The Cult of Carl Schmitt

         I          As a political thinker, the German philosopher Carl Schmitt was enamored of symbols and myths. His biographer has shown that during the 1930s Schmitt was convinced that providing National Socialism with a rational justification was self-contradictory and self-defeating. The alternative that was conceived by Schmitt, a conservative who was an eminent member of the Nazi Party, was to establish the Third Reich’s legitimacy by means of symbolism and imagery culled from the realms of religion and myth. Schmitt’s attraction to symbols and myths stemmed from his skepticism about the value of “concepts,” which he viewed only instrumentally, as Kampfbegriffe or weapons of struggle. As Schmitt explained, about reading Hobbes’ Leviathan, “we learn how concepts can become weapons.” “Every political concept,” he claimed, “is a polemical concept,” a statement that reflects the essential bellicosity of his thought. When it came to fathoming the mysteries of human existence, Schmitt

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