The Concept of the Political

The Concept of the Political (German: Der Begriff des Politischen) is a 1932 book by the German philosopher and jurist Carl Schmitt, in which the author examines the fundamental nature of the "political" and its place in the modern world.

The Concept of the Political
Cover of the German edition
AuthorCarl Schmitt
TranslatorGeorge Schwab
SubjectPolitical philosophy
PublisherRutgers University Press
Publication date
Publication placeGermany
Media typePrint
ISBN0-226-73886-8 (1996 University of Chicago Press edition)
LC ClassJA 74 .S313

The Concept of the Political was published in the last days of Weimar Germany.[1] Schmitt joined the Nazi Party in 1933, the year after its publication.[2][3][4]



For Schmitt, the political is reducible to the existential distinction between friend and enemy.[5] This distinction arises from the fact of human diversity: identities and practices, beliefs and way of life can, in principle, be in conflict with one another.

Schmitt attacks the "liberal-neutralist" and "utopian" notions that politics can be removed of all warlike, agonistic energy, arguing conflict existed as embedded in existence itself, likewise constituting an ineradicable trait of anthropological human nature. Schmitt attempts to substantiate his ideas by referring to the declared anthropological pessimism of "realistic" Catholic (and Christian) theology. The anti-perfectibilist pessimism of Traditional Catholic theology Schmitt considers esoterically relevant to the inner ontological being of politics and political activity in the contemporary world, modern people subconsciously secularizing theological intellectual ideas and concerns. Schmitt criticizes political "radicals" as basically ignorant, deluded, pseudo-messianic in mentality, and oblivious to the stark, hard knowledge of unveiled human nature, its esse, encoded in ancient theology, wherein Original Sin held central, axial place, intertwining his own ideas of metapolitics with a reformulated "metaphysics of evil".[6]

According to Schmitt, "Sovereign is he who decides on the exception"[7] and, although the sovereign "stands outside the normally valid legal system, he nevertheless belongs to it". Sovereignty is more than the technical: it is the personal privilege of the ruler.[note 1] Schmitt states: "significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts".[8]



The Concept of the Political was first published in 1932 by Duncker & Humblot (Munich). It was an elaboration of a journal article of the same title, published in 1927.[9] The 1932 version has significant, and controversial, revisions, likely made in response to the reaction of Leo Strauss.[6]


  1. ^ For Schmitt, politics isn't merely the domestic use of power and an exercise of authority to the exception, it is politics and with it the violence and conflict ridden affairs, this may be of foreign policy, warfare, civil war, and revolution.


  1. ^ Bartov, Omer (2000). Mirrors of Destruction : War, Genocide, and Modern Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507723-7. OCLC 191818039.
  2. ^ Strong, Tracy B. (2012). Politics Without Vision : Thinking Without a Banister in the Twentieth Century. Chicago. ISBN 978-0-226-77746-7. OCLC 756577657.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  3. ^ Koonz, Claudia (2005-11-30). The Nazi Conscience. Harvard University Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctv1c5cx7d. ISBN 978-0-674-25497-8.
  4. ^ Balakrishnan, Gopal (2000). The Enemy : An Intellectual Portrait of Carl Schmitt. Carl Schmitt. London: Verso. ISBN 1-85984-760-9. OCLC 43978190.
  5. ^ Edward Fairhead, 'Carl Schmitt's politics in the age of drone strikes: examining the Schmittian texture of Obama's enemy' (2017), Journal for Cultural Research, available at:
  6. ^ a b Meier, Heinrich. Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue. University of Chicago Press, 2006.
  7. ^ Schmitt, Carl. (2005). Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, trans. GeorgeSchwab. Chicago: United States: Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0226738895.
  8. ^ Schmitt, Carl (1996). The Concept of the Political, trans. George Schwab. Chicago: United States: University of Chicago Press. pp. 36, 48, 65.
  9. ^ Carl Schmitt (1927), "The Concept of the Political", Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, 58(1), pp. 1–33. Cf. George Schwab, 'Introduction', in Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, University of Chicago Press, 2007, p. 5 n. 8.