that they fail to explain and set the “limits” to possessive-ness that make possession possible! (On this notion see the homonymous work by CB Macpherson.)

In both Hobbes and Heidegger, and for Schmitt as well, the will is an ontological entity, not a political one; but it necessarily becomes political at the point where it becomes organized conflict, coaction and co-ercion by human groups. And this is why Schmitt combines the decision with the pre-existence of “friend” and “foe”, the imprescindible moment of the “Political” that is not “acquired” historically from the state of nature or “instituted” contractually, but is rather a “real possibility” (!), a “given fact”, a datum (cf. the Italian expression “dato di fatto” or the French “donnee”) of the universal Eris, a quidditas or qualitas occulta that is an ineluctable aspect of the ontic facticity of being there (Da-sein); a world from which even the aporetic Hobbesian Ratio of the decision (however “ultimate”) to exit the state of nature and to enter the Ordo of the contractum unionis et subjectionis is removed. This is the Heideggerian “freedom before (or toward) death”, that debouches in the “resolve” (Entschlossenheit) as the moment of “decision” rather than as the Ratio of politics, as a pro-ject, a real possibility founded on nothingness. But Heidegger does not escape the “political romanticism” decried by Schmitt – because his ontology is part of that “neutralization of politics” that Schmitt combats. In this regard, Lowith’s homologation of Schmitt and Heidegger misses the mark. But not entirely; not with regard to the “facticity” of authority, or “power” in the Hobbesian sense, or “sovereignty” in the Schmittian sense. This “facticity” is the quidditas, the qualitas occulta that is the exclusive preserve of the Will as understood by the negatives Denken, that is to say, as the obverse of the Kantian Ding an sich. Differently put, for the negatives Denken the “essence” of Being (Sein) is its ec-sistence as being (Seiende) – its “contingency”, its “real possibility”.

But here the “facticity” that Schmitt highlights as the ontological foundation of the Political assumes a paradoxical duality because, on one hand, it retains a transcendental formalism reminiscent of the Kantian and neo-Kantian categories, whilst on the other hand, when it seeks to found its substantive immanence, it ignores one essential aspect of the Political that is obscured by that formalism: - the ec-sistence of friendship.

Si se aspira a obtener una determinación del concepto de lo político,
la única vía consiste en proceder a constatar y a poner de manifiesto
cuáles son las categorías específicamente políticas. Pues lo
político tiene sus propios criterios, y éstos operan de una manera
muy peculiar en relación con los diversos dominios más o menos
independientes del pensar y el hacer humanos, en particular por referencia
a lo moral, lo estético y lo económico. Lo político tiene
que hallarse en una serie de distinciones propias últimas a las cuales
pueda reconducirse todo cuanto sea acción política en un sentido
Supongamos que en el dominio de lo moral la distinción última
es la del bien y el mal; que en lo estético lo es la de lo bello y lo feo;
en lo económico la de lo beneficioso o lo perjudicial, o tal vez la de
lo rentable y lo no rentable. El problema es si existe alguna distinción
específica, comparable a esas otras aunque, claro está, no de la
misma o parecida naturaleza, independiente de ellas, autónoma y
que se imponga por sí misma como criterio simple de lo político; y
si existe, ¿cuál es? (El Concepto, p56)

That Schmitt should resort ultimately to neo-Kantian “specifically political categories” to describe “the concept of the Political” which, by his own contention, was supposed to provide the apex of what is “factic”, “ontic” and therefore “substantive and immanent” in human reality – the “decision on the exception”; that he, like Weber and Heidegger, should then isolate “the Political” as an “autonomous” practical and epistemological – indeed onto-logical – aspect of human reality: all this confirms the abstract, formal and transcendental deviation and degradation of the Schmittian conceptualization of the Political, as the quotation above with its Kantian echoes clearly suggests.

Pues bien, la distinción política específica, aquella a la que pueden
reconducirse todas las acciones y motivos políticos, es la distinción
de amigo y enemigo. Lo que ésta proporciona no es desde luego
una definición exhaustiva de lo político, ni una descripción de su
contenido, pero sí una determinación de su concepto en el sentido
de un criterio. En la medida en que no deriva de otros criterios, esa
distinción se corresponde en el dominio de lo político con los criterios
relativamente autónomos que proporcionan distinciones como
la del bien y el mal en lo moral, la de belleza y fealdad en lo estético,
etc. Es desde luego una distinción autónoma, pero no en el sentido
de definir por sí misma un nuevo campo de la realidad, sino en el
sentido de que ni se funda en una o varias de esas otras distinciones
ni se la puede reconducir a ellas. (p56)

Here is an exquisite deviation that Schmitt effects from the Hobbesian analysis. The Hobbesian ultima ratio is the fear of one’s death and the preservation of one’s life at the hand of other in-dividuals (cf. Schmitt, Der Leviathan, beginning of ch.3). That is where politics begins and ends for Hobbes. Schmitt knows that this is far from the reality: – not only does politics not begin with the exit from the state of nature, but that state of nature could never have existed because for an “exit” from it to be at all possible, then that exit must invalidate both the historical existence and even the conceptual possibility of the state of nature! In effect, it is impossible to conceive of a state of nature from which there is an escape! Besides, “fear” is not a positive emotion that can found the Political, let alone a “common-wealth”! And the State cannot be a God super partes, however “mortal” Hobbes chooses to label it. Its “mortality” betrays its “partiality”: “authority” would otherwise become a “truth”, which is what Hobbes denies, instead of retaining its “facticity”, which is what Schmitt maintains.

But the exquisite deviation of Schmitt’s conception of the Political from that of Hobbes consists in the fact that Schmitt no longer envisages the Political as the result, first, of conflict between single individuals, and second of a mere e-motion such as “fear” or of a “rationality” of self-preservation that individuals may possess. Instead, Schmitt rightly insists on the necessity of analyzing the Political from the perspective of conflict between groups of individuals, and also, less rightly, on the onto-logical, not e-motional or “ontic”, root of this conflict, on the “real possibility” of conflict - although as “conflict” its mani-festation, its appearance, is necessarily “ontic”. This last point is illustrated amply in the following Schmittian expressions, sprinkled throughout ‘The Concept’:

Los conceptos de amigo y enemigo deben tomarse aquí en su
sentido concreto y existencial, no como metáforas o símbolos; tampoco
se los debe confundir o debilitar en nombre de ideas económicas,
morales o de cualquier otro tipo; pero sobre todo no se los debe
reducir a una instancia psicológica privada e individualista, tomándolos
como expresión de sentimientos o tendencias privados. No se
trata ni de una oposición normativa ni de una distinción «puramente
espiritual». En el marco de un dilema específico entre espíritu
y economía (y del cual nos ocuparemos en el ap. 8), el liberalismo
intenta disolver el concepto de enemigo, por el lado de lo económico,
en el de un competidor, y por el lado del espíritu, en el de
un oponente en la discusión. Bien es verdad que en el dominio económico
no existen enemigos sino únicamente competidores, y que
en un mundo moralizado y reducido por completo a categorías éticas
quizá ya no habría tampoco otra cosa que oponentes verbales.
En cualquier caso aquí no nos interesa saber si es rechazable o no el
que los pueblos sigan agrupándose de hecho según que se consideren
amigos o enemigos, ni si se trata de un resto atávico de épocas
de barbarie; tampoco vamos a ocuparnos de las esperanzas de que
algún día esa distinción desaparezca de la faz de la tierra, ni de la posible
bondad o conveniencia de hacer, con fines educativos, como
si ya no hubiese enemigos. No estamos tratando de ficciones ni de
normatividades, sino de la realidad óntica y de la posibilidad real de
esta distinción. Se podrán compartir o no esas esperanzas y esos objetivos
pedagógicos; pero lo que no se puede negar razonablemente
es que los pueblos se agrupan como amigos y enemigos, y que esta
oposición sigue estando en vigor, y está dada como posibilidad real,
para todo pueblo que exista políticamente.

But it is the fundamental “categorization” that Schmitt undertakes of the Political as encompassing “conflict between groups of individuals” as an “existential” aspect of human reality that needs close attention from us here. One of two things: - either all aspects of human behaviour are “political” and as such can lead to conflict (enmity) or to co-operation (friendship), or else the Political can be logically and categorically be separated or distilled (in a neo-Kantian fashion) from other aspects of human ec-sistence, as if human being could be treated only onto-logically and transcendentally, as Heideggerian Da-sein or “being there” which encompasses only “in-dividuals” and not “being human”, rather than immanently (as we have treated it in our ‘The Philosophy of the Flesh’) as “being human”, that is to say, as a reality that is neither “physical-material” nor “spiritual-idealistic” but rather must be seen in a new immanentist dimension (again, we have dealt with these matters in ‘The Philosophy of the Flesh’). In the first case, Schmitt has failed to show – because he could not! – that there is any human reality that is other than “political”, and in the second case he has failed to show that “the Political” can indeed be separated and distilled from the economic, religious, artistic or moral-ethical (deontological) aspects of human being!

Sunday, 21 October 2012


The last time I was in Istanbul in 1995 I carried in my travel bag only two books that I read in the long sunny afternoons spent marvelling at the beauty of the Sea of Marmara from the lounge of the splendid Ottoman building housing my hotel: – one was a heavy tome containing Vladimir Nabokov’s collected short stories and the other was a much lighter collection of short stories by Tobias Wolff titled ‘The Night in Question’. Burdened by these volumes, I could not help reflect at the time on the ‘barbe et peripezie’ (Machiavelli’s expression for tribulations and vicissitudes) of the great Austrian philologist and critic Erich Auerbach, the laudable author of ‘Mimesis’, what I consider to be the greatest work of literary exegesis in our Western history. Forced to flee his Mitteleuropa by the rise of the Nationalsocialist German dictatorship, Auerbach sought refuge in Istanbul, perhaps the last bastion of Western civilisation and certainly the first approach to that Orient that had so often challenged it for global supremacy since the time of Xerxes and the Peloponnesian Wars.
I wondered back then at the pathos of this supreme intellectual exile, the ostracised victim of a European civilisation in its death throes, who yet – unlike the central character in Malcolm Lowry’s ‘Under the Volcano’ – found the courage and the strength even in his predicament to keep alive and illuminate the most genial expressions of his culture often aided only by the sheer power of his memory. In the flight from Vienna to Istanbul, indeed, Auerbach could no longer have access to anything remotely resembling the bibliographical resources that had availed him in the Austrian capital. After the conquest of Byzantium by the troops of the Ottoman Empire five hundred years earlier, in fact, Istanbul was no longer the centre of global civilisation that it had been since its foundation as Constantinople, the splendid capital of the Late Roman Empire turned Christian under the inspired vision of Constantine that had brought to its apotheosis that long and incessant marriage of Hellenic rationalist philosophy and science and Oriental religious mysticism and piety begun with the wars of conquest of Alexander the Great and crystallised in the vast intellectual synthesis of the Greek Paideia spread by the first Christian apostles and later debouching in the Christian Era.
In a related twist, this particular “marriage” (he calls it “encuentro”, meeting, in ‘Cristianismo Primitivo y Paideia Griega’, chapter 1) was the lifelong focus of study of another great German-speaking scholar and intellectual, the great historian of Antiquity Werner Jaeger, whose monumental ‘Paideia’ is surely one of the supreme achievements of human erudition and learning. Jaeger (whose work on early Greek theology inspired none other than Heidegger) also became an exile, this time to America, upon the rise of Hitler, though this time more by “choice” than by direct or immediate threats to his personal safety.
As convoluted as these literary allusions may seem, they do provide an intriguing platform for a critique of bourgeois economic “science”. But this time round what I bring to Istanbul to allow me to amplify on these themes are not heavy tomes over which to pore while I take in the impressive panorama of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn from my terrace window with views of the Basilica of the Holy Wisdom. This time round I am no longer burdened by the weight of books and the sad knowledge of the exiguous number that I could carry with me – because since my last visit a technological miracle has taken place, one that allows me at the mere click and tap of fingers to access almost every book that human ingenuity and learning have ever devised and composed. This miracle is called “information technology”, which includes computers, ‘USBs’ and more important, the internet! So here once again is what would seem at first to be a tribute to capitalism, and yet is instead an implicit critique – because if this economic system has been associated with the vast development of human technologies, it has also done so always in a manner that impedes most violently their “democratic” use and subordinates them instead to their “capitalistic use”, that is, makes them available only on condition that their employment is “profitable” so that its users are forced to surrender their living labour, their political autonomy, “in exchange for” the ability to utilise them. The fact that even now I am forced to rely on Spanish translations, the only ones available on the internet, rather than on originals speaks volumes about this “restricted capitalistic use” of technologies!)
The “motor” of capitalist industry and of its “growth and development”, as we have attempted to show in our studies of Joseph Schumpeter’s Theorie der wirtschaftlichen Entwicklung, is not the capitalist entrepreneur but rather the opposite “force’, the antagonism of living labour that compels the capitalist to devise new ways of “containing” the explosive force of this antagonism between living and dead labour. The capitalist entrepreneur decides on the “direction” that this antagonism takes, but can never master or destroy it: and so the antagonism grows and grows. True, the “direction” of technological control comes from the capitalist “metropole” – but the antagonism is everywhere to be seen, perhaps nowhere more conspicuously than in the “periphery”. Istanbul and Turkey, like Egypt and Syria, are part of this “periphery”, one that is drawing ominously ever closer to the European “metropole”. The question for us then is ultimately how to reconcile the political autonomy of living labour, its “spontaneity” (Latin spons for will) with the need to guide and order it into a political unity.
The question that Jaeger attempted to answer in his iter intellectualis was why Christianity rather than Judaism was able to spread way beyond Palestine and conquer through the Roman Empire the known world. And the answer he gave was, briefly, that this spread was greatly facilitated by the prior expansion of the Greek-Hellenic koine’ mainly through the Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Eastern empires. The great dif-ference (the different practical impact) between Judaism and Christianity lay for Jaeger precisely in this: - namely, that Christian religion could be wedded to (we spoke of “marriage” before) - indeed it was a direct partial descendant of - the experimental rationalism developed by the early Greek philosophers and their cultural koine’ that right from its inception sought to explain “rationally”, that is in an experimental scientific or “realistic” fashion, both the origin - metaphysical, onto-logical and theo-logical - of the world together with its experiential workings or operation as manifested to the human senses and perception. Whilst Jaeger traces the amazing “affinity” of early Greek theo-logical and onto-logical reflection with the experimental orientation of its great theoreticians, Auerbach concentrates instead on the dif-ferences between the peremptory, dictatorial biblical faith of Judaic religion as articulated in the Old Testament and the democratic realist praxis of early Greek narrative illustrated masterfully in the Homeric poems. (Cf. ‘Ulysses’s Scar’ in Mimesis, p.20 in the Spanish translation, and in particular this astounding passage that both epitomises and encapsulates Auerbach’s thesis in a political context that brings it back home, like the Homeric odyssey, to his own personal drama:
The pretension to truth of the Bible not only is much more peremptory than that of Homer, but it is also tyrannical: it excludes all other truths! The world of the biblical stories is not content with relating a historical reality, but pretends rather to be the only true world, destined to exclusive domination…The tales of the Holy Scriptures do not seek our favour [cf. Macbeth’s first encounter with the three witches], like thos of Homer; they do not address us with the aim of convincing and pleasing us: what they aim at is instead is to dominate us and, if we refuse, they immediately label us as rebels.
I can certainly vouch for the similarity of these sentiments to those of any other “rebellious” students in economics faculties the world over today!)
Indeed, even this “marriage” or “meeting” of a Judaic theo-ontology that denigrates temporal life or ec-sistence in favour of transcendence, that is, of a Divinity that stands outside the cosmos, with the Hellenic philosophical realist immanentism that sought to explain what exists by means of what exists and is perceptible – even this “marriage”, we were saying, that according to Jaeger gave birth to Christian religion with its eschatology of the “soul”, evidently contains within itself this opposition of divine theology and what Jaeger calls “natural” theology, in that the latter treats theology itself in anthropological fashion by seeking the human or, if you like, the “scientific” reasons for its own existence. As the master Sophist, Protagoras, genially put it, “Man is the measure of all things”, and that includes the divinity, of course. This priority given to how and why human beings live and die, to what comes between “the first and the last thing”, as Nietzsche put it (in Human, All Too Human), rather than to what lies beyond life and the world, became the object of the German philosopher’s championing of the rhetorical Sophists against the Socratic mystics.
Yet even within the democratic realist praxis of the early Greek philosophers and scientists there lies a dangerous ambivalence about the meaning of “measure”:- because if this “measure” with which modern science has grown obsessed then becomes what it has become in the hands of capitalist industry whose sole aim is to measure the immeasurable, living labour, in terms of its quantifiable exchange with “dead labour” or “goods” or “output”, then we have a new transcendentalism exemplified most brutally and odiously by so-called “economic science” whereby the theoretical categories are turned into strait-jackets or Procrustean beds into which human behaviour must fit (cf. Karl Polanyi’s superb study of The Great Transformation), or else in “pragmatic”, mainly econometric, efforts that take the present, what is now, not as history but rather as an exemplification of economic theory and then attempt to fit their observations of what is into the Procrustean bed of what must be, which is the most apt and correct definition of neoclassical economic theory.