Carl Schmitt and the Jews

Structures of a German Jurisprudence

(Last modified 1997)

This study probes the extensive and complex preoccupation of Carl Schmitt, the influential German professor of law, with »the Jews«. Personal misconduct is not, however, the focus of attention. Rather than investigating Schmitt's antisemitism and his reprehensible behavior under the National Socialist regime, this research is directed at elucidating those structures of his work which demonstrate that Schmitt's political depravity was not merely accidental. The significance of Schmitt's grappling with "Jewishness" is analyzed within the structural core of his thought and work. Schmitt's conceptual framework must be viewed historically against the backdrop of a widespread antisemitic tradition. Central elements of this framework are anti-emancipatory and secularized antijudaic-theological motifs which are mutually reinforcing and which Schmitt integrated into his doctrine of constitutional law. Schmitt's political theology must be seen as an attempt to transfer and instrumentalize theological concepts as the basis for a fundamentalist doctrine of constitutional law; the only element borrowed from theology, however, is the concept of the enemy. And the archetype of the enemy is the Jew.

Schmitt's involvement with the Nazis and the later reinterpretation of his work are also investigated in this study. The year 1945 brought a radical break for Schmitt. His attention turned from current affairs to a concern for correcting his personal legacy. The antisemite and Nazi was reborn as a Catholic diagnostician. Thus transformed and subsequently rediscovered in the postwar Schmitt renaissance, he has now ascended into the Hall of Fame of classical thinkers.

This doctoral thesis, which argues against the reinterpretation of Schmitt and his work, was funded in its final phase by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research and will be published in the near future.