Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or, How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality?

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“What is Politics in Emmanuel Levinas' Ethics?” Bettina Bargo (Université de Montréal)

I. Against Hope in Politics

Lawrence Olivier, a professor of political science, recently published a feisty book entitled, Contre l’espoir comme tâche politique [Against hope as a political task].1 There, Olivier offered a sustained critique of political utopianism. He argued that the logic of human liberation, whatever its specific form, has “itself [been] inscribed in larger mech anisms of power [dispositifs de pouvoir], whose primary aim is the creation of the alienated individual upon whom it is possible to exert power” (CLTP, 112). The conviction animating utopias and hopes, he continued, à la Foucault, is the “idea, i ncontestable for Western thought, that man must be led to his humanity. And that this humanity is the end point for man, the moment in which he attains finally his fullness as a human being.” If this is true, Olivier asks, “Why is it that revolutions so often go off course? Why do projects of liberation invariably finish by themselves becoming oppressive or often worse?” (114). For him the answer lays in that “the preoccupation of man for man” consists in a “di splacement in the exercise of power”—all of which is framed in a logic “of domination” (115).2 There is not enough space to unfold his arguments here. But anyone who has read Foucault and Deleuze can follow them readily enough. Every time we read such critiques of a philosophy of history, the notion of utopianism leaves us feeling abandoned, as if to chimeras. II. A Non-Utopian Reading of Levinas For that reason, I would like to follow a different tack in regard to Levinas. I would like to argue that an interesting reading of Levinas might show that he is not actually offering us a ‘formal utopia’, understood as providing conditions of possibility through which utopia might take shape. Certainly Levinas offers a principle of hope—realizing that principles function as grounds, so that further appeals to ‘found’ them in a prior logic are vain—a sort of superbience.

Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or, How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality?

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An interesting reading of Levinas might argue that what he discovers in the face-to-face relationship had been hinted at in various places in Merleau-Ponty’s work; notably, in the Child’s Relations with Others (1960), where he speaks of “syncretic sociability” and “an original type of relation with others;”3 and again in “The Philosopher and his Shadow” (1960), in his discussion of “intercorporeal reality.”4 This is the anti-subjectivist, chiasmatic dimension of Husserlian intersubjectivity that could not constitute the other first as an alter ego. Levinas’s approach is different from Merleau-Ponty’s. But the idea that in a certain moment what we call the ‘Ego’ is the other, or is split by the other, or carries the other, although not in the sense that a substance carries a predicate—this idea is found in Merleau-Ponty. Is that enough to establish a philosophy close to Levinas’s but without a religious dimension? Maybe, yet my interest here is that Levinas not be taken as a utopian thinker, but rather in his quality as an interpretive phenomenologist who draws some of his examples from Bible and Talmud. These sources can be read ethically, or ethicoreligiously--that is his teacher Shushani’s contribution (since Levinas had scarcely studied Talmud before meeting him)—but the core of the intuition concerns, ultimately, the structure of sensibility, the adequacy of language to convey the density of sensuous ‘investiture’, and the dialogical origin of saying—which has roots both in Buber and in the linguist Roman Jakobson. Now, I think a Jewish, or Talmudic, reading of Levinas is a good thing. But I don’t have the knowledge of rabbinics to explore it. On the other hand, I feel that many of the philosophical arguments he makes are not so much about utopianism, or redeeming politics, as they are about the non-innatist origins of responsibility. As such they make an important philosophical contribution, even there where philosophers have read his ideas as old saws for peace or responsibility. There is a lot more at stake.

III. The Secular Out of the Religious Of course utopia is a theme in Totality and Infinity. There, a sort of utopia receives the name, “eschatology.” It is tied to a lógos about the end of time, about the eschaton, conceived as an interruption of duration or of Heideggerian projections. It is an unusual way of speaking of eschatology, one that once again uses religious terms to bring out themes that are proper to human experience and, ultimately, taken up by religion. Nothing so remarkable in that. Otto Pöggeler, Marlène Zarader, and Giorgio Agamben have shown that Heidegger used concepts drawn from the experiences of the early Christian community, as related in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, in order to reach a d imension, through it, that was secular and existential. One such term concerns living in wait for the fullness of time, which Paul called kairos. In short, the strategy Levinas uses, drawing from the prophets, from the

If we go just that far.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. and for good reason. Derrida argues that because Levinas’s metaphysics is different. of course. that Levinas’s metaphysics is different from Kant’s. Being nonetheless remains equated with nonregulatable change: too much sun. though that too may prove desirable. This metaphysic of change implies that humans must be governed by laws—immanent rational ones for individuals. they do not need to be minuteously governed by a plethora of formal norms. welcome and harboring happen. Being remains equated with violence and war. And Being remains equated with war. half-wrong: Levinas’s metaphysics is about war and peace. Thanks to the possibility of interruption. IV. not Heidegger’s finite Dasein. or a becoming. since it is not Heidegger’s call. Now. Levinas’s Being seems to belong to a preHeideggerian conception that combines elements of Hobbes. It ‘produces itself’. in existential import—an import different from Kantian analyses of temporality. utopia. in no way begins with him—nor even from Heidegger. and Being In Levinas. Levinas. wherein becoming— including nature and society—exemplifies change and violence. Totality and Infinity is a unique a treatise on welcome. which Howard Caygill details in his book. . and equates politics with war. treaties and accords for political relations. Derrida argues. Levinas’s ‘Elemental’. The welcome of the stranger comes to pass. Spinoza. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. not Heidegger’s clearing. in The Word of Welcome. it is not enough to argue that Levinas has a metaphysics different from Kant’s on the basis of the possibility of ethical interruption. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 3 Bible. Even it can be experienced as enjoyment and love of life. it need not be massively legislated. To complicate matters further. or even from Bergsonian duration. as ‘eschatology’. In this Derrida is half right. In my view. violent seas. It has been asked what sort of Being this is. But. It carries its weight. however. is set in a logic that opposes war to eschatology. Politics. that is interruptible. Therefore. gives us a Being. notably in his On Perpetual Peace. constitutions. This is deliberately conceived against Heidegger. In Perpetual Peace Kant argued for a ‘Heraclitean’ metaphysics. Being is interruptible. we have a very Kantian metaphysics. Being itself will be characterized by war. Derrida argues. literally. Levinas and the Political. War.

and peacetime diplomacy all bear the marks of struggle —these interruptions stand opposed to each other. an approach to the essence of the political was his primary concern.5 I’ll return to that shortly. The Argument: Gravitas in Human Things… If we read the argument in the first four pages of the “Preface” to Totality and Infinity. What concerns me above all is that these interruptions—after all. as conversation. Thus. or as Levinas’s idiosyncratic v ision of politics. This work was debated by thinkers on the left and the right.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. These are platonico-aristotelian modes of defining ethics and aesthetics. even heuristically. war “breaks out” even if commerce. above all. And war will be equated with politics. eschatology interrupts Being. firstly. In going through this section.6 We have Howard Caygill to thank for . War tears people from their homes and their habitual acts. or aesthetics. which is also the notion of the political that aroused debate in the 1920s and ‘30s. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 4 In Totality and Infinity. just as it is with Being. it is certainly not in the political that is equated. I am arguing here. If there is anything like a social contract to be discerned in his work. the political that concerns life and death. here. We find this definition of ‘the political’ in a thinker whose existential la nguage and concern with concrete experience equaled his drive to define the political as a distinct domain—the way ethics can be defined as founded on the distinction of good versus bad. we find a claim that we can easily take either as formally utopian. It is neither misguided. V. When Carl Schmitt first published his The Concept of the Political in 1927 in the Archiv für Sozialforschung. tear people from their de facto situations. from their morality. with its distinction of the beautiful versus the ugly. And it is bound up with Levinas’s five years in Fallingsbotel. nor pathological. politics. The utopian dimension called “eschatology” turns on a definition of the political that Schmitt would have approved. Because of that. Eschatology is the utopian answer that is not a solution per se to the violence of war. what interrupts a political thus equated with war must be situated outside of politics and Being. near Hanover. It opens a break in Being as war and totality. that Levinas’s co nception of ‘the political’ does not look like a political whose essence would be communitarian or dialogical. paradoxically. with Being and with war. Both the ethical interruption and war. it is tied to what was ‘in the air’ in the 20s’ and 30s’ discussion about the specificity of the concept of the polit ical. I will bear in mind the question: What definition of ‘the political’ is Levinas working with here? I would venture that it is the political of gravitas. It is tied to the kind of politics evident in Weimar conflicts and in the Nazi and fascist period. Schmitt’s thought elicited the interest of Walter Benjami n and Leo Strauss. The ethical interruption tears people from Being.

” From there. Yet Rosenzweig published his Hegel und der Staat in 1920 and. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 5 the reminder that Levinas’s thought did not unfold in a philosophical vacuum. uninflected by the murder of his Lithuanian family and countless others. My concern is this: a definition of the political such as we find in Totality and Infinity and in Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political leaves us with precious little to interrupt or to change it. The thesis was a progressive defense of Hegelianism. “after my exper ience of World War I. The ‘eschatological’ is one such possibility. which Levinas studied. Levinas argues. le dupe. during which I wrote the Star on postcards sent to my mother. following my teacher Friedrich Meineke. Lucidity. I turned to revelation in the community of the Law. It was as if he were saying. the work whose abandonment gave rise to The Star of Redemption. War and Naïveté Let us walk through the initial argument in Levinas’s “Preface. of morality. after attempting to show in his thesis that Hegel’s conception of the political could be enlarged by comparing it with concrete instantiations of the political in the emergence of the modern bourgeois state. And the two conflicting transcendences . I will turn to Carl Schmitt and to some of Leo Strauss’s questions to him. Hence the transcendence of the truth will be opposed. Perhaps that is as it should be. which must be serving master other than the good.’ So much for the paraphrase of Rosenzweig. What else would qualify for importance in “the highest degree?” It is a matter of gravity and seriousness. hereafter. Totality and Infinity: Truth and the Good. the following year. I turned to a revelation different from that of reason in history— that optic had become impossible. before I went to the Front: I hoped to save Hegel from appropriations by those who wanted Bismarck’s Prussia to exemplify the Hegelian state.’ However he would also add. tied to one kind of transcendence. he published his Stern der Erlösung. to the transcendence of the good.” teaches us about the permanent possibility of war. The argument of Totality and Infinity begins by informing us that it is important in the highest degree to know whether we are not the dupes. I owe its inspiration to Paul-Laurent Assoun’s “Introduction” to the French translation of Hegel and the State. The War made the project derisory. We have to interpolate here: duped by the rhetoric of morality. I turned away from that question of the political in factical history. that of “the truth. It is a po ssibility that Franz Rosenzweig himself took up in 1915. ‘This is what I was doing.7 VI. Why does it importe au plus haut point? Why is it important to the highest degree? Because this is a matter of life and death.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. This permanent possibility is concrete—we learn at least this from the 20th century—and it is metaphysical.

of facts: war is patency itself. Reason. The ‘state of war’ annuls their eternal obligations and unconditional imperatives. VII. within metaphysics. then going to one’s death for one’s state. in an essential though not an everyday sense. to impose itself in its nudity and in its hardness (sa nudité et sa dureté)” (TI. but it always concerned circumstances of the utmost gravity. and of how something ‘essences’ in Heidegger’s sense. Let us add. To foreshorten: the art of war is the political. Moreover. Hegel. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 6 give rise to a sardonic question: Whether a culture can be tied to both transcendences at once. of determining who were enemies and who.e. would trump imperatives like Kant’s preserving life. and trumps. speaking the truth. Grotius. Schmitt. that means that the politics of war must have a domain of inquiry proper to an absolute. Carl Schmitt called that domain “the political”. he says. if war does suspend obligations and universals.e. we are in the realm of the essential. Totality and Infinity: Being is War The second part of the argument claims that Being reveals itself as war to the philosophical gaze. manifest. suspends morality. ix).. which does not mean ‘politics’ but the concept of the political itself)—imposes itself.8 Levinas’s argument continues: Winning is the art of war—i. that the Being of beings and their self-manifesting are one and the same. Why so? Perhaps because in a long tradition of thinking about war. That domain would be the State. and others. my trans. born of its permanent possibility. For my purposes. suppressing or annihilating one’s enemies—and this art is called politics. if war is true. It trumps the institutions of society. then eternal obligations and unconditional imperatives are neither eternal nor unconditional—which would be the case if war came before ethics. its friends and its enemies. he will now argue that war is the most patent.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. friends. If Levinas already argued in Existence and Existents. without one of them giving the lie to the other. which includes Machiavelli. “The art of foreseeing and winning war by all means—the political (la politique. If that surprises us today. the “truth of the real” ( la vérité du réel). The political is opposed to. In that sense. i. it is because liberal political conceptions impugn this claim. in the name of protecting that state from an enemy or taking from an enemy state some resource. that is. thence.). like the very exercise of reason” (TI ix. In war. “justice” is not a category proper to the logic of war. Levinas’s argument continues: the state of war. it annuls their eternal obligations. or cultivating humanity. “reality tears the words and images that dissimulated it. war is an absolute. it was none other than the art. are thus opposed to naïveté. and philosophy which is the art of reason. pra cticed by the state or its people. morality. not everyday politics. Of course this determination took place in a non-permanent way. . a tautology.

because the political is the decision concerning the fate of friends and enemies. the other…and it is sufficient for his nature that he is. it is integral to his logic. war se produit—as the pure experience of pure being. The ontological event that is sketched in this black clarity (should we hear black Lichtung) is a setting in motion of beings. not ekhthros (εχθρός) (COP. which results in divorce further on. “The distinction of friend and enemy denotes the utmost degree of intensity of a union or a separation. the personal enemy. hostis etymologically gives us both “guest” and “hos- . We should keep in mind that Schmitt’s ‘other’—as enemy—is every bit as alien as Levinas’s other. for no other reason than a political one. 27). here VIIE. The statement is rare in Schmitt who usually speaks of groups in conflict or association. itself. It can exist theoretically and practically. the marriage of Hegel and Heidegger. so that in the extreme case conflicts with him are possible” (COP. anchored up till then. of an association or dissociation. without having simultaneously to draw upon all those moral. 1. “war is produced (we should hear pro-ducere. coming forth. In fairness. and conflict as war is proper just to the political. like that of November 9th. dis-closure. between those with whom one remains associated and those from whom one must dissociate. nevertheless. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 7 Thus. What-is is permanently liable to conflict. One can hear Hegel conjoined to Heidegger: the objective order or objective logic is pro-duced in a black clarity (noire clareté) that is the ontological event. in their identity. “the stranger. is not fair to either philosopher. This is not just for heuristic purposes. Contrast Levinas’s argument here with a remark that aims in a similar direction. co-extensive with the objective-political. The political enemy need not be morally evil or aesthetically ugly…it may even be advantageous to engage with him in business transactions. whose event suspends other domains like economy and morality. Less surprising than one might think. and that the distinction goes back to the Greeks’ polemios (πολέμιος). not fair unless the political really is the summum of the objective logic and war. æsthetic. ix). In Levinas’s “Preface” the objective order is the order of what -is. 2829). But he is.” He insists he is speaking of hostis rather than inimicus.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. by an objective order from which one cannot extract oneself (se soustraire)” (TI.. it is the alienness of the other that grounds the possibility of conflict. in the very instant (should we hear ‘event’) of its flashing (fulgurance) wherein the draperies of illusion burn. distinguishing. a mobilization of absolutes. of entire cultures. which is also the possibility of a truly political act: i. Schmitt writes explicitly. existentially something different or alien. “the other” and like Levinas he adds to this. in a specially intense way. the Ereignis of war. and fight to the death.e. economic or other distinctions. 1938. In this formulation. Perhaps we should hear other events. 151sq). the disclosive event of being which is.

The “Preface” to Totality and Infinity draws a triple equation: objective being—comes to light as war—the art of objective being is politics. War institutes an order. Certitude has a modality. though it is a funny utopia since we could never call this certitude unless we were. but the widow and the orphan—figures that affect us before we can make a private friend-enemy distinction. They reflect the Hegelian distinction between subjective and objective logics. The argument thus divides Being into faces. Here. the stranger to be sure. which is also the order attached to truth or the secular. it is employed as a strategy of demystification. here. The new face de l’être is. The other ‘face’ of being may make it possible “to bear the mocking gaze of politics. but need not be authenticated by evidence or truth claims. The new relation with Being is not totalized. he adds. So it should not participate in a logic where morality works for being and for politics. in fact. a strange transition then takes place. Levinas says. are more than just a call to move beyond Husserl and the early Heidegger. The utopian is born.” This other face is the “certitude of peace” so far as it is able “to dominate the evidence of war” (TI. Yet this possibility does not proceed. that the face is the only thing that an ‘I’ can wish to murder. where certainty has modes. So there is another ‘face’ or surface of being. It proceeds from a different calling into question. This is the truth of the order called reality. If this is utopian. because he realizes certainty is modal.”9 In Levinas. “a new relation—both originary and unique—with Being” (x). rather as it is in Adorno. not duped by morality. x). in the possibility of correcting the monolithic triumvirate: politics—objectivity—totalization. perhaps the front and the back. As if to show us that the argument of page ix was hyperbolic. Being has two faces. faces. Enough evidence. The mode of certainty Levinas is concerned with arises as the utopian moment of ‘cert itude’. certitude is counterpoised to evidence. from which “nothing is henceforth external” (x). From there. one apparently larger than the other. In 1962. midway through Totality and Infinity. And war is the event (really. of which we. or again: war—truth—the sublation of morality and civilization. Levinas adds on the following page: “the face of being that shows itself in war is fixed in the concept of totality that dominates Western philosophy” (x). like conviction —about what is uncovered or evident. from reflection. would be incapable: the approach of the other. that “all men die. using certitude against evidence. The only way not to be duped by morality is to accept both faces of being.” And Levinas will remark. as in Adorno. or strong evidence usually makes certitude possible. that belongs to particularity rather . namely. the durée) of the totalization effected in the highest degree in Hegel’s political thought. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 8 tility. This is certainly how it is in Heidegger.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. this is the approach of the other who is interlocutor. as lone reasoning beings. teacher. The tensions of language.

counterpoised to that of presence. In this illusion we can hear: “morality is moral for the sake of politics. the interior-exterior distinction is one binarism that cannot be further reduced here. Eschatology does not supplement ontology or “‘complete’ its p hilosophical evidences’” (x). which is not just singular or different from its universal ground. which plays its game in the midst of ancient and present wars” (x). this way. arising from sight. This is the logic of the trace. That is the philosophers’ error. and generic in its being. it is a different modality of “certainty. the rights of a subjectivity free as the wind” (xi). eschatology happens like a chiasm. Not with the void that would surround the totality and where one could…believe what one liked and promote. in the interior of experience” (xi). Later works like Otherwise than Being will inflect this binarism so that it no longer matters ‘where’ the other ‘is’. VIII. If something can be beyond the totality without being outside of time and space. Of course the intention remains the same. but it is never particular. The other is. morality is not moral for the sake of politics.” Who wouldn’t relish a morality that reforms politics? Would that not be the interru ption—in the midst of political machinations and terror—of an act called witnessing. The subject eschatology defends is particular in its event. protest. Eschatology does not belong to the order of evidence. Nothing like this is found in Heidegger’s Dasein. Not a new space -time.10 Obviously. Peace: Messianic and Otherwise The great illusion is messianic peace. Levinas says. irreducibly particular though that strategy becomes so problematic that by 1974 the other is presented as an immanent schism. they benefit from it and deduce “a final peace of reason. beyond the totality or history. it is reflectable—this is more than a metaphor. In this way Levinas short-circuits the logic by which the other is firstly a group of strangers that some ‘I’s would war against. The other is the other and the particular stranger. then the strategy can only be one of a particular. because Dasein can be singularized by anxiety.” Though this certainty is not ‘ex-videre’. rather than the radical exteriority and external particularity. and not with being beyond the past and the present. a split subjectivity.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. It is reflected in the interior of the totality and of history. It is the philosophers’ utopia. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 9 than to universality. “Eschatology sets [us] in relation with being. which is to found morality on politics. for him. or self-sacrifice—some act that stopped political actuality in its tracks and called it to account for itself? With politics explicitly defined as war. The philosophers’ illusion arises from their re asoning and their desire. Totality and Infinity argued that . The “beyond” of totality “is not described…in a purely negative fashion.

Eschatology ‘is produced’ as a responsible gesture toward even the other. He speaks of the duality of allegiance. before the completion of history… that beings exist in relation…starting from themselves and not from the totality” (xi). Indeed. Is the West addled by lust for power so that it cannot see its dual allegiance? Surely the phrase. interrupting.12 From there. this relation is dialogue and teaching. unless that is precisely the function of eschatology. “Is it true?” and partly because everything gets trumped by politics in this logic. even two ways of being. or to religion and peace. Mirroring is not identity. be my ‘enemy’—eschatology’s structure seems to mirror that of war. In the Phenomenology. it is hypocritical because it has no desire to abandon its “allegiance” to either philosophy and war.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. they simply proceeded along different vectors: the Concept for philosophy. Levinas’s discussion takes another turn whose importance is hard to determine. eschatology comes out as the only possible . His only answer to this is cryptic. “ désormais antagonistes” means that the true and the good have no meta-discourse. it is clear that eschatology may motivate—through the Tiers—a demand for justice. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 10 “the eschatological idea of judgment (contrary to the judgment of history where Hegel saw the rationalization of that judgment)11 implies that beings have an identity ‘before’ eternity. and seeing Being itself as total yet chiasmatically interrupted. unwilled gratuity. it is not just that civilization is attached to the True and to the Good. my enemy. a mise-en-mouvement of people uprooted. which is itself an interruption. I spent time on eschatology in order to address two questions: 1) How does it change the equation: war—politics—reason—being? And 2) Is eschatology itself a rival order? To the first question. and coming from an other who could. But this eschatology does not sublate the political. and Representation for religion. If anything. But Levinas is more than anti-Hegelian here. of summoning beings. “the way it refute morality?” he asks. Ni etzsche saw that much in his critique of values. In 1961. An interruption is not a momentary trumping. Why does the force of war and the universality of politics not refute eschatology. proceeding as if momentarily ineluctable. a metaphoric space. It is repetition with difference. of “an essentially hypocritical civilization”—our own. It is rather that there seems to us to be no ‘where’ from which to redirect our attachments. under other circumstances. with its non-teleological root: signification without context. such that ethics is a way of seeing—seeing others. partly because we invariably ask. however. it wants to dialectize these. But this is more than an allusion to Hegel for whom there was nothing more in Philosophy than in Religion. it is a gasp. The West is not just philosophy and religion. Yet eschatology’s ‘structure’—that is. “henceforth antagonists” (xii). or a crossing that does not change the logic.

Does that mean the Good ‘is’ not ‘true’? I believe it means. and perverts morality into its own rhetoric. to make the Good into an o rder that rivals the True. since politics trumps ethics. has its necessity in a logic where the political is war. The answer to question one is that eschatology changes the equation of war—politics—reason—Being imperceptibly. and where reason serves both politics and Being. Unlike Schmitt. It may come from a number of sources. like the inflection performed by an adverb. that we can ask “What does it mean?” but not “Is what it means true?” Now. Kojève seems a brilliant Hegel exegete. but it is not the rival of Truth. at the end of the section on Morality. But it concerns the political as Absolute. Absolute Spirit was taken by some commentators to be instantiated effectively in Bismarck’s Prussian state. But Levinas also knew of Jean Wahl’s reading of Hegel. and where Being also is war. We should pause here. Donning the Hegelian Mantle If we cannot ask “Is it true that the Good…?” We can still ask. Of course Nietzsche also saw this and called for a critique of the Western obsession with truth. this nothing. the movement of history through the French Revolution and the Terror is doubled by the passage of Kantian philosophy into Hegelian dialectics. What-is carries values. Next to Schmitt. Kojève does not himself unfold an original theory of the political. There. the little ‘event’ called the ‘Good’. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 11 way to explain that life is not like an endless Kristallnacht. The engagement is related to Hegel’s logic and his politics. Is eschatology a rival order? If the adverbial question ‘how’ regroups modalities into an order.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. Levinas may have been thinking of Kojève and his Nietzschean transformation of the Master-Slave dialectic. Nevertheless. comes from a source other than Hegel. That would be a category error. the Good—meaning. IX. no need for a rival order unless we take Levinas’s detailed explorations in Totality and Infinity and Otherwise than Being as explicitly constituting an order. yet it does not determine all values. but one of which is clearly Heidegger’s contemporary. But the irony about inheriting . then it is one. “What does it mean?” is not enough. for philosophers. The Good is antagonist to the True. in the Phenomenology. Carl Schmitt. as Absolute Spirit.13 There is an engagement with Hegel in Levinas. the domain of value—does not belong to the true.14 On the basis of this. Heidegger did not write about politics directly. Inflecting Being without changing its structure or appearance. which is reached. “Is it true that the political…?” We can proceed this way. But there is no need to assemble and hypostatize in that way. which privileged the unhappy consciousness as the figure that moved history. because the political understood as war itself. Moreover. touted by many as the twentieth century inheritor of Hegel: jurist and political philosopher.

in which he found himself (not to mention the framing of the Jews after the War as betrayers of the German cause). Once Rosenzweig gave up his defense of Hegel’s conception of the universal state—a defense that argued that it was not universal enough)—he also gave up completely on a philosophy of history and politics that would expand Hegel’s concept of the political into actual European history. Aristotelian. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 12 the Hegelian mantle does not stop there. the young Franz Rosenzweig. and left movements of his time. its language disconcertingly close to Heidegger’s hyperbolic. and joined the Nazi party. we might have had Derrida but never Levinas. Schmitt was concerned with “the immediate centrifugal forces tearing the Weimar state apart and on some of the intellectual underpinnings of these forces. Friedrich Meinecke. from paralyzing Weimar’s parliamentary system. While this may seem historically understandable. In his political works. over Carl Schmitt.”15 Above all. In that case. is decided and legitimated?’ In his The Concept of the Political.” Now Schmitt’s answer is dedu ctive. the calculus of the when and the how of war. Moreover. The Concept of the Political The arguments of the “Preface” to Totality and Infinity brought us to the elliptical question: “Is it true that the political…?” By this I mean. Did he agree with Hindenburg’s advisors that Hitler could be contained and manipulated to their ends?17 It is hard to imagine anyone joining the Nazis in ‘good faith’. His concern was to keep the numerous political parties legitimated by the Weimar constitution. Hegel and the State. As it was. Schmitt’s position took an ugly turn following Paul von Hindenburg’s surprise appointment of Hitler as Chancellor. the unions. existential res o- .18 Schmitt’s answer to these questions was: “Yes. Schmitt’s translator and commentator. X. Rosenzweig might have laid claim to the heritage of Hegelian thought.16 at which point Schmitt too turned around. Taminiaux has called that “nostalgie de la Grèce ancienne”. What we do know is that he joined the Party in the same year that Heidegger did. Schmitt put on the mantle of right Hegelianism.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. Had it not been for the Balkan trenches. argues that Schmitt supported a strong executive branch over the conflicted parliamentarism of Weimar. the brilliant student of the Freiburg Hegelian. He remained its ideologue longer than Heidegger remained the Rector of the University of Freiburg. following Levinas: ‘…that the political is war?’ ‘…that the political is defined as the calculus of war? That it is the domain wherein life and death. Before the first World War. trenchantly critical of the liberal state. the political is war. George Schwab. he would have inflected it in a cosmopolitan direction. Schmitt strove to distinguish ‘politics’ from ‘the political’ as a distinct domain. but both men shared what J. looked as though he might become the left Hegelian of the 20th century with his thesis. 1933.

20 The Concept of the Political is divided into eight parts. the answer to depoliticalization is found in a strategy that moves in the opposite direction: toward the universal state. if not the friend (as Ricœur a rgued). as a process. This difficulty is tied to the question: What is the modern state? We find general answers in the debates of jurisprudence over the fifty years prior to publication of the Concept in 1924. Yet that literature continues to grow without a definitive definition of the state. The question has arisen because the state has gone through three phases between the 18th and the 20th centuries: from the absolute monarchies. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 13 luteness before life and death. 25). this was noted as early as the years between 1848 and 1870. For Schmitt. then what is its specific difference. Hegel’s universal state also extends into autonomous domains but does so while remaining above those domains in matters of war and peace. . the other. A longer work could show. religious. that Levinas’s ethics works on a precise reversal of Schmitt’s logic: for Levinas. that is. Hegel’s universal state pursues “ ‘the most vigorous penetration of all societal spheres by the state for the…purpose of winning for the entirety of the state all vital energies of the people’” (COP. and the moral? If so. past a certain point. 19. the stranger is. in this regard. which is justified by its accompanying depoliticalization. the economic. Feind). it is no longer clear what the state itself should be or do. Hobbes. the difference turns on the transcendence of the state and. and cultural affairs without being able to assure its own effective independence from these domains. Schmitt’s response rests on a conception of humanity and Being shared by thinkers as different as Machiavelli. what are the foundational categories of the political? These categories do exist in all simplicity. by extension. never the enemy: the peaceable resistance of the face excludes. The first part discusses the difficulty of defining the political. radically. the autonomy of the political. Fichte. to resist the power of his own passions.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. What is the State?. and Marx. The state that loses itself through hyperextension into economic and cultural domains will be called “the total state. turns on a more radical inquiry: should we conceive the political as a domain categorically distinct from the cultural. The latter has definitively blurred the boundaries between state and society. 22 Universality is unavoidable. the friendenemy distinction. pre-reflectively. they are above all the distinction of public friend versus public enemy (Freund vs. to the liberal bourgeois state of the 20th. Superficially like the bourgeois state. As we know.” Its condemnation by Schmitt follows a certain tradition in political thought. Part II of The Concept of the Political argues that the answer to the question. This is simply the conception that man is ‘evil’ in the non-religious sense of being unable.21 The distinctive feature of the bourgeois state is its capacity to extend into social. to the neutral states of the 19th century. economic.

politicizes everything. a ‘people’ takes up an inauthentic stance in regard to the political. and existentialist. The eve ryday bourgeois is consonant with the ‘they’.” It is on just this definition of the other that Schmitt sets the political in the kind of light that allows Levinas to oppose it. realistic. In his concern to remain historicist. The consequences of this existential inauthenticity are deducible: they amount to a loss of meaning in the entire tradition’s . in a specially intense way. is unconsciously avoided. and judge the concrete situation and settle the extreme case of conflict. das Man. “The political is the most intense and extreme antagonism.” like the good and the bad (morality). Schmitt argues. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 14 Schmitt writes. Schmitt adopts a tone we hear. This is especially true of modern or world warfare. “The inherently objective nature and autonomy of the political becomes evident by virtue of its being able to treat. The only way to accomplish this is to keep the private and the public as separate spheres (just as Levinas worked to keep eschatology from being absorbed by Being or by the public sphere). a serious stance toward death. that of the friend-enemy grouping” (COP. distinguish. In war. to Levinas’s notion of the ‘ethical’ or ‘religion’. in Heidegger. not mixed and weakened by economic. existentially something different and alien. and war. death stands where the enemy stood in Schmitt’s concept of the political: deciding who is the public enemy and how to face them is the proper potentiality of the truly political people. understand. around the same time.”24 In Being and Time. in the process. and comprehend the friend-enemy antithesis independently of other antitheses.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. the other is literally the “stranger” who “is. Generally. of everydayness in Heidegger. The Heideggerian language—which Adorno recognized as extending beyond Heidegger and amounting to the ‘jargon of authenticity’—continues. the profitable versus the economically harmful (COP. We can compare this with Heidegger’s “Existential Projection of…Being-Towards-Death. made by those resolute enough to remain within the political domain. the ugly and the beautiful (aesthetics). The time-space in which the distinction public friend-public enemy is clearest is war. 27). Each participant is in a position to judge whether the adversary intends to negate his opponent’s way of life and therefore must be repulsed or fought in order to preserve one’s own form of exi stence” (COP. It is the authentic gesture of the political. Here too.23 Part III of The Concept prolongs Schmitt’s ‘existential analytic’ of the political. moral. and other conceptions” (COP. Thus Schmitt: “Only the actual participants can correctly recognize. It insists that the categories of ‘friend’ and ‘enemy’ be “understood in their concrete and existe ntial sense. the political comes to the fore in its own distinctiveness and. not as metaphors or symbols. In both cases. and every concrete antagonism becomes that much more political the closer it approaches the most extreme point. along with Being generally. 29). 27). 26-27).

but “not right away” (BT. inauthenticity results in death being relegated to an anxious but superior attitude such that death comes. emphasis mine). These inauthentic stances cover over the truth of concrete existence. and in virtually all recent approaches to the political. or stand firm in. are incomprehensible if one does not know exactly who is to be affected. the individual in Schmitt is one people. 302. 32. certainly. not simply of life and death. 62-63). for Schmitt. Schmitt urges. as well as so vereignty. Against Levinas’s self and other. Or again. Schmitt contrasts the inauthenticity of party politics with the political properly grasped: “in usual dome stic polemics the word political is…used interchangeably with party politics” (COP. society. dictatorship…total state. or Volk. “It is by no means as though the political signifies nothing but devastating war… by no means as though every nation would be uninterruptedly faced with the friend-enemy alternative vis-à-vis every other nation…The definition of the political suggested here neither favors war nor milit arism. the emphasis on the ‘people’ as a national entity is so strong that it resembles Sartre’s ‘group -in-fusion’ and becomes in itself a sort of individual. That “Permanent Possibility”: War. In Schmitt. For Heidegger. This is true in regard to the meaning of Being in Heidegger.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. neither imperialism nor pacifism” (COP. or destroying the other…as a group. for Heidegger. class. but rather of dying-for the group. because for a people to stand authentically ‘in the political’ requires that that people “truly possesses political energy” sufficient “to group men according to friend and enemy” (COP. is the serious people. even where the awareness of the extreme case has been entirely lost…Words such as state. the one that has grasped the meaning of the most extreme possibility—here. that faces risk and decides to enter. and in regard to the meaning of the political in Schmitt. constitutional state. the political. and so on. 36). the Political and its Effacement . emphasis mine). How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 15 approach to ontology. The latter argues. 30-31). republic. absolutism. XI. ventriloquizing Hegel this time: “The bourgeois is an individual who does not want to leave the apolitical riskless private sphere…He is a man who finds his compensation for his political nullity in the fruits of freedom and enrichment…Consequently he wants to be spared bravery and exempted from the danger of a violent death” (COP. “The fact that the substance of the political is contained in the context of a concrete antagonism is still expressed in everyday language. the decisive difference is that this singular is never particularized. Of course neither thinker would allow that such a resolute approach to the ‘truth’ of their question implies a concrete plan of action per se. The group. 33). combated…or negated by such a term” (COP. And yet his tone will give the lie to this shortly. despite appearances to the contrary.

authorized to…kill other human beings” (COP. Strauss ventures here that Schmitt is “conceal[ing] his moral judgment” (COP. What is more obvious is the aesthetics of war that animates Schmitt’s argument. fairly: a world without politics. 34). 105). or seize hold of. war is the content of the political. Tolerance is the leitmotif of liberalism. the real war. 105). “War is neither the aim nor the purpose nor even the very content of politics. or religious counter forces are so strong that they are in a position to . but there would not be a meaningful antithesis whereby men could be required to sacrifice life. competitions and intrigues of every kind. This is how the fourth se ction of The Concept begins. would “contain many very interesting antitheses and contrasts. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 16 Let us recall for a moment what Levinas wrote in the third line of his “Preface” about war: “Lucidity—the openness of the spirit upon the true—does it not consist in glimpsing the permanent possibility of war? The state of war suspends morality…” (TI. ix). the political. He continues. “a completely pacified globe” lacking the friend-enemy distinction. “But as an ever present possibility it is the leading presupposition which determines in a characteristic way human action and thinking…” (COP.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or.” If war is not the content of politics. That judgment is none other than that “Being political means being oriented to the ‘dire eme rgency’”—just as being authentically in Heidegger means being oriented to one’s ‘ownmost po ssibility’ of death. No. This tolerance toward all but those who want to fight Strauss calls a “liberalism with the opposite pola rity” (COP. an economic. “If…the economic. and the decision whether this situation has or has not arrived” (COP. but to have tolerance toward all but those who want to fight really means nothing. 35). he is just as tolerant as the liberals—but with the opposite intention” (COP. On the following page. 37). We find the same expression in Schmitt. here. Strauss says. While the “pacified globe” sounds like the best possible state of affairs. 105). or a cultural struggle becomes political at the moment when “it is sufficiently strong to group human beings effectively according to friend and enemy. starting from the friend-enemy distinction. “He who affirms the political as such respects all who want to fight.25 The third section closes with the declaration that Leo Strauss seized upon. Leo Strauss shows that Schmitt made an unconscious moral judgment here. Schmitt is not serious. since Schmitt will argue that a religious. Working minutiously. 35). “What always matters is the possibility of the extreme case taking place. cultural. that is because “politic s” eo ipso was never defined by Schmitt. It explores how a group can enter. “the political does not reside in the battle itself…but in the mode of behavior which is determined by this possibility” (COP. not matters of life and death. “Very interesting antitheses” are not serious antitheses.” Thus.

religious. whose order…is based upon rational procedures. This is also why morality could not but dupe us about war. there exists no “rational purpose. then “the political entity is nonexistent” (Ibid. At the heart of this section—beyond Strauss’s observation about its moral judgment—is the following claim: whatever its original character—economic. His is a violent. 45). proves to be the rule of the political.). 48). actual war.27 Possible arguments about economic or cultural ways of resolving a differend. War has no justification. hence no justice. COP. As proof of the pudding: attempts at regulating war. transcendence characterizes the state just as the authority of the will to life and death characterizes the political (COP. or outlawing it have all failed (COP. like everything in an essentially individualist liberal society. 48). 42). 45-47). 39). Yet the observation leads him to two conclusions. A Schmittian equation arises: transcendence is sovereignty. On the other hand. or neutralizing an enemy are dismissed as trivial. if no group proves “so strong” as to “decide” on friends and enemies. First. the entity becoming-political remains above all the other antitheses in society. realpolitik situation of transcendence.28 “To demand seriously of human beings that they kill others and be prepared to die themselves so that trade and industry can flourish…or that the purchasing power of grandchildren may grow is…crazy” (COP. or cultural (cf. “The ever present possibility of a friend-and-enemy grouping suffices to forge a decisive entity which transcends the mere societal-associational groupings” (COP. His second conclusion is that the political is as ineradicable as the conatus is natural. a thoroughly private matter” (COP. justifying itself by appending a critique of liberalism: “Under no circumstances can anyone d emand that any member of an economically determined society. or pure economics” (COP. to which Levinas contraposes his analytic of ethical particularity (the particularity of enjoyment.26 the political entity. sacrifice his life in the interest of rational operations…The individual may die for whatever reason he may wish. that of responsibility) and interruption. “If a people no longer possesses the . 49). no norm no matter how true…no s ocial ideal… no legitimacy nor legality which could justify men in killing each other…” (COP. The section is concerned with Schmitt’s conception of transcendence.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. and it will not be transplanted into a condition of pure morality. infusing justice into it. that of the other. morality cannot justify war and both Schmitt and Levinas realize this. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 17 decide upon the extreme possibility from their viewpoint. There follows a critique of German and Anglo Saxon pluralist theories. “The world will not thereby become depoliticized. then these forces have in actuality become the new substance of the political entity” (COP. The neo-Hegelian theme of the transcendence of the state continues through Section Five. 52). 50-52). pure justice. The exception. That is. This exception is a permanent possibility—as permanent as Being itself.

passions for him are pathologies that must be checked. jealousy)” (COP.” In a more ambiguous vein. liberal society depoliticalizes all groups that participate in it. while not itself seizing that right—lest the become a mega-political formation.31 Above all. and pa ssions is polemical. fear. there are really at least two states. the political concerns groups not individuals. “The inclination to slide from passion to evil” is the “principal feature of human nature” (COP.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. This furthers his argument that where or whenever there is one state. at least it accepts human ‘evil’. 59). like liberal society and liberal politics. the unsublatability of the political. Schmitt remarks that humanity is both “a social ideal” and a “system of relations between individuals” (COP. No political humanity. Marxism is more consistent. 53). while the true is what those societies actually enact. A conclusion that Levinas would have to accord. combined . Schmitt would argue that in liberal society the good is the ‘ideal’ of humanity. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 18 energy or the will to maintain itself in the sphere of politics. and some kind of state institution. 59). That profession is none other than that evil. but it imposes itself swathed in his æsthetic jargon of the strong versus the weak people. xii). Like Kant. 58). emotions. unless it were in truth a “social entity” like that of “customers purchasing gas [sic] from the same utility company” (COP. The Concept of the Political culminates in a loose syllogism to the effect that: human nature makes the political unsublatable. greediness. Such a human nature—and Schmitt insists it must be accepted by anyone who consider himself a political thinker30—is the anthropological rock against which liberal and anarchist thought both run aground. that nature which Levinas called the conatus. Schmitt’s undiscriminating aggregate of physical drives. It is the reason why he claims that the p olitical. which is the lamentable essence of bourgeois individualistic society. 57). stripped of its metaphysical sense as “sin. 55). In Schmitt. it is Schmitt’s ‘root’. In that case. A League of Nations or international body could only be political if it could remove the right of war from its member states.29 [the political] will not thereby vanish…only a weak people will disappear” (COP. the moment war and being are equated. liberal society is a new leviathan and hypocritical—something Levinas might have sanctioned in 1961: recall his “the evidence of war is maintained in a civilization essentially hypocritical…attached at once to the True and to the Good” (TI. the equation war-being is not yet explicit.” amounts to “animals who are stirred by their drives (hunger. no world state is possible.32 Therefore. the international body would just oscillate between economic concerns and moral ones. are ineradicable. Schmitt will accord that “humanity is not a political concept. the other as enemy. Schmitt’s disdain here grows so ponderous that it turns on him and he concedes that he is “finally lead to an anthropological profe ssion of faith” (COP. Schmitt posits his claim about evil as a fact and drives it home with a shower of di sdain heaped on the sycophants who argue that man is good in order to gain a political upper hand or to attack the state. Like Levinas.

by a substitute that is put at the service of fashion…”35 How can we fail to hear in this early critique. which would let us define the genre called the political. law. Schmitt adds that liberalism “has still not been replaced in Europe t oday” (COP. My point is simply that Levinas’s stance toward liberal . And before that. etc. and ushers in the reign of “economy.” Levinas was more skeptical still about liberalism. He transforms his power to doubt into a lack of conviction…Sincerity b ecomes impossible and puts an end to all heroism. Man revels in his freedom and does not definitively compromise himself with any truth. 71). In the liberal state. There is no specific difference in liberalism. on other occasions. art. 71). One conviction is constant: liberal society cannot eliminate the political. Worse. in his 1934 essay “Reflections on Hitlerism.33 Why is this? Liberal thought fuses with political concepts the “double face of ethical or moral pathos and materialist economic reality” (COP. This is because. the attachment to the good and the true is arises from the strife of reason and passions. the authoritarian restriction of those excesses. liberalism is but a critique of politics not a theory of the political argues Schmitt. justly enough. both of them being as apt to serve desire and rage while.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. Civilization is invaded by everything that is not authentic. But therein lies the rub: in an odd twist that doubles his arguments for the ineradicability of the political. should suffice to doom liberalism. In any event. entertai nment. 53)—where “entertainment” sums up the basic lack of seriousness and focused power that characterizes such a society. which arise in times of unrest. In his 1984 talk “Peace and Proximity. 71). while it is not a theory of the political. Perhaps Schmitt would concede that the hypocritical attachment applies to authoritarian regimes as well. Schmitt’s argument that the decline of an autonomous political domain promises the advent of masked conflicts. morals.” (COP. While never espousing the platforms of ‘authoritarian’ parties. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 19 with liberal depoliticalization means that the liberal parliamentarianism will often be unable to rise over and control the pre-political struggles.” he reiterates his preferred litotes: “It is not without i mportance to know—and this is perhaps the European experience of the twentieth century— whether the egalitarian and just State in which the European is fulfilled—and which it is a matter…above all of preserving—proceeds from a war of all against all—or from the irreducible responsibility of the one for the other…”34 But this is over twenty years after Totality and Infinity. This dualism of the ideal and the moral sensibility. coupled with hardnosed materialism. Now this double face of morality and economics woven into political thought is what the critics of post-World War II liberalism borrowed from Schmitt. liberal thought shows an “incredibly coherent systematics” (COP. Levinas himself rarely proves all that fond o f liberalism. where “freedom constitutes the whole of thought’s dign ity…thought becomes a game.

to leave it behind.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. The interruption is simply as old as the order in which Being is equated with the political and with war. But it neither changes Being nor redeems it. or an 'ontodicy'. it can and indeed has slid toward war. the liberal state had persevered for almost forty years. while he supposes a ‘political’37 disturbingly close to that of Schmitt. in the mode of certainty set forth in Totality and Infinity. but it is understandable. what the true ground of society is. The principal thrust of Levinas’s remarks is always the question of the priority of the o rder of Being-War or the interruption of proximity. The autonomy of the political that Schmitt secures through his definition confers on it the status of a theodicy. As Strauss puts it. even if it is deliberately set forth against the inegalitarian state. even imperative. and not only real but also neces- .36 XII.40 Strauss reminds us that Hobbes devised the state of nature for the purpose of heuristics: to describe how human beings probably act if unrestricted. Hobbes’s conceived his heuristic state of nature to show why it was desirable. Levinas proves ultimately more consistent than Schmitt was. Schmitt admitted that war between groups could be deflected through economic or cultural means. passionate animal. by 1984. for Hobbes. but unless we ignore the gravitas of culture. War must be its own court of appeal. Schmitt’s state of nature is not always on the verge of breaking out. Man may be a dangerous. His prompt abandonment of this point goes unexplained. Moreover. For it is unthinkable that the interruption of Being—of the Being that is also Schmitt’s existential-political—could itself become an order rivaling Being. politics must ignore a realm (like the cultural) in which humans realize themselves spiritually. which sometimes rings foundational.”38 Can the “question of the state” really be coextensive with the “order of human things”—without making the state the ultimate raison d’être for humans? The essence of the political lies in the friend-enemy distinction. What are ‘Human Things’. which is arguably as old as any political formation. What is Culture? In that sense. Even if. Schmitt roots that distinction in the thought of Machiavelli and Hobbes. war is not our ever-present possibility. Schmi tt’s own “Introduction” and Appendices to the 1963 German edition (eliminated from the English translation). When it serves as a secular theodicy.39 But Schmitt’s conception of the political amounts to the collectivization (groups at war) of what was. Its ethic and its aesthetics must be determined only by energies and the Will of a people. explains that his concern is with the “order of the human things. individuals in the state of nature. “The political is thus not only possible but also real. Given human culture. This is also why a notion like political culture must see its ability to alter political life denied. Levinas’s ethical interruption may hold the political in abeyance. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 20 society moves from deep skepticism to a reserved tolerance—provided one ‘knows’.

or the verifiable. Its mode of certainty admits the possibility of doubt. Eschatology must. permitting a certain control over pleonexia.41 Levinas worked with a Schmittian conception of the political from 1934 through 1961. But the interruption.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. and defined as the activity of distinguishing between friends and enemies while “negating” the stranger and the enemy. be transcendence—the counterweight of Schmitt’s transcendence of the political. 1 Lawrence Olivier. 95). 2 The thesis is somewhat false. as does our interest in utopia. always the aspirant meddlers. poets must leave. We might ask whether pluralist political theories serve no other function than to “depoliticalize” society. as Schmitt argued. Strauss had recourse to the meaning of culture today. Contre l’espoir comme tâche politique. Above all. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 21 sary…because it is given in human nature” (COP. The purpose of the present essay was both to show a significant ‘root’ of Levinas’s notion of the political and to pose this question: if politics is not made coextensive with Being. it is an atopian utopia. called “eschatology. it is to be hoped that their education and age may assure them that their thumos is effectively allied with their reason. That way. can meddle only if they have mastered a program of education that leaves them ready to rule at the youthful age of fifty. which is crossed by an interruption. Political utopianism is older than the Enlightenment hope of improving ‘man’. At that point. This can only be achieved by wholly di screditing the meaning of human activities whereby conflict is disarmed through cultural practices. with two provisos: 1) that it is more concerned with what is good for us. and philosophers. “the true”.” is utopian only because the political has been extended to the entirety of Being. by Hitler. therefore. Rosenzweig abandoned the Hegelian project—at least the left Hegelian one. Olivier is professor of Political Science at the Université de Québec à Montréal. we should ask whether the so-called “incredibly coherent systematics” of liberal thought is due simply to its appealing individualism or its anti-categorial sloppiness (blending the ethical with the economic and losing the political in the process). of course. Nietzsche among them. when The Concept of the Political appeared as a monograph. He has published on Foucault and on relativism in politics. What shall we do with the right Hegelian critique? There is little irony in the fact that right Hegelians witnessed the devastation. eschatology looks utopian because it is not attached to “evidence”. . then would Levinas’s interruption by the other have to be deemed utopian? To answer this. 2) that it works only if but no one group occupies more than its one type of task: money makers can make money. suivi de Critique radicale: Essai d’impolitique (Montréal: Liber. of the liberal political system in 1933—the very system they had execrated publically as late as 1932. The equation: Being-politics-the permanent possibility of war establishes an order. than with what is possible for us: it is not a matter of programmatic utopianism. Our interest in ethics arises from that interruption. We are familiar with critiques of Plato and the kallipolis of his Republic. Plato sketches a utopia. traders trade. 2004).

inquire into the reality of liberalism and its ability to protect society and minorities in keeping with its own doctrines.. . McCormick and others. Op. French edition 1960). Richard C. (Evanston. “Schmitt thus makes it clear: The opponents of the political may say what they will. p. George Schwab. 310 n. McCleary.. they may appeal on behalf of their plan to the highest concerns of man.The whole riddle of Einfühlung lies in its initial ‘esthesiological’ phase. 8 For a discussion of the significance of seriousness. tr. When both sides foreclose the possibility of commonality and mutual rational exchange. it is impossible to mention politics and the state in the same breath as ‘entertai nment’. Ill: Northwestern University Press. pp. on the other hand. we find “the phenomenon of ‘transiti vism’. 140. James M. 1964.[This] is only possible if man has forgotten what genuinely matters” p. do not have to be [mere] entertainment.. For Husserl the experience of others is first of all ‘e sthesiological’. …If the other person is to exist for me. p. what the opponents of the political want is ultimately tantamount to…a world without seriousness…. before the child acquires a sense of its body as ‘spectacle’. or gender-based specificity. The other person appears through an extension of that compresence. see Leo Strauss’s critical engagement with The Concept of The Political. The pathos of the pluralist position appears to be that. Edie. as must have been clear to their participants then as now. See McCormick. to a lesser extent. the Philosophy of Art. 2002). See McCormick. 6 See Salomon Malka. their good faith shall not be denied. there seems little in these theories to protect one against the imposition from above of part icularist (economic-political) interests—often presented in guise of defensive strategies. it is to be granted that weltanschauung. “The prevailing notion of ‘pluralism’.C.” Schmitt himself was aware of this sort of exploitation of difference in pl uralist politics—he was a bitter critic of just such hypocrisies. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 22 Political utopias are anything but children of the Enlightenment. as the friend and enemy distinction and as war. 168-70. But the advocates of identity and difference qua concrete otherness ought not to leave wholly unexamined their own potential essentializing of themselves or others in their challenges to traditional pluralism. Ill: Northwestern University Press. i. politics and the state are the only guarantee against the world’s becoming a world of entertainment. but they can become entertainment. 1964). 83ff. These debates. pessimistic refusal to give way to a liberal ‘interest’. p. for a description of life in the camp. economic. first published in 1920). McCormick has pointed out. Signs. The Concept of the Political. pp. therefore. 135. they consequently leave the public sphere vulnerable to those who would seek to enforce a stable and unifying order from above and who would exploit concrete otherness…in a strategy aimed at naked political gain. 7 See Franz Rosenzweig.).. Harvey Lomax. cit.. He points out that. to protect a putatively threatened ‘homeland’ or ‘way of life’. Iris Marion Young. Strauss writes . culture. whether in its existential warring -gods.e. (Evanston. Emmanuel Lévinas: La vie et la trace (Paris: J. are rightfully challenged today for their insensitivity to concrete cultural. he and I are like organs of one single intercorporeal reality. But he was also a proponent of a unifying order imposed from the position of transcendence ‘proper’ to the state as instance of the political. Ill. Merleau-Ponty. like Seyla Benhabib and Nancy Fraser. Of Schmitt’s arguments about the appearance of a world in which the political. 1991. in The Concept of the Political. tr. gravitas. concerned the legitimacy of pluralist theories of the political in contemporary liberal states. “Notes on Carl Schmitt. Stalag XIB. or outright wars. Lattès. Paul-Laurent Assoun. the absence of a division between myself and others that is the foundation of syncretic sociabi lity. Hegel et l’État. even in insisting upon integrating the demands of excluded others into “consensual agreement and…fully d emocratic legitimacy” (ibid. and even well after this. in Schmitt. Gérard Bensussan. J. (Chicago. (Paris: Presses universitaires de France.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. pp..: University of Chicago Press. tr. tr. etc. 101. Carl Schmitt’s Critique of Liberalism: Against Politics as Technology (New York: Cambridge University Press. then as quite recently too. 1996). 1997). As John P. 310. 83-107. 3 See “The Child’s Relations with Others” in M. tr. History and Politics.. intro. The Primacy of Perception and Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology.” 5 The debate about politics. to which Levinas was deported. Weberian manifestation or its more mundane American post-World War II variety. he must do so to begin with in an order beneath the order of thought…which is more dispossession than possession….. had ceased to exist. Yet Lawrence’s protest against secular utopianism remains compelling in its staunch. We can admit what we call ‘intelligence’ is only another name designating an original type of relation with others (the relat ion of ‘reciprocity’)…” 4 See Merleau-Ponty. find themselves thus opposed to post-modern positions like those of Deleuze and. in his book on Carl Schmitt. “My two hands ‘coexist’ or are ‘compresent’ because they are one single body’s hands.” “For we must consider the relation with others not only as one of the contents of our experience but as an actual structure in its own right.. 25.

the limits on our thinking the absolute.: University of Chicago Press.” The matter here of course is the relationship of the Phenomenology. those forms which provide the material and the background of the Section on Morality.” though this ‘optic’ as Levinas puts it. With Leo Strauss’s Notes on Schmitt’s Essay . 11 The French text reads. as pure nameless Spirits [ also reine namenlose Geister]—are really able to find [these forms] in the outer bounds of a delimited historical sphere. 257. 1973). In her “With What Must the Science End?”. here. tr (Strauss’s essay) (Chicago. “Die Beisetzung der Romantiker in Hegels Phänomenologie” in Hans Friedrich Fulda and Dieter Henrich. 1. refraining from all the questions which stand in the foreground of the well known essay on Glauben und Wissen. the absolute Spirit—i.. Gillian Rose argued that “we can think the absolute by acknowledging the element of Sollen [ought] in such a thinking. Levinas’s history carries no ‘ought’. from which world the historical forms [ Gestalten] are taken. 301. 12 We should remember that Heidegger also argued that “The basic state of sight shows itself in a peculiar tendency-of-Being. It only reflects something like an ought. he clearly pronounced the passage from France to Germany. A utopia of reflection. and above all.. in the sense of the genuine appropriation of those entities towards which Dasein can comport itself in accordance with its essential possibilities of Being. “L’idée eschatologique du jugement (contrairement au jugement de l’histoire où Hegel a vu à tort la rationalization de celui-là) implique que les êtres ont une identité ‘avant’ l’éternité…” “Celui-là. Vol. That is. The Concept of the Political.” See Le Vocabulaire des Institutions Indo-européennes (Paris: Minuit). Rose. which is itself contemporary with the movement of the French Revolution. either refers to the judgment tied to eschatology. tr. p. superstes.. cit. it is not a matter of indifference if we —while letting the Forms that Hegel himself has us passing over. rather…to make comprehensible the philosophical significance the transformation of the Ethos [den Wandel des Ethos] from Kant to Hegel. 1995). but nevertheless a certain “understanding. Therewith. 170). his e schatology is conversation and aptitude for speech. on Wahl’s account. 10 Like what Emile Benveniste. He is attempting. a thinker deeply influenced by. 1996). historian of semantics. 214 (German edition. 13 Because Hegel was. Materialen zu Hegels Phänomenologie des Geistes (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. and one not completely alien to Levinas. of Absolute Spirit. This is to think the absolute and to fail to think it quite differently from Kant and Fichte’s thinking and failing to think it. by acknowledging the subjective element. to factical. called the ‘second sight’ beyond everyday vision. Vol. and J.” see Being and Time. (New York: Harper and Row. George Schwab. What is reflection if not the immanentization of response and conversation? See G. at least in 1961. Harvey Lomax. or it is an error in the text. p. p. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 9 23 See Heidegger. “It is easy to say in a general sense. 204.e. NJ: Athlone. esp. If for this reason only. if it evinces a dialectical movement at all. 15 Carl Schmitt. though the modalities of that reflection—where and how it happens—are not too clear.. ¶ 36. “belongs to everydayness” and can be called “curiosity” [Neugier]. that is. German edition p. II.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. 58. which Hegel mistook for that which is rationalized by the judgment of history. The work “Der Begriff der Politischen” first appeared in the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik. moves in no ‘direction’ and. Op. Ill. Now the movement of Spirit to Germany has its origin in Kantian philosophy and its goal or end in that of Hegel. when the approach of the Other inaugurates response and conversation. the movement through the forms of morality falls together with that of the movement of Spirit in Germany. The attraction or stimulus proper to the whole Section is thereby almost already perceived: Hegel speaks here of the becoming [vom Werden] of his philosophy. No. 1962). the Romantics. John Maquarrie and Edward Robinson. at its close. trs. it was 33 pages long. historical moments. however. in which Hegel has set the French Revolution and Napoleon in the magic picture [ im magischen Bilde festgehalten hat]—and.246. and concerned to distinguish himself from. the highest thought of Hegelian philosophy—is attained. out of that of Kant. Being and Time. Immediately prior runs the subsection on absolute freedom and the Terror. p. The year it appeared was the same as that in which . 1981. Toward the end of the Section on Morality itself. if this is too easily said about Hegel. Levinas’s history.” a masculine pronoun. super-stare. But it is also and massively the counterpoint of a vision of history that is unlike Hegel’s. superstitio. I pursue this at length because such an utopia both is and is not Levinas’s ‘eschatology’.” Thus: “Thinking the absolute means recognizing actuality as determinans of our acting by recognizing it in our acts…” This is way of thinking the absolute—if surprising in its apparent modesty—resembles what Adorno called his “utopian” element. 14 See Emanuel Hirsch. Hegel Contra Sociology (London and Highlands. not cognition. p. ¶ 52. eds.

concerns the relationship between German thought.. sought to strengt hen drastically the president’s hands. 1991). at best. 16 Olivier Beaud. is dedicated. any word can a cquire a political interest and thus become immediately conflictual. now a de facto ‘group’ which theory should not touch). It was ther efore the political reality—which he therein called the ‘constitutional reality’—that determined the authentic interpretation of a constitutional text. in Munich. and for Schmitt’s contribution to the discussion of rule by emergency decree. English translation forthcoming from Stanford University Press. NJ: Princ eton University Press. Schmitt defended his call for an adjournment of the elections on the basis of a “state of exce ption”—to keep Hitler from being named chancellor himself—that. On the basis of Schmitt’s Verfassungslehre and writings on ‘institutional guarantee’. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 24 Heidegger published Being and Time. we see a Schmitt who. This is not without interest for many of us. who argued against any exceptional measures in regard to the Weimar Constitution. and against the largely Catholic Zentrum in parliament. 2001).” This is why.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. 14 -15 “Schmitt. under the circumstances. tr. here. Here.” see COP. over a state of affairs in which its meaning would be effectively eroded. and hence he developed the idea of a presidential system…He was willing to sacrifice a part of the constitution in order to save and strengthen the existing state…he would accept political parties and the Weimar parliament only on the condition that they be subordinate to and united with the president in search for solutions. 191-93. is why Schmitt always stood by the ‘transcendence’ of the political. They were the products of the traditional view of the bureaucracy as representative of the common interest which accompanied the widespread criticism of political parties for their alleged inability to handle ‘questions of state’…This objective [protecting the status of civil servants] pe rvaded the writings of Arnold Köttgen. 144ff. See Beaud. today. though the circumstances did not necessarily point precisely to such a state in the present case (one should not cry “wolf. in The Concept of the Political. Hereafter cited in the text as COP. it threatens civil war). Ideas in this direction had been maturing over a long period. He writes. In this he was representative of a broad school of contemporary thinking. See H. and morality. other times. It was a significant aim of his to re-read the Weimar Constitution in such a way that Hitler could not. In a letter addressed on 29 January 1933 to Chancellor Schleicher and to the Reich’s president. The Concept was expanded and republished in 1932 under the same title. exaggerated when one recalls his numerous anti-Semitic writings and the vacillation in The Concept that has it defining an internal ‘enemy’ as a group that saps the state of its political power and authority and as something logically impossible (sometimes an enemy requires its own geographic ‘boundaries’.” he insisted). pp. the constitutional lawyer. Hans Mommsen provides us a quite different story. had to be determined according to “the Schmittian hermeneutic [such that] ‘in a determinate situation. 82.’” In short. Marlène Zarader discusses the relationship between Heidegger and Jewish sources of his thought in La dette impensée: Heidegger et l’héritage hébraique (Paris: Seuil. toward the end of the Weimar period. to the idea (and ideal) of constitutionality—even to the paradoxical point of promoting a sort of coup d’état to preserve a system that recognized constitutionality.” This. above all. Andrée Lerousseau has recently published a valuable study of this ‘question’. p. points out that. which was supported by the ‘Reichgericht’ (Republic court) and its rulings. . one of the most…influential…of which was Carl Schmitt. “The presidential cabinets of the early 1930 were accompanied by concerted attempts to replace the parli amentary system with a system of constitutional rule by the administration. Les derniers jours de Weimar: Carl Schmitt face à l’avènement du nazisme (Paris: Descartes et compagnie. Against Schwab’s rather heroic Schmitt. (Princeton. c onstitutional institutions are meaningful “only if they rest upon ‘a real political force’. Schmitt stressed the autonomy of ‘the political’ (though not of ‘politics’). any “violation of the constitution” [Verfassungsbruch] had to be understood in light of the “‘political situation’ at hand. from Kant —or especially Fichte—through Heidegger. The ultimate question. 1927. Mommsen. He added. The present citation is from George Schwab’s “Introduction. in a nutshell. 1997). Schmitt struggled famously with the prelate Kaas. over law.” This reading of Schmitt’s hopes makes him appear like a German Madison—a move that proves. 1994). Philip O’Connor. that there existed four “‘possible sub -systems to the parliamentary system’ under the Constitution of Weimar. economics. 12. From Weimar to Auschwitz. pp. the Brüning government began a limited rule by d ecree..” Such ‘prote ction’ did not end there. in his discussion of the hermeneutics of the Weimar Constitution. see p.” The best system. professor of public law at the University of Lille. be nominated to the position of Chancellor. in fact. while clearly conservative. as elsewhere. Judaism (and ‘Jews’—now the extension of ‘Judaism’. which is another way of arguing that law cannot i mpose itself on political reality. like that authorizing salary reductions by emergency decrees. after the fall of the Brüning Administration. see Le Judaïsme dans la philosophie allemande: 1770-1850 (Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

his Beiträge zur Philosophie. ‘peoples’. We see. “In actuality. 59). movements. if not checked.” COP. which in the sixteenth century had been invaded by Germans. 23-4. “Forward. and that such meaning is only a ‘folkish’ spreading of the ‘li beral’ ‘Ego’-thinking [des ‘liberalen’ ‘ich’-gedankens] and of the economic idea of the preservation [Erhaltung] of ‘life’. these concessions acted as a brake. Even if Schmitt’s critique of the individualism. establish the State as transcendent to all factions. Vol. he added a note. 18 Carl Schmitt. If one adds that. The question of whether ‘the feminine’ might represent an aspect of humanity. has an irresistible inclination to slide from passion to evil: animality. Klostermann. 19 Incidentally. Machiavelli was rehabilitated by Fichte and Hegel” in COP. Toward the end of his essay. the anti -political yet hyper-politicized operation of the ‘bourgeois liberal state’ is of real interest. Schmitt writes. during the Seizure of Power phase [1933 -‘34]. See for instance.” and that he had to find protection under Herman Göring. Frenchmen. they concern ‘positionings’. Given his joining and defense of the Nazi Party. Clearly. enshrine the ‘political’ as the sole domain in which ‘a people’ d ecides who is a friend and who. among other things. it really is a matter of ‘man’ and ‘men’ here. 319. The Concept of the Political. Trescher’s 1918 dissertation on Hegel and Montesquieu. his characteristic cynicism vis -à-vis ‘humanitarian ideologies’. he and others argue. here. The responses would be irreconcilable. dominance and subaltern status. p. like Heidegger as Rektor-for-a-year in Freiburg. both opponents of Napoleon. Spaniards. 145. after Bismarck. he insists his concern is with ‘peoples’. say. In the former case. and what that aspect might be in regard to ‘peoples’ (is the ‘feminine’ ‘absorbed’ in the collectivity that evinces only ‘masculine’ a spects. Such a désoeuvrement is understandable. p. drives. § 196 “Da-sein und Volk”: “The essence of the people [des Volkes] is to be grasped only starting from Da-sein and that means. Op.e. the illusion that Hitler could be used to conservative ends was fostered by the same tactic that allowed Hitler to consolidate his regime. “neo-Hegelianism. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 17 25 As Hans Mommsen reminds us. and thereby self-arrogates the right to murder entire groups of enemies. passions are the kernels of human nature” (COP. 1989). he has nothing to put in its place and. The question can be extended further. Machiavelli was on the defensive as was also his country. Italy. in Gesamtausgabe. cit. cit. 21 Schmitt points out that it was discussed by men from Lorenz von Stein to Rudolf Gneist. and they are asking this: is ‘peoples’ an overly abstract concept in political philosophy (versus jurisprudence)? And what happens to ‘the political’ if it is so?) These questions should remind us that ‘the Fe minine’ also has no status other than ‘hearth and seduction’ in Levinas’s 1961 work. and Turks…At the beginning of the 19 th century the situation of the ideological defensive was repeated in Germany—during the revolutionary and Napoleonic invasions of the French.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. but it is not possible to follow the positive prescription: rehabilitate Machiavelli (were we ever free of him?). by the end of his essay. Schmitt felt a psychological kinship with Machiavelli. by Weimar upheavals would have joined such a party. Schmitt is citing Rudolf Smend’s Constitution and Constitutional Law [Verfassung und Verfassungsrecht] of 1928. 20 Using Machiavelli as his legitimation. When it became important for the German people [sic] to defend themselves against an expanding enemy armed with a humanitarian ideology. are there peoples that are ‘less masculine’ than others—if these questions seem redolent of bad 19th century ethnologies. that of the ‘total state’ and that of the ‘universal state’).” Like Schmitt. he appears to conceded this. 65. (Frankfurt am Main: V. Strong. Tracy Strong reminds us that the SS journal Das schwarze Korps accused him of the anathema. the condemnation turns toward the moral -economic double face of liberal thought and its disingenuousness in regard to. “…what Machiavelli wants to express everywhere is that man. at the same time. parties. Hitler had been obliged to make far-reaching concessions to the conservative elite controlling the army. economy and administration…Although indirectly annulled as time went by. see COP. 22 Here. “The explanation of the national socialist regime’s relative stability is that. Völker—another crossing point with certain remarks of Heidegger. to know this: that the people can never be a goal and a purpose [nie Ziel und Zweck]. to Jakob Burckhardt. It is not that Schmitt approves these two strategies of integratio n (i. one has to ask whether a Fichte traumatized. Schmitt too got into significant trouble with the Nazis.. 66 (emphasis added). an enemy. Op. He seems to recognize that. There are no ‘women’ in Schmitt’s work b ecause it is his primary concern to maintain complete detachment vis-à-vis ‘man’ as ‘individuals’. enabling the r egime to consolidate itself with remarkable success before the movement’s destructive forces…could bring about a final overstretching and overtaxing of available resources…” Mommsen. Smend is citing H. it is better if soc iety integrates the state than if the state dissolves into the society. political sovereignty is preserved and social or economic institutions do not thereby become political rivals . is the situation more complex. p. see Tracy B. x. Still. the integration is inevitable.

25 The notion of decision and the doctrine of decisionism in politics are central to Schmitt’s Politische Theologie. (Frankfurt am Main: V. 25. pp. 267-273. and will. As we know. Everything has become potentially p olitical. read by a linguist who began his reflective life in yeshiva as a Talmudist: Emile Benveniste. p. 43). be made. emphasizing that the parallel lies above all in the spirit and hyperbole with which both Schmitt and Heidegger pursue authentic meanings and beginnings—whether for a post-metaphysical thinking or for the public order. pp. “a hesitation that holds one back. 309/264). 90-103. 27 He will later close down all debate. The certain possibility of death…discloses Dasein as a possibility. 23 Totalité et infini. as completed by Nietzsche (p. only a liberal cr itique of politics. Levinas knew of his work in historical semantics. “The ownmost.” he adds. 206). 1989). Dasein makes this possibility possible for itself as its ownmost potentiality-forBeing” (Being and Time. it is “a general notion of the theory of the Sate. . 70. 16. The way to be certain of it is determined by the kind of truth. Only this definition can satisfy the notion of sovereignty as a limit notion…a notion of the extreme sphere.. cit. he who decides in the exce ptional situation. Op. a scruple that hinders and not a sentiment that directs one to an action or incites one to practice the cult. the extreme sphere—understood as the consummation of the friend-enemy distinction—is politics itself. p. which corresponds to it (disclosedness). 104106. once war breaks out. Vol. 65. Le Vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes. foreclosed by definition. in light of Schmitt’s definition of the political. but does so only in such a way that. nor these together could effectively wage (he writes “forbidden”) a war then. where it was a tie of piety. not moral-anthropological]. is certain. This state was. in Gesamtausgabe. II Pouvoir. clearly. 52 “Nous réservons ‘à la relation entre l’être ici-bas et l’être transcendant qui n’aboutit à aucune communauté de concept ni à aucune totalité…le terme de religion. I suspect he was not about to equate his sense of ‘religion’ with the ties of piety (religare). the state which must do away with the depoliticalizations of the nineteenth century and…puts an end to the principle that the apolitical economy is independent of the state and that the state is apart from the economy” COP. (Keeping in mind that Heidegger’s Entscheidung and Ent-scheidung is “seinsgeschichtlich zu fassen. Cf. in a nticipating this possibility. but that means. religio represents. to ask a mis-conceived question. the distinction between friends of the state and enemies of the state can. §§ 44-49. that in every domain of society. “the total state…no longer knows anything absolutely unpolitical. ¶ 53. for Schmitt. To ask what that means. I note this here. in the question of what the political becomes when everything ‘is political’. Here. is. Formed from ligare. 1969). as such. 28 After all. The first chapter of that work defines sovereignty thus: “Is sovereign. cit. E. “equally unsuccessful in its battle against the socialist working class. Klostermann. It is not absurd to remark that ‘Guantanamo’ and ‘The Patriot Act’ denote one side of this process. 203-206. the “Kulturkampf against the Roman Church” exemplifies a cultural battle whose outcome. which is the kind of integration of all aspects of human existence into the political that Schmitt approves. He concedes that the significance of such ‘associations’ is important to any theory of the pol itical. the cultural or the economic or the social become political themselves. neither of these associations could arrogate to itself the right of war.” see COP.” Recall Levinas’s equation of the proto-ethical with ‘religion’ meant religion as tied to “legare” rather than to “ligare”. In the latter case.. Droit. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 26 with it or for its power. arguing that there is “absolutely no liberal politics. of course. and not some proclaimed emergency or some state of siege. for us. p. Therefore.” The notion of a ‘decision’ about all “ontology” in light of the “weak cr itiques” offered by neo -Kantianism and with a view to an authentic unfolding of ontology from its beginning is found in Heidegger’s Beiträge zur Philosophie. The interest that Schmitt held for left and right critics of liberalism lies here. But he parries: “The question remains unanswered: which social entity (if I am permitted to use here the i mprecise liberal concept of ‘social’) decides the extreme case and determines the decisive friend-and-enemy grouping?” (COP. non-relational possibility. which is not to be outstripped. left to be desired: “in the Kulturkampf…it was seen that even a state of the unimpaired strength of Bismarck’s Reich was not absolutely sovereign and powe rful. in the Christian era. Vol. Such a decision—the term is central to the Beiträge— is necessitated by another end.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. that of the history of metaphysics itself.” See Théologie politique. Op. nicht moralisch-anthropologisch [to be understood as being-historical. religion denotes intersubjective ties only late. the all-important notion of jus belli.” Schmitt cites these examples in a discussion of Gierke’s “association theory”[Das deutsche Genossenschaftsrecht— German Law of Associations] of the state and one J. Neither church nor union nor party. Benveniste. Neville Figgis’s Churches in the Modern State (1913). This is Cicero’s interpretation. Religion (Paris: Editions de Minuit. 24 Heidegger writes.) 26 In this discussion.

Jacques Rolland. to serve the promotion of death or. translation of Politische Theologie: Vier Kapitel zur Lehre von der Souveränität. 29 Sometimes Schmitt confounds ‘the political’ with ‘politics’ himself. and it must sometime be raised in regard to Levinas’s work which is not ‘Christian’ despite its popularity among some Christians: “the metaphysical image that an age holds of its world” has “the same structure as that which seems to it evident in the affairs of political organization. or into ‘fashion’. de Maistre. Schmitt. the state is not there to serve ideals. p. J-L Schlegel. to promote the death of the enemies.” Schmitt poses this as a rhetorical question. That is why Strauss will also argue—having uncovered Schmitt’s unconscious moral evaluation—that this theory is not just the reverse of liberal political theory. 1969. whose founding distinction is that which structures war: the friend-enemy distinction. and both foment each other. 64 -65). in fact. “This remains vis ible also through the correctness or incorrectness of Hegel’s ephemeral position on historical events of his time” (COP. who. 30 He identifies “the idea of a problematic human nature” with theorists as diverse as “Machiavelli. A part of the theories and postulates which presuppose man to be good is liberal. 68). negotiations. if not the proper—the adjective is undeterminable—adjudication of situations and initiation of war? To put this in a reduced form: the state comes. as he tried to assert earlier on. Donoso Cortés. cit. interactions between the legislative o rganism and voters. capable of imposing its ‘decisions’. 32 The conclusion of section seven makes Hegel the supreme thinker of this ‘political’. emphasis added. (Paris: Editions Verdier. though he never mentions the latter. Ultimately. 63). How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 27 This is. 69-70. 1984). Bossuet. The friend-enemy distinction. Ingenuous anarchism reveals that the belief in the natural goodness of man is closely tied to the radical denial of state and government.. 35 Emmanuel Levinas. that makes the “Germanic ideal of man [seem] to promise sincerity and authenticity. Op. Fichte. transforms the Lord-Vassal or Herrschaft und Knechtschaft dialectic into a master and slave one—this time. timorous man and his notion of the enemy as “negated otherness” (COW. (Paris: Gallimard. pp. What is left for the state to serve. Hyppolite Taine. tr. See Jean-Lois Schlegel’s remarks in his “Introduction” to Schmitt. if war is not the end of politics. the position that the people is good and the government. 62). on Schmitt’s account that ethos has actually now “wandered to Moscow via Karl Marx and Lenin…The actuality of Hegel is [moreover] very much alive in Georg Lukács” (63). the spirit of Hegel has vanished from Berlin (where Schmitt was then teaching. economics.. which leaves him/her in need of a ‘good’ political power. 34 See Levinas “Paix et Proximité” in Cahiers de la nuit surveillée. vii-viii. 31 “…the antagonism between the so -called authoritarian and anarchist theories can be traced to these formulas. 346. What else should the state serve if not society? What is left for it to serve. it really never leaves the sphere of liberalism because it neither defines politics nor stands without the moral and æsthetic judgment about the good and the beautiful. . the dialectic of the master group and the slave group. and Hegel. at least. It also seems to be a beautiful thing that the state remain pristine.. simply reverses the older religious position concerning original sin and man’s fallen condition. the one legitimate. Théologie politique. Schmitt proceeds on the conviction that the permanent possibility of discerning who is a friend and who. 2nd edition. but this must be the rationality of the political. the claim is simply this. Without being actually anarchist they are polemically polemically directed against the intervention of the state. If Hegel saw the ethos of European philosophy migrating from France to Germany. the mirror image of the liberal state’s structure. to be sure.” (1934) in Critical Inquiry. corruptible. and politics (a notion he never defined). an enemy. 33 As he points out in both The Concept of the Political and in Political Theology. Autumn 1990. everything that could be called ‘politics’ (legislation. 55. Indeed. is good. his æsthetic argues surreptitiously that only one side will evince energy and will sufficient to triumph. Through Hegel. also see pp. himself). untouched by culture. but this is a matter of usage. also see p. For the liberals…the goodness of man signifies nothing more than an argument with whose aid the state is made to serve society” (COP. Humanity is an ideal. from Kant to himself. 1922. Hobbes. or between an executive instance and the legislative. ed. 1988. 1934). Despite his protestations. considered along with Hegel’s cr itique of the bourgeois as the privatized. the other hypocritical: the political itself versus the liberal state. “Reflections on Hitlerism. Schmitt and Kojève also flow together. etc. pp. see Théologie politique. the state serves a certain rationality. p. at times also shows his double face” (COP. ultimately. Even if Schmitt argued that his friend-enemy animosity was a relation of reciprocity. as Strauss also saw.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. 61. It is because of this slippage into hypocrisy.) will be subsumed into one of two domains. 60. One follows from the other.” This is Levinas considering both Nietzsche and Heidegger and. I su spect.

Kropotkin and Otto Gross. But since the incipience of the interruption is immemorial. Schmitt draws support for his return to a two-term antithesis. See Concept of the Political. starting from the simple moment at which it exists: ‘All government is good once it is established. From these thinkers. three-term dialectic. or some other group or institution would be exercising the right of war disingenuously. How did Schmitt’s Political enter Levinas’s Totality? 36 28 Perhaps. 83). for millennia. perhaps in light of the former’s work on the two types of violence in Zur Kritik der Gewalt. Thus the pluralists’ theory of the state. the ethical interruption called ‘responsibility’ is older than Being. “a culture factory. de Maistre. If it seems compelling to venture a similar argument in light of contemporary society. In reality. precisely. in fact. the operatio n of ‘culture’ there runs parallel to that of Schmitt’s state and suggests that the friend -enemy distinction was.” Théologie politique. whose legislators and ‘legal despots’ educate brutish man and show the state as. 74) and Théologie politique. the state will be equated with that which has the greatest gravitas in human existence. and Donoso Cortés. from Babeuf to Bakunin. that is. It is older t han the state certainly. 65. Schmitt ventures to show the mimetics at work —with their characteristic reversal—between ‘radical politics’ and ‘restoration’ politics. pp.Untying the Utopia-War Opposition in Levinas Or. against the Hegelian. decided and ‘administered’ by wars taking a form that did not resemble contemporary p olitical ones. and explained that “the treatise by Schmitt serves the question of the ‘order of the h uman things’. All anarchist doctrines. “All sovereignty acts as though it were infallible. notably Bonald. we should recall that Walter Benjamin was interested in Schmitt. …. all gover nment is absolute—a proposition that an anarchist could have taken up word for word…The clearest antithesis that emerges from the entire history of the political idea in general holds in a proposition of this sort. 38 Fortunately for us English-speaking readers. after all. 40 See Strauss. 44-45).” in COP. In other words. there exists no political society or association…The political entity is something specifically different and…something decisive. the question of the state” (COP. turn around the unique axiom: ‘The people is good and the magistrate corruptible.” p. 73-74 “The triple structure weakens the polemical punch of the double -structured antithesis” (p. It is with that step. p. These include.’ Co nversely…de Maistre declares all authority good as such. Leo Strauss read these omitted p arts. 41 Which is of course why works like Marcel Mauss on the Potlatch are indispensable. cultural criticism or extra-political contestation arise because the state has abdicated its true role. all of which are discussed in Chapter IV of his Political Theology. in liberal society today. p. we should keep in mind that Schmitt can always respond that. 64. the matter of their relative ‘age’ cannot be decided. “Notes on The Concept of the Political. and since it is absurd to speak of the beginning of the history of Being. he includes Rousseau and Fichte. that Schmitt has made of politics his theodicy. Now it is precisely on this question of the role of culture that Strauss will attack Schmitt’s concept of the political—a work that has little concern for culture as a counterweight to the friend-enemy decisionism that characterizes the advent of the political. in Fichte’s words. In this. Were this entity to disappear…then the political itself would disappear” (COP. 90. 37 Whether this is a right or a left Schmittianism.The result is nothing else than …one association [being] played off against another and all questions and conflicts [being] decided by individuals. the political. 39 Less cited in The Concept of the Political are the philosophers of the Restoration. . Louis de Bonald. As he is wont to do repeatedly. which “combated the activist spirit of the Revolution. “i gnores the central concept of every theory of state.