From Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought

Political Theology

Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty

By Carl Schmitt

Translated by George Schwab




Written in the intense political and intellectual ferment of the early years of the Weimar Republic, Political Theology develops the distinctive theory of sovereignty that marks Carl Schmitt as one of the most significant political and legal theoreticians of the 20th century. Focusing on the relationship between political leadership, the norms of the legal order, and the state of political emergency, Schmitt argues that the essence of sovereignty lies in the absolute authority to decide when the normal conditions presupposed by the legal order obtain. Because the norms of a legal system cannot govern a state of emergency, they cannot determine when such an exceptional state holds or what should be done to resolve it. Thus every legal order ultimately rests not upon norms, but rather on the decisions of the sovereign. Schmitt underpins this analysis of sovereignty and its commitment to the priority of decisions over norms with a "political theology," which argues that all the important concepts of modern political thought are secularized theological concepts, and a sociology of the concept of sovereignty, which argues that the conceptualization of the jurisprudence of an epoch is linked to the conceptualization of its social structure. He concludes with an attack on liberalism and its attempt to depoliticize political thought by avoiding fundamental moral and political decisions.Schmitt's unerring sense for the fundamental problems of modern politics and his systematic critique of the ideals and institutions of liberal democracy, a critique that has never been answered, distinguish him as one of the most original figures in the theory of modern politics.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262192446 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262691246 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in


George Schwab.