The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes

Contributions in Political Science

Book 374
Greenwood Publishing Group
Free sample

Carl Schmitt, the Thomas Hobbes of the 20th century, joined the Nazi party in 1933 and aspired to become the crown jurist and political philosopher of the Third Reich. But, because of his anti-Nazi past, friendships with Jews and Marxists, and contempt for biological racism, Schmitt was severely attacked by the SS in 1936 and warned to stop posing as a National Socialist thinker. Fearful of what this might imply in the rapidly evolving one-party SS state, Schmitt began to distance himself from his National Socialist adventure--even tempered his recently acquired anti-Semitism--and carefully started to reconnect himself in 1937 and 1938 to the pre-1933 Schmitt. Writing in 1938 under the pretext of studying the significance of the symbol of the leviathan in Hobbes's theory of state, Schmitt alluded to the demise of the Third Reich because of its rapid transformation into a totalitarian polity. As Schmitt recognized, in this state, the Hobbesian protection-obedience axiom was being heavily tilted in favor of obedience at the expense of protection. When this occurred, Schmitt observed, "the soul of a people...betakes itself on the 'secret road' that leads inward. Then grows the counterforce of silence and stillness", and "Public power and force may be ever so completely and emphatically recognized and ever so loyally respected, but only as a public and only an external power, it is hollow and already dead from within." Schmitt survived the fall of the Third Reich, and in the postwar years came to be recognized as one of the most significant political philosophers of the century. This is the first translation available of this important work which will be of great value to scholars and students of modern political philosophy, legal theory, and the history of Weimar and Nazi Germany.
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About the author

George Schwab is professor of history at the City University of New York (Graduate Center and City College). President of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, Dr. Schwab is a recipient of numerous grants and is the author, editor, and translator of works on great power rivalry, legal and political theory, and German history. His The Challenge of the Exception (2nd ed., Greenwood Press, 1989) was the first book of Schmitt's ideas to appear in English.

Erna Hilfstein received her PhD in the history of science and has taught mathematics and science for many years in the New York City public school system.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Greenwood Publishing Group
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Published on
Dec 31, 1996
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Pages
121
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ISBN
9780313300578
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / History & Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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According to G. L. Ulmen, translator of Roman Catholicism and Political Form, this book is important not only for its content, even more relevant at the end than at the beginning of this century, but also for its author, one of the 20th century's most seminal thinkers. While exploring and elaborating the meaning of "political theology" in Germany in the 1920s, Carl Schmitt had occasion to address the question of the relation between Roman Catholicism and the modern--even post-modern--world. As Schmitt saw it, the state, as the principal agent of secularization and the supreme accomplishment of occidental rationalism, was the core institution of the modern world, which lasted from the 16th to the end of the 19th century, when the assumptions and concepts of the jus publicum Europaeum and the Eurocentric epoch of world history began to decline. Asserting that "all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts," Schmitt felt the need to address the question of what political form might replace the state. It was in this context that he wrote Roman Catholicism and Political Form, which presupposes an affinity not only between the Church and the state, but between Catholicism and political thinking. Once the state began to lose its monopoly of politics and, thereby, its legitimacy, Schmitt looked to the other side of the occidental equation--the Catholic Church--in search of a new form of the political. His argument proceeds from the assumption that there is a structural identity between "the metaphysical image of the world a particular age creates" and "the form of a political organization."
Freed from over forty years of Soviet domination, Hungary finally was given a chance to determine its own destiny in the last decade of the twentieth century. This book takes the reader through the complex period of Hungary's transformation from a Soviet satellite to an independent democratic country, with an emphasis on Hungary's finding its place in the post-communist world. Inspired by the political freedoms and economic successes of Western democracies, Hungary rejected the one-party rule and command economy and opted for multi-party parliamentary democracy and the rapid conversion to a free market economy.

The book systematically shows the foreign policy priorities set by Hungary's freely elected governments. It discusses how Hungary succeeded in freeing itself from the past restraints of the Warsaw Pact and the Commecon and other formal and informal agreements with the Soviet Union and the Socialist bloc countries. At the same time, the economic difficulties caused by the break-up of the Socialist market are considered. Hungarian decision-makers have unequivocally committed themselves to pursuing economic integration with the European Union and have applied for membership in NATO. Unfortunately, Soviet-enforced harmony has disappeared and old ethnic antagonisms have resurfaced. Unless the growing tension between Hungary and its neighbors, Slovakia and Romania--countries with large Hungarian minorities--are resolved, their admission into the European Union and NATO will be jeopardized.

Carl Schmitt ranks among the most original and controversial political thinkers of the twentieth century. His incisive criticisms of Enlightenment political thought and liberal political practice remain as shocking and significant today as when they first appeared in Weimar Germany. Unavailable in English until now, Legality and Legitimacy was composed in 1932, in the midst of the crisis that would lead to the collapse of the Weimar Republic and only a matter of months before Schmitt’s collaboration with the Nazis. In this important work, Schmitt questions the political viability of liberal constitutionalism, parliamentary government, and the rule of law. Liberal governments, he argues, cannot respond effectively to challenges by radical groups like the Nazis or Communists. Only a presidential regime subject to few, if any, practical limitations can ensure domestic security in a highly pluralistic society.

Legality and Legitimacy is sure to provide a compelling reference point in contemporary debates over the challenges facing constitutional democracies today. In addition to Jeffrey Seitzer’s translation of the 1932 text itself, this volume contains his translation of Schmitt’s 1958 commentary on the work, extensive explanatory notes, and an appendix including selected articles of the Weimar constitution. John P. McCormick’s introduction places Legality and Legitimacy in its historical context, clarifies some of the intricacies of the argument, and ultimately contests Schmitt’s claims regarding the inherent weakness of parliamentarism, constitutionalism, and the rule of law.

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