Carl Schmitt's method: Between ideology, demonology and myth

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It has often been pointed out that Carl Schmitt's style seems to oscillate between an objective, cold mode that claims to discover the hard truths about politics, and a feverish expressionism which aims to identify the enemy and even to incite hatred. This opposition, it seems, comes down to one between supposedly crystal-clear definitions and distinctions on the one hand, and a frequent use of images, metaphors and myths on the other. This article argues that all these were elements of the peculiar method which Schmitt practised. This method was 'ideological' according to all the meanings commonly ascribed to 'ideology' except the strictly Marxist one. Schmitt wavered between modes of unmasking, historicization, ideational reconstruction and decontestation in his self-consciously polemical and strategic use of concepts, myths and 'demonology'. However, even if these ideological elements of Schmittian thought were at first sight contradictory, they in fact compounded each other and probably increased the impact of Schmitt's political theory. Examining Schmitt's method also sheds light on the uses and abuses of conceptual history, the function of concepts as building blocks for ideology, the relationship between concepts and images, and, finally, the ideological pitfalls of contesting 'the political'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-85
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Political Ideologies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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