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. Withthese lines I would like not merelyto announceits arrival. especially the "Diktatur. published in 1966. As understandable as theirdecision to exclude thisletteris." ofmymodesof researchin thephilosophyofartfromyours in thephilosophy confirmation of the state. Gershom Scholem and Theodor Adomo. it nonethelessexpressesa malaise thatis relatedto the way in which thefigureof WalterBenjamintendsto resistanyattempt at univocalclassificationor straightforward evaluation. Youwill receive any day nowfrom thepublishermy book The Originof the German MourningPlay. to the left.was to publishtexts suchas "DerFiihrer schiitztdas Recht"("TheFiihrer Protectsthe Law") (1934) and "Die deutsche Rechtswissenschaftim Kampfgegen den in Its Struggle against the Jewish Spirit") jiidischen Geist" ("GermanJurisprudence (1936) hardlyfits the picturethatBenjamin'stwo editors and formerfriends. If the reading of my book allows thisfeeling to emerge in an intelligible fashion.TAKING TO EXCEPTION DECISION: BENJAMIN SCHMITT AND WALI'ER CARL SAMUELWEBER . intended to make known to a broad audience. It is as thoughthe fact thathe had been able to admireand drawinspirationfrom the work of a Catholicconservativewho diacritics / fall-winter 1992 diacritics 22. butalso to express myjoy at being able to send it to you.8871 Thisletteris notto be foundin thetwo volumesof Benjamin'sCorrespondence. as in the epigramabove an engravingdepicting a stage on which there stand.The Origin of GermanTragicDrama 1 In December 1930 WalterBenjaminsends the following letter to Carl Schmitt: EsteemedProfessor Schmitt.fool and king will no longer countfor anything." -Walter Benjamin. Perhaps I may also say. at the suggestionof Mr.AlbertSalomon. then the purpose of my sending it to you will be achieved. to the right. Withmy expression of special admiration Yourvery humble WalterBenjamin [GS 1: 3. a prince: "Whenthe stage is empty.. in a addition.3-4: 5-18 5 . that I have also derivedfrom your later works. The esteem thatBenjaminexpressedfor the eminentpolitical thinkerwho. a buffoonand. just a few yearslater. Youwill veryquicklyrecognizehow muchmybook is indebtedto youfor itspresentation of the doctrine of sovereignty in the seventeenthcentury.
elsewhere. Benjamin encounters the question of butas a methodologicaland sovereigntynot simplyas a themeof German baroquetheater.as elaboratedin his "Epistemo-CriticalPrologue" to this book. It is as thoughthe of a debt amountedto a generalidentificationandthus. But this as evident and as accurate as it explanation." Benjaminmightbe referring to the beginning of the first chapterof his book. The letter.who is to be creditedwith Sucha malaiseis palpablein theremark in the the letter to Schmitt critical he assembledfor the edition of publishing apparatus he Collected that edited. I have discussed the historicalityof Benjamin'snotion of Ursprung. in "Genealogy of Modernity: History.the firstchapterof which concludes by insisting on the significance of "theextremecase": 1.the workof Schmittfiguresin thatbook for at least two related but very distinctreasons. butthe text in which this mode of thinkingimpressed itself most profoundlyupon Benjaminwas probably Schmitt'sPolitische Theologie[Political Theology]. rigorously possible: object" of baroque drama is not just "historicallife" as such.he remarks.is "denkwiirdig.' Second. history. accordingto Benjaminevery attempt to interpret the Germanbaroquerisks succumbingto a certainlack of sovereignty. Firstof all. He holds the course of history in his hand like a scepter". "Trauerspiel and Tragedy. The primary representation is "The the sovereign: Sovereignrepresents baroqueage. Let us examinejust how these two factorshelp to explain Benjamin'srecourseto Schmitt. Benjamin'sinsistence on the historicalsubjectmatterof Trauerspielthus leads him necessarilyto the questionof political sovereigntyandits relationto history. Myth and Allegory in Benjamin'sOriginof the GermanMourningPlay" [MLN 106 (1991) esp." Writings Benjamin's not what sort of he does it although sayjust thoughts mightelicit or deserve[GS 1: 3. Rather. 467-74].Benjaminwritesthathe has foundin Schmitt's worksa "confirmation" of his own style of research.this historyis in turnconstruedas a kindof Trauerspiel.parliamentary democracysharedby both. In thus foregrounding the constitutiveimportanceof a "turntowardthe extreme"in the process of "philosophicalconceptualization. theoreticalproblem:as we shall see.was soon to become a conspicuous member of the Nazi party could only muddy and confuse the meaning of an oeuvre thatboth Adorno and Scholem. But it is not merely the thematicaspectof his subjectthatleads Benjaminto examinethe questionof sovereigntyandhence to the theoriesof Schmitt. agreedwas of exemplarysignificance. however. One response that is often encounteredin this context traces Benjamin's interest in Schmittback to the critiqueof liberal.or for the mannerin which it manifests itself in his book. The German baroque mourning play has as its "true object" and "substance" "historicallife as represented by its age. hardlysuffices to accounteitherfor the "debt"mentionedby Benjaminin his letter.This is why Benjamin' here must read as be as as The "true formulation. "meine[n]eigenen Just what to becomes clearerif we turn Forschungsweisen. but rather"historicallife as representedby its age [das geschichtliche Leben wie es jene Epoche sich darstellte]" andrepresentative of historyin the [Origin62/Ursprung51]. 6 . whatevertheir other differencesaboutit might be. of Rolf Tiedemann. a moral contaminationof Benjaminby Schmitt." Benjaminplaces himself squarelyin a tradition thatgoes backat least to Kierkegaard' s essay on Repetition. the "playof mourning" at work in the Trauerspiel and above all the character of its "origin" both imply a certainrelationship to historyand to politics.887]. and more specifically. may be.in view of later acknowledgment to developments. Inhis letter." But the relationshipbetween the Trauerspiel and historyis far from a one-way street: if baroquetheateris concernedprimarilywith s history. thatthe "conceptualization" proposes must be "directedtowards the extreme [die notwendige Richtung aufs Extreme]"[57/45]." Benjamin his in with a notion elaborated the begins study proper "Epistemo-Critical Prologue": of a philosophicalinvestigationsuch as the one he namely.
or any otherform of historythatpresupposesthe givenness of a generalconcept underwhich the phenomenait addressesare to be subsumed: Philosophical history. This singular encountertakes place in and as the "extreme"and it is the readiness to engage in this encounter. The representationof an idea can under no circumstances be consideredsuccessful unless the whole range ofpossible extremesit contains has been virtuallyexplored. the science of origin. in the remotest extremesand the apparentexcesses of theprocess of development. where Benjaminseeks to elaboratethe premisesandimplicationsof his readingof thathe appeals the Germanbaroquetheateras an "idea. Suchpassagesindicatehow Benjamin's modeof investigation. but must be interestedin it to the highest degree. precisely.his Forschungsweise.andposthistory of the singularidea constitutes "the abbreviatedand obscuredfigure of the remaining world of ideas" .  The circle of extremes can be traversedonly potentiallynot only because the extremes themselves areneverfully presentor realizedas such.Precisely a philosophy of concrete life must not withdraw from the exception and the extremecase. This figure is to be deciphered(abzulesen). is theform which. it is the point at which the generallyfamiliaris on the verge of passing into somethingelse.according to Benjamin.  of the Einmalig-Extreme Whatis characteristic is. And it is here. thatBenjamin finds himself faced with a problemthatseems to beara particular relationto the German baroqueand its interpretation: diacritics / fall-winter 1992 7 . Thegeneral is the idea. is indebtedto thatof Schmitt: both sharea certainmethodologicalextremismfor which the formationof a concept is paradoxicallybut necessarilydependentupon a contactor an encounter with a singularity that exceeds or eludes the concept. not because of a romantic ironyfortheparadox. It is absurdto attempt to explain the general as the average. which derives onlyfrom the exception.literaryhistory.  In the "Epistemo-Critical Vorrede)to the Trauerspiel Prologue"(Erkenntniskritische book. identically repeatable.the exterior. the point at which it encountersthe other. To thinkthe "idea"as a configuration of singularextremes(Einmalig-Extreme) is to construe its being as a function of thatwhich it is not.they articulate themselves historicallyin termsof a split into a Vor-undNachgeschichte. the exceptionproves everything: it confirmsnot only the rule butalso its existence. on the other hand.butbecause theseriousnessof an insightgoes deeperthan the clear generalizations inferredfrom what ordinarily repeats itself. Rather. The rule proves nothing. The empirical.thatit is a "borderlinenotion": it is situated at the extremity of what is familiar."it is precisely to the "extreme" in order to indicate just how the "idea" distinguishes itself from the subsumptive generalityof the concept: The idea is best explained as the representationof the context in which the uniqueand extreme[Einmalig-Extreme]standsalongside its counterpart. This pre. that distinguishes "philosophicalhistory"from art history. as Schmittexplicitly states. The exceptioncan be more importantto it than the rule. can be all the moreprofoundlyunderstoodthe more clearly it is seen as an extreme. insteadof recognizingthemas ideas.It is the mostgeneral referenceswhichlanguage thereforeerroneousto understand makesas concepts.classifiable. The exception is more interesting than the rule.reveals the configurationof the idea-the sum total of all possible meaningful juxtapositions of such opposites.
a vortex or maelstrom that "reisst in seine Rhythmik das of the origin is split between a tendencyto Entstehungsmaterialhinein" .to a baroquein particular.and its Germanvariantinparticular. to the position of strength from which it is possible to take in the whole panorama and yet remain in control of oneself.a simpledecision. Even the danger of allowing oneself to plunge from the heights of knowledge into the profoundest depths of the baroque state of mind. The lack of a center. the questionof sovereignty. Herethequestionshouldat least be raisedinpassing whetherthe "dizziness here identifieswiththeGermanbaroqueis notalso. to reduce both its technique.. forgoing any view of the whole..aktuell.and posthistory.That characteristic feeling of dizziness which is induced by the spectacle of the spiritual contradictions of this epoch is a recurrent feature in the improvised attempts to capture its meaning.2 " thatBenjamin 2.andaboutthe German is thus tied on the one hand to a certainlack of sovereignty.  as well as thepowerof its will The lack of sovereigntyof theGerman baroquetheater.fully present associates with to itself. in a sense. however. Nor is there any guarantee that the answer to this questionmustconformto the schema of an either/or.. and initially. can the mind be led. and a certain (Unvollendetes. Wewill returnverybriefly at the end of this paper to the relation between "decision" and "rhythm"as articulated in Benjamin'sbook. a resultof his owndetermination of the origin as a Strudel. Thissplit in the origin is what "incompletion" then articulates itself as the division intopre.Unabgeschlossenes)on the other. or ratherwhether the origin itself is not particularlybaroque.. topical. certainincapacityof producingconsummateartisticforms. whetherthisconnectionindicatesthatthebaroqueis a particularlyoriginary age. the unfailing richness of its creations. in an extremelyviolent effort. but only the "dizziness. "sovereign seeking compensate it. all the moreimperative render a attitude" for that to lack. And it is here that Benjaminencountersthe problemof sovereigntyin a guise thatseems to be peculiarto the Germantheaterof the time: "The neverachievedthatsupplenessof formwhich Germandramaof theCounter-Reformation bends to every virtuosotouch."the vertigo that its spectacle elicits.Wiederherstellung). It remainsto be determined. one should emphasize the necessity of that sovereign attitude which the representation of the idea of a form demands. and this alone would suggest thatno sovereigngenius imprintedhis personalityon this form". through a more or less ascetic apprenticeship. Whatis modem.. This is at least one explanation andall the moredifficultfor those who seek to interpret of his style of researchin the Lehre for why Benjaminis led to look for a "confirmation" of Schmittconcerning. It took shape . inpartat least. and on the otherto an effort to overwhelmall of the will thatstrivesto compensatefor this lack but insteadthreatens it: those who seek to interpret Confronted with a literature which sought. and the vehemence of its claims to value.on the one hand.precisely. and antithesesencircle the Germanbaroque? Not the What sorts of contradictions least of these appearsto be a singulardiscrepancybetween its artisticintentionsand the aestheticmeans at its disposal. in theorigin isperhapsthe "origin"of thatSchwindelgefiihlthatBenjamin thebaroquein general.aboutthebaroquein general.the "circle"of potentialextremesto be traversed and of antithesesfrom which thereseems has become an encirclementof contradictions no escape. The "rhythm" restore and to reproduce (Restauration. Only by approaching the subjectfrom some distance. such as Calder6ngave the Spanishdrama.  in the stagingof an idea In the baroque. 8 .
of course." Firstof all.we remember.representable possibilityof eithergraceor salvation. is no longer applicable.. the of historyprofoundlyaffects the figure of the sovereign. the figure of the prince. Only this definition can do justice to a borderline concept.essential in its permanence".in German. The naturalistic destinyof the princedoes not merely exponent.startingwith the famouspassage at the beginning of Political Theologyin which the notion is first announced: Sovereign is he who decides on the state of exception [Ausnahmezustand]. is not simply equivalent. precisely the concern is.  Despite the apparentand seductive clarity of this definition. Out of this dislocation Benjamin develops what he calls "the must of thebaroque. of the political anthropologyof the baroqueconsists of Benjamin's reconstruction threefigures. It is the loss of the eschatologicalperspectivethatrendersthe baroqueconceptionof history "inauthentic" and akin to a state of nature.to a state of emergency or of siege: not every "danger"or "threat"constitutes an in Schmitt'ssense. the destiny of the rulerin the baroquetheatermanifests a regularitythat suggests the inevitabilityof a naturaloccurrence:"Theconstantlyrepeateddramaof the rise andfall of princes. Schmittinsists.insofar as it had been tied to a transformation Aristoteliananalysis of the narrative-teleological conceptionof history. or rather. entailsatleasttwo fundamental Sucha conceptionorconfusionof historywithnature for a theater whose as we have seen.aboveall regarding thenotionof the "stateof exception. Contrary to the imprecise terminology that is found in popular literature.it will be helpful if we first review certainaspectsof the latter's discussion of sovereignty. but one pertaining to the outermost sphere. a borderline concept is not a vague concept. This trio embracesthe tyrant. imply the rise and fall of an individualfigure..and yet each of which is unthinkable without the others. of varyingstatureand status. primary consequences this the loss of the dimension resultsin a radical of First. appearedto the writersless as a manifestationof moralitythan as the naturalaspect of the course of history. It is here thatBenjaminmakes explicit referenceto CarlSchmitt's theoryof sovereignty. History as a repetitiveandineluctableprocessof rise andfall is identifiedwiththenatureof a fallen creationwithoutany discernible. since not every exceptionper se representsa threat Ausnahmezustand to the norm.disarticulation of sovereignty. The traditional plot in terms of "unity of action" resulting from the exposition. and hence of history. eschatological spectacle of the dramaticelement of the theater. history. Sovereigntyis constitutedas the power to decide upon or diacritics / fall-winter 1992 9 . development." onto the stage [Die Geschichte wandert in den Schauplatz hinein]" [92/89]. and as Benjaminputs it.primary baroquenaturalization of history.the martyr. Second.the dislocation of sovereignty as such. To graspthe significance of Benjamin'suse of Schmitt. it nevertheless leaves a numberof problemsunresolved.2 in the figure of If the primaryobject of the GermanTrauerspielis historyas represented the sovereign.and the plotter(der Intrigant). The stateof exceptionthatconstitutesthe objectandproductof the sovereign decision is one thatthreatensor calls into questionthe existence and survivalof the state itself as hithertoconstituted.Thereasonthatthis "typology" typologyandpoliticalanthropology" be elucidatedat the outset is because it arises out of the articulation. "History. the primaryobject of the Germanbaroque Trauerspiel. the first and the last that will be of particular The point of departure for this typology is. It is interestto us here. but more significantly. the stateof exception. "wanders resolutionof conflict.
the sovereignalso effectively determinesthe limits of the state.theyarenonethelessnotarbitrary insofaras theyareunderstood ordetermined as necessaryin orderto preservethe state as the indispensableconditionof all possible law and order. andin thissense everyauthentic decision.aboutthe stateof exception andthus in turnincludestwo moments: first. a decision that a state of exception exists. in appealingto a "rightto self-preservation. On the otherhand.the concept-to thatwhich is radicallyheterogeneousto all such generality. For Schmitt. independent of all possible derivationfrom or subsumptionto a more generalnorm. an or itself and as a break with . For if the "decision"is as radically independentof the norm as Schmittclaims." is more "a way of speaking"thana rigorousconcept: "Thestate suspendsthe law in the as one says.Schmittnotwithstanding. And it is this act of delimitationthatconstitutespolitical sovereignty accordingto Schmitt. somewhatakin to the act of creationexcept thatwhat it does is not so much to createas and suspensioncan never be predicted and to suspend. The is a "state"in the sense of having a relativelydeterminate status.is thatsucha claimcanbe evaluatedandjudgedonly afterthefact. This is Schmittacknowledgesthatthe term why.this paradoxis articulated condition of all law and order. The statethushas the the conditionsfor the reappropriation first and the last word in Schmitt's theoryof sovereignty.or rather.andcanindeedlay claimto havingsome sortof "legalstatus. independentof all such considerations: "Authority it need not be right". since all justificationinvolves precisely the appealto a norm.. Up to now.. reproduction.why it obscuresthe delicatebalanceof similarityanddistinctionthat determine the relationshipof the state as Staat and the exception as Zustand. it constitutes absolute. It is a pureact. Thedecisionfrees itselffromall normativeties and becomes in the truesense absolute. separating belongs suspensionof.however.the sovereigndecision marksthe relationshipof the orderof the general-the law.as one says.the nonlegalor alegal statusof the sovereign and exceptionaldecision is justifiable and indeed identifiableonly insofaras it provides of the exceptionby the norm. which is the of norms. If such interruption to interrupt in advance. This brings us to a second aspect of Schmitt's thought. The existenceof the state is undoubtedproof of its superiorityover thevalidityof the legal norm. and second. the norm. and quasi-logical theory of 10 . from "chaos and as Schmittwrites. is itself constitutedby a decision that is prior to and proves thatin orderto createrights. of Ausnahmezustand as "state"of exception is not quite This is why the translation accurate." exception on the basis of its rightof self-preservation. in . On the one hand. thatis. interruption norm from what does notIn what to the a norm.. we have been considering it in terms of a relatively abstract.. previouslyin force so thatthe statemaymeet andsurmount In thusdecidinguponthe stateof exception.hasto do withanexceptionthe decision distinguishes itself from the simple negation of order. which is to say. the decision as such is sovereign. as it were." always also somethingdifferent. Thestate suspendsthe law in the exceptionon the basis of its right of self-preservation. Rather. it is difficult to see how the decision of the state to suspendits laws can be justified at all. [12.. the effective suspension of the state of law thechallengeof theexception. [and thus] order in thejuristicsense still prevails even if it is not of the ordinarykind.as Schmittasserts.as a Ausnahmezustand it is "Zustand.general. . my emphasis] The paradoxor aporiaof Schmitt's position is suggested here by the conclusion of the passage just quoted. In this sense.then." anarchy. And yet." Theproblem. from an anarchy and a chaos. precisely insofar as it is situated in this temporalityof repetition and to be entirely the decision cannotbe considered. froma pointof view thatis once againsituatedwithina system as the fact thatthe state.
Political Theology. he finds confirmationof his theological-political thesis in the position of Atger. The salienttraitof thatstructure is. whereby. uponthatwhich exceeds its self-identity. for example.decision. But if the developmentof modem thoughthas thustendedto efface the originary and constitutiverelationshipof the political to transcendence. The exception in jurisprudence is analogous to the miracle in theology.ratherthanin terms of transformation or of alteration.  To these "representations of immanence" belong the identificationof rulerandruledand. just as to that period's philosophy of state belongs the notion of the transcendence of the sovereign visa-vis the state. transformation-of theologicalcategories into political ones thatthe "systematicstructure" of political discourseis fully revealed.  To be sure. for whom "the monarch in the doctrineof the statewas identifiedwithGodandoccupiedin the state seventeenth-century the position precisely analogous to that occupied in the world by God in the Cartesian system" . the recognition of which is necessary for a sociological consideration of these concepts.as the very title of his book.Schmitt's own approach suchtendencies." thus employs the notion of "analogy"in orderto reduce difference to identity. it is only in a reflection orrecallof thehistorical"transfer"-or rather. The nineteenth century was increasingly governed by representations of immanence. above all.upon an irreduciblealterityand exteriority: just as the miracle in Augustiniandoctrineboth exceeds and explains the createdworld.At the same time.in the "analogy"thatSchmittis here constructing. For what emerges in Schmitt's discussion of the relationof politics and theology is thathe construesthe analogy between them above all in termsof identity.which he calls "the sociology of concepts."historicaldevelopment" is subordinated to "systematic" considerations. For instance. If historical reflection upon the development of political discourse reveals its theological origins and hence its dependence upon a certaintranscendence. its dependenceupona certain transcendence. but Schmitt's thinkingis also historical. suggests and as the following passage makes manifest: All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts not only because oftheir historical development-in which they were transferred from theology to the theory of the state. The determination diacritics / fall-winter 1992 11 .in the name of notions of does not seem to be entirelyfree of autonomyand self-identity. as we have alreadyseen. as the following programmatic declarationclearly demonstrates: "Themetaphysicalimagethata particular epochforgesof the worldhas the samestructure as what the world immediatelyunderstandsto be appropriate as a form of its political of such an identity is the sociology of the concept of organization. Only by being aware of this analogy can we appreciate the manner in which the philosophical ideas ofthe state developed in the last centuries. This canbe seen in the manner in whichhe conceives the "consciousness of the analogy"between political and theological categories.the actual historical development of political theory and of theology has moved in an opposite direction: To the conception of God in the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries belongs the idea of his transcendence vis-a-vis the world. The methodthat Schmitt advancesin Political Theology. the omnipotent God became the omnipotent lawgiver-but also because of their systematic structure.which for him is the key to authenticallyhistoricaland systematicalunderstanding. that of the state with the legal order (Identitit des Staates mitderRechtsordnung) [49/63].
It is based on certain constitutionalnotions.determinate to the state of exception as such. And yet the very words whichseem only to paraphrase Schmittconstitutein facta slightbutdecisive modification of his theory. One would be temptedto say that Schmitt's critique seeks to replace the Immanenzvorstellungen of modern political theory with thatseek to recalltheheterogeneityof politicalconceptsoutof the Identititsvorstellungen oblivion into whichtheyhave fallen. He holds the course of historyin his handlike a scepter."In short. Ob man das Vertrauenund die Hoffnung hat. A new concept of sovereignty emerged in the seventeenthcenturyfrom a final discussion of the juridical doctrines of the middle ages . Uberzeugungen metaphysischen 12 . thatis. the effective suspensionof the stateof law with the end of preservingthe stateas such. This view is by no meanspeculiar to the dramatists. Thehereafteris emptiedof everythingwhichcontains the slightestbreath werdenkannodernicht.thatwhich is already"exterior. and second.defines sovereigntyas constitutedby the power to make a decision that consists of two moments: first. aus-geschlossen.then.3 In short. as that which transcendsthe state in general. an identity. is to auszuschliessen.butonly succeedin once againreducingtheiralterity to the same: to "the same structure" and to "thedetermination of. "done away with. Whereasthe modern concept of sovereignty amounts to a supremeexecutivepower on thepart of theprince. the determinationthat state of exception exists. Benjamin...an internalpart of the state and of the world. the baroqueconceptemerges from a discussion of the state of emergency..the stateof exceptionmustbe "removed. the function assigned to the sovereign by the baroque. er lasse sich oder tatsdchlichbeseitigen." be exteriorizedonce again.insbesonderegeschichtsphilosophischen ab" . "Aber ob der extremeAusnahmefall das ist keine juristische Frage.we remember.. wirklichaus der Weltgeschafft 3. And the reasonwhy the baroque is so attachedto the state of the world Benjaminexplains as follows: The religious man of the baroqueera clings so tightlyto the world because of thefeeling thathe is being drivenwithit towarda cataract.. [54-55. Schmitt. and this applies not simply to the state of threatto the state-the position of Schmitt-but exception as an individual.and makes it the most important function of the prince to exclude this [den auszuschliessen].. considerationof the stateof exceptionfromthe determination in of the the terms thatSchmittrejects: the describes the task sovereign very by contrast.is thatof transcendingtranscendenceby makingit immanent.andfor thatveryreason itpossesses no mechanismby whichall earthlythingsare gatheredtogetherand exaltedbeforebeing consignedto their end. is with task of the state of exception. of the state of the world. by excluding of sovereignty." beseitigt." but only in each particular case. never as such: that is precisely what Schmittcriticizedmoder political theoryfor tryingto do. "den the "excluding" charged sovereign the Aus-nahmezustand. Thebaroqueknows no eschatology. let us now turnto the mannerin which the question of sovereignty emerges in Benjamin's study of the Germanbaroquetheater: Thesovereign representshistory. according to Benjamin." 3 With the ambivalenceof Schmitt's approachto the political in mind. my emphasis].sovereignty" [46. hdngtvonphilosophischen. my emphasis] A note at the end of this passage refers to Political Theology. ForSchmitt.
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The undoing of the sovereign is the fact that in a creation left entirely to its own devices.is for it the otherface of history-only to discoverthatthereis no graceor consolation to be had there.he is the lordof creatures."The this side thereforereappears othernessthatis no longer allowed to remaintranscendent or as a fall. brings them violently into the light of the day.Benjamin'snotion of secularization of the change it entails. of the sovereignto "exclude" the stateof exception In thisperspective. representedby." Or.]. The result. baroque specifically we remember.one day to destroythe worldwithcatastrophic violence.the"function" conformsfully to the attemptof the Germanbaroqueto exclude transcendence. or radicalsuspension of its perennial history of the baroqueallows for no interruption 14 .that he is almost incapable of makinga decision. to as from difference God. who is responsiblefor making the decision to proclaim the state of emergency. we recall. without any other place to go. just baroqueimmanence sets itself up in contradistinction in the At the time when transcendence. the state of 211 ff. is also no longerlocalizable"outthere" it is no longerrepresentable. The German theater "flees" German" . However highly he is enthronedover subject buthe and state. remains a creature".  Whatthe baroquerejectsis any admissionof the limitationof immanence. exception has become the rule [see Garcfa-Diittmann The resultis thatthe sovereign finds himself in a situationin which a decision is as imperativeas it is impossible: The antithesis betweenthe power of the ruler and his capacity to rule led to a a generic whichis. the baroque the Germanbaroquesovereign-is definedpreciselyby his sovereign-and particularly. successfullygainshis independence powerandthatof the divinecan no longerbe ignored.which. By contrast. wildly to nature-which. in the strictsense. at its high point.also unmistakably exercises of creation.of this world. had construedthe theological-political analogy in termsof a relationshipof essential similarity: The sovereign transcendsthe state as God transcendsthe creation. [70-71 ] The sovereign is incapableof makinga decision. the be illuminated the can and which theory only against background of feature of sovereignty.his statusis confinedto the worldof creation. political sovereign very point theological the differencebetweenworldly vis-a-vis the Church. even the more of "cataract. as a vacuum.such abyss. such endows it with a force that is all the however. and from it the baroque extracts a profusion of things which customarilyescaped the grasp of artisticformulation and. allegory. emptying only of absolute that of the the and unbounded more powerful: other. either. reveals.andit does so of all possible representable content.onlyapparently featurepeculiar to theTrauerspiel. turnsout to be directlycontraryto the conclusion of Schmitt: "Thelevel of the state is enacted.enablingit. horizon. Such incommensurastresses precisely the incommensurability in even more evident the becomes specific case of Germanbaroquetheater: "The bility of the new drama the of of the religious dramasis characteristic eschatology rejection into nature nevertheless the rash a flight deprived of grace is throughoutEurope. "natural" is not possible in a worldthatleaves no place for heterogeneity:the inauthentic.as Benjaminformulates it. however. Farfrom doing away by emptying transcendence with transcendence. Schmitt. at the first opportunity. since vacuum.the terrainon which the Trauerspiel a determininginfluence on the sovereign.But the also condemnsthe functionof the sovereign very same desire to exclude transcendence to malfunction: for unlike the political-theological"analogy"of Schmitt. in order to clear an ultimate heaven. The prince. oras a "beyond.represented radically. will be and transcendence as. because a decision.
Faced with this situation. it is precisely action. This disarticulationis of particularimportancefor baroque theater. The key to the secularization is thus for Benjaminnot so much an analogybased on proportion.Benjaminfollows Schmitt here practicallyto the letter ("Thetheoryof sovereignty.as autocrat became of a derangedcreation" emblematic and gone mad.what is dislocatedis not just the unity of a character..as the following passage suggests: Just as compositions with restful lighting are virtually unknown in mannerist painting. The effects of this disproportion do not stop at the dismantlingof the sovereign. But in so doing.who is split into anultimatelyineffective if bloody tyrantanda no moreproductivemartyr. as such also an exemplaryillustrationof the fate of the "sovereignfor the seventeenth century":"thesummitof creation. One extremeillustration of this is the figureof Herod. who standsin radicaldissymmetryto the othertwo.. as a relation based on disproportion.andrequiresto this end "consistency" this consistency and unity thatare undermined togetherwith the statusof the sovereign. With the split of the sovereign into tyrantand way in which representation but the unity of character martyr. andhence on identity.. "the Janus-heads of the crowned. so it is that the theatricalfigures of this epoch always appear in the harsh light of their changing resolve. That figure.which takes as its example the specialcase in which dictatorial powersareunfolded. on a Missverhaltniss. as tyrant"). such as that representedby the "stoic ostentation"that often characterizesbaroquerepresentations of the prince." is the "plotter. 4 To understand what distinguishesthe plotterfrom the other two figures in the baroque political "typology. the necessarilyextremeforms of the princelycharacter" .positively demandsthe completion of the image of the sovereign. however. nor does it come to rest at any of the compromisespossible betweenthese two poles.. If the Aristoteliantheoryof tragedyassigns primaryimportanceto the unity and wholeness of of character[Poetics 1454a]. Rather.."the Intrigant:andit is he who turnsoutto hold thekey to thefate of sovereigntyin the German baroquemourningplay. but of the manner in which historyitself is represented in the Trauerspiel. he arrivesat a resultthat is almost diametricallyopposed to thatof Schmitt: the very notion of sovereigntyitself is putradicallyinto question. as the sheer arbitrari- diacritics / fall-winter 1992 15 .The sovereign reacts by seeking to gatherall power and thus becomes a his incapacityto arrive tyrant. Both figures. And this in turndeterminesthe takes place. What is conspicuous about them is not so much the sovereignty evident in the stoic turns ofphrase. the more he demonstrates at an effective decision. "who. Nothing.interruptions. In emphasizingthe dictatorialtendencyof the sovereign.arefor thebaroqueonly two sides of the samecoin.and yet the more power he has.Kind of the Jews.the splittingof the sovereignis accompanied by theemergence of a thirdfigure. demonstratesthe distance of the Trauerspielfrom the Aristotelian of unity-of the theoryof tragedymorethanthefact thatit is preciselythis disarticulation sovereign and hence of the action-that contributesto the peculiar theatricality of baroquedrama. as such."it mustbe emphasizedthatthe incapacityof the sovereignto decide involves the transformation not merelyof an individualcharacter type. He falls victim to the disproportion betweenthe unlimited hierarchicaldignity with which he is divinely invested and the humble estate of his of which the Germanbaroqueis the result humanity".eruptinginto madnesslike a volcano and destroying himself andhis entirecourt.the tyrantcan easily turninto a martyr.Benjaminobserves. who completes the baroque "political anthropology and typology.
In the theatricalspace thusopenedby the dislocationof the actionandof the subject. [71.and the intriguer of thereforein which universalprinciples-and be it the principle of the interruption The mechacounted no be decision-can intriguerexploits upon. ultimate.like "tornflags" whippedaboutin the affects"over which they have little wind. if we understandthis in a metaphorical sense. The amoralcalculatednessof the plottercontrastsradicallywith the attitudesof both the tyrantand the martyr. simply mastery recognize a physiologicalknowledgewhich fascinatedhim". and it the in the of is this rhythmthatdeterminesthe structure "plot" Trauerspiel. The Trauerspiel-historical action-changes." The dismantling the "harsh imgrellen Scheine"-in light"-"of changing kind of a to different absolute a and of decision.ness of a constantlyshiftingemotionalstormin which thefigures of Lohenstein especially sway about like torn and flapping banners. in continuum" which a resituated-within exceptionalinter"spatial replaced-that is. however.but one that is organized." which in in the clear-cut of more a world is all the fuse. my emphasis] From this accountit is clear thatthe dilemmaof the sovereign in baroquedramais also and above all thatof the subjectas such: it is no longer determinedby its "head"-that of it. as artifice. thatbuffet is. Instead. phrasegrellen Scheine. even of a the here workings politics. acting: which recursfrequentlyin Benjamin'stext. no because are regularnatureof they longerpossible ruptions and the or "chorebecomes the interruption programmer. longer principlequa nisms of humanactionas the resultof forces over which therecan be no ultimatecontrol. act.This is figuresof the age appear implicitin thepassagecited. paradoxically of to andconthe word con-found is the The in-trigare.ratherthanto the expressionof a cosmic strategy for the good of all or of the state.the Trauerspieltakes place in a spatial continuum. gives way the takes on a lit that which place stage up by spotlights. A powerfuldynamicis thusunleashed. with here of associated The discontinuous . as stage. And they also bear a certain resemblanceto thefigures of El Greco in the smallness of their heads. It is precisely the calculating natureof calculationsawakenin the thismasterythatfascinatesthebaroqueaudience:"Hiscorrupt the more interest becausethe latterdoes not und all of the Staatsaktionen Hauptspectator of but an anthropological. but its dramaturgical plot is replacedby plotting: "Baroquedramaknows no otherhistoricalactivity thanthe 16 . the precursorof the choreographer.its intentions-but by forces thatareindependent anddrive it fromone extremeto another. tragedy. separation the deappropriate cision is no longer effective. That elsewhere turnsout to be the theateritself. which describeshow the "theatrical their resolve. of definitive. The baroque dramathus depends upon a plot that is based not upon a sovereign subjectbut upon a masterfulorganizeror promoter(Veranstalter). Whatresultsis a rhythmof abruptand unpredictable changes and shifts. the baroquefiguresaredrivenby "tempestuous control. does not really go anywhere. "intriguer. Thus.the sovereigntyof the tyrantis replacedby the mastery of the plotter: "Incontrastto the spasmodicchronologicalprogressionof tragedy. by its consciousness. For only confrontsa stateof the worldin whichtheexceptionhas becomethe rule. is sufficientlyunified or consistentto providea compresince neitherplot nor character hensive framework for the play. into somethingcloser to a The contingencyof such calculationsturnsthe "intrigue" game or to the exhibitionof a certainvirtuosity. recalls the Scheinwerferof the theater.but by changingphysical impulses.which one might describe as choreois the intriguer" graphic. The organizerof its plot. not only the subject matterof the structureas well. For their actions are not determinedby thought." etymology ographer. and in the confusion thatresults. Moreover.and as apparatus.which. but which can thereforebe made the subjectof probabilisticcalculations. have become the The rule. programmable. is temporality decision. The intrigueor plot is thus designatedby Benjaminas a Verwicklung: an imbroglio or entanglement. this framework must be sought elsewhere.
and types. The buffeting of in a stagingthat individualfiguresin thewindsof passionfinds its adequate representation its own artifices. Whatcharacterizes this theateris thatin it. the stage is also not strictlyfixable.can be athome. At the same time. the baroquedramaalso likes to show the antagonistsin crudelyilluminatedseparatescenes [in grelles Lichtgestellte Sonderszenen].. more precisely. By thus heeding only the rules of the game without staged to reach ultimate seeking principles.scenes. It could be said that baroque intriguetakesplace like a change of scenery. least of all the stage itself. Bound to the court.Forthe courtis the settingparexcellence. This is why the structural dynamicsof the plotter causes him to resemble comic figures or the fool ratherthan the prince who would be sovereign. The "eternal. natural" represents characterattributedto the court in the baroquetestifies to the situationof a historical or Europeis dividedinto a numberof Christian provinces periodin which "Christendom whose historicalactions no longer claim to be integratedin the process of redemption" . and gives mourningat one andthe same time the cue for its entryandexit" . as a whole.  If the stage of baroque theater is "dialectically split" and thus "inauthentic.or. the plotter"knows" thatthe courtis a theaterof actionsthatcan neverbe totalizedbutonly with more or less virtuosity.corruptenergy of schemers".. Whatintereststhe baroque is not so much the dramatic resolution of conflict as its representationthrough a mechanismthat acknowledges and even flaunts its own theatricality. nothingcan ever authentically takeplace. as different in kind. the irreduciblepartialityand provincialityof the local courtrendersit the exemplarysite and stage of a movementof history thathas been reducedto conspiratorial plotting. however. includingthe sovereign.thanks to which one of the images of the sequence stands out.metaphoricallyits boards representthe earth as the setting createdfor the enactmentof history. demonstrates The privileged site and scene of such emphaticallytheatricalartifice is the court: "Theimage of the setting...however.  The utter indifference to psychological or moral "motivation. Unlike the sovereign. the structureof the plot changes: It differsfrom the so-called antitheticalplot of classical tragedyby virtueof the isolation of motives.the aim of which is the destabilizationrather thanthe takingof power. In the Trauerspielthe court the timelessnatural decorof the historicalprocess". Thus. If the plotteris most at home in the court. in the image of the apotheosis. But it is precisely diacritics / fall-winter 1992 17 .where motivationusuallyplays an insignificantpart. with the eschatological perspectiveblocked. so minimal is the illusionistic intention.the plotterbegins wherethe sovereignhopes to end: with the ex-clusion of the stateof exception. In the EuropeanTrauerspiel not an actual place. therecan be "no properhome [keineeigene Heimstdtte]" In this sense the plottercan be said to be the Exponentdes Schauplatzesas thatplace in which no one...becomes the key to historical understanding.it is only insofaras he knows that for him . of the court. The stateof exceptionis excludedas theater. but it too is dialectically split. it yet remainsa travelling theatre."combined with the encapsulationof conflicting figures through"in grelles Licht gestellte Sonderszenen" precludesany sort of resolutionin a totalizingdenouement.."what distinguishesthe Germanbaroqueis the impossibility of a dialecticalAufhebungthat would constitutea totality: "Theintriguealone would have been able to bringaboutthat allegorical totality of scenic organization.. itfollows the courtfrom town to town.
In provide. Benjamin. 1985. therebyrevealingit to be a stage upon which anythingcan happen. of its power and its status.however. Here. one mayspeakof the trialof the creaturewhose charge against death-or whoever else was indicatedin it-is only partially dealt with and is adjournedat the end of the Trauerspiel.as there. cannot derivedfroma norm. Adomo.. WORKS CITED Walter. The theaterof the Germanbaroquedivergesbothfromclassicaltragedyandfromthe Schmittiantheory of sovereignty in that it leaves no place for anythingresembling a definitivedecision.1991. Political Theology:Four Chapterson the Conceptof Sovereignty. [137.even a miracle.JohnOsborne. contrastto its Spanishcounterpart it is also what gives it its distinctivehistorical-philosophical significance.Trans. for Schmittdecision can be situatedin terms of an unequivocalpoint: The legal force of a decision is differentfrom the result of substantiation. Whereasin Benjamin. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. am Main: Suhrkamp. his reinscriptionof Schmitt. Politische Theologie. am Main: Suhrkamp. [32. Its resumptionis implicit in the Trauerspiel. is always tied to a certain of space. am Main: Suhrkamp. Das Geddchtnisdes Denkens: VersuchiiberAdornound Garcia-Dtittmann.. And yet if this limits its aestheticvalue. but which the norm as such cannot the unmistakable implicationis thatdecision alonedoes providesuch a point. 1985. Translationsoccasionally modified. The Originof GermanTragicDrama.it is preciselythe absenceof sucha verdictandthe possibility of unendingappealand revision thatmarksthe Trauerspiel: The legal analogy may reasonably be takenfurther and. my emphasis] Nothing could demonstratemore clearly the distancebetween this eternalrevision and Schmitt's notion of an absoluteand absolutelydefinitive andultimatedecision. Frankfurt Schmitt. the question of decision. Ursprungdes deutschenTrauerspiels. in the sense of the medievalliteratureoflitigation.only a quality rightness point of ascription content. Ed. this determination determination is revealed to be the errantstage of an inauthenticand unlocalizableplace. Translations fied. Cambridge. GershomScholem and TheodorW. Frankfurt . 1977. Trans. Briefe [Correspondence]. London:New Left Books. my emphasis] of If Schmitt asserts here that the norm presupposes a "point of ascription. 18 . Vier Kapitel zur Lehre von der Souverinitit.1963.but nothingdefinitively decided. Rather.Apoint of ascriptionfirstdetermines A be is." a Zurechnungspunkt upon which one must count. [GS] GesammelteSchriften. .MA: MIT P. it happens the other way whata normis andwhatnormative around.1980.Carl.1966. Heidegger. Frankfurt Alexander.the inabilityto reachsuch an apotheosisthatcharacterizes the Germanbaroquetheaterin in Calder6n. occasionally modiGeorge Schwab. Ascription is not achieved with the aid of a norm.Benjamintakes exception to this point. Berlin: Duncker& Humblot..