Saturday, September 11, 2010

Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Chapter 4: "On the Counterrevolutionary Philosophy of the State (de Maistre, Bonald, Donoso Cortes)"

The counterrevolutionaries who interest Schmitt are conservative Catholic political philosophers. He picks out their emphasis on the necessity of a decision --starting above all with the necessity of a decision between Catholicism and atheism. This focus allows them to comprehend and puts them in sympathy with the function of the state as decision.

The intensity of this focus on the decision -- and the concomitant support for authoritarianism -- increased from de Maistre at the time of the French revolution to Donoso Cortes in the generation of 1848. This was a consequence of their engagement with revolutionary foes who were far more radical. The battle lines were fundamentally drawn on the issue of whether human nature is good or evil. As the revolutionaries of 1848 were far more committed to the proposition that human nature is good (and thus that the state is unnecessary), the counterrevolutionaries became more strident advocates for the opposite view (and thus also of the need for a decisive, powerful state).

Donoso Cortes characterized bourgeois liberalism as a tendency to discuss rather than decide, though a decision between Catholicism and atheistic socialism, between monarchical and aristocratic authority and popular rule, was necessary. He called the bourgeoisie una clasa discutidora. Socialist thinkers similarly excoriated the incoherence of liberal attempts to combine monarchical and popular rule.

62: "Liberalism, with its contradictions and compromises, existed for Donoso Cortes only in that short interim period in which it was possible to answer the question 'Christ or Barabbas?' with a proposal to adjourn or appoint a commission of investigation. Such a position was not accidental but was based on liberal metaphysics. The bourgeoisie is the class committed to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and it did not arrive at those freedoms from any sort of arbitrary psychological and economic conditions, from thinking in terms of trade, or the like."

In other words, political liberalism, with a commitment to debate and free speech, is prior to economic liberalism.

63: "Donoso Cortes considered continuous discussion a method of circumventing responsibility and of ascribing to freedom of speech and of the press an excessive importance that in the final analysis permits the decision to be evaded. Just as liberalism discusses and negotiates every political detail, so it also want to dissolve metaphysical truth in a discussion. The essence of liberalism is negotiation, a cautious half measure, in the hope that the definitive dispute, the decisive bloody battle, can be transformed into a parliamentary debate and permit the decision to be suspended forever in an everlasting discussion."

Schmitt sees the political moment increasingly dissolved not just by the unending conversation of liberalism, but also by valorization of technical-economic administration. (65)

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