Carl schmitt political theology
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Carl schmitt political theology
Carl Schmitt, Political Theology:

“All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts not only because of their historical development—in which they were transferred from theology to the theory of the state, whereby, for example, the omnipotent God became the omnipotent lawgiver—but also because of their systematic structure, the recognition of which is necessary for a sociological consideration of these concepts.” (Schmitt, Political Theology, MIT, p. 36)

Jean bodin 1530 1596
Jean Bodin (1530-1596)

  • Born in Angers, France, and studied law at Toulouse.

  • Middle class (represented the third state in 1576)

  • Worked for the government of Henry III

  • Problem: the unity of France was in risk due to religious struggle (“Wars of Religion”) –Challenge: to counterbalance

    • The Church, the Empire, and forces from within

  • Bodin is “the best-known theorist of the Politiques” (345)

    • Six Books on the State


By coining the concept of “sovereignty,” Bodin advances the separation between state (the sovereign structure) and government (the exercise of sovereignty) and allows to bring about the consolidation of the power of the state before Church, Empire, and other minor competitor forces.

-Secularization of a theological concept: the concept of sovereignty comes from the Bible where God is designed the Sovereign (Augustine also uses it, but just to refer to God)

The state
The State

  • “…is a lawful government, with sovereign power, of different households and their common affairs.” (348)

  • “Let us now examine each part of the definition of the state. … we speak of the state as of ‘lawful government’ in order to distinguish it from bands of robbers and pirates…”(348)


  • “Sovereignty is the absolute and perpetual power of the state, that is, the greatest power to command.” (348)

  • “The main point of sovereign majesty and absolute power consists of giving the law to subjects in general without their consent.” (350)

  • Sovereignty = power of making the law

    • Germanic (medieval) tradition sees the law as resulting from “the custom of the land, the law of nature, and the will of God.” (E & E 345)

  • The prince/king’s sovereignty is absolute only in what attains to human laws (349).

Only he is absolutely sovereign who after god acknowledges no one greater than himself 349
“Only he is absolutely sovereign who, after God, acknowledges no one greater than himself.” (349)

Sovereign pilot
Sovereign = Pilot acknowledges no one greater than himself.” (349)

  • The Sovereign “has to have the laws in his power in order to change and correct them according to the circumstances” {375}

The king never dies
The King never dies... acknowledges no one greater than himself.” (349)

Separation... acknowledges no one greater than himself.” (349)

  • The Sovereign is separated from the people…

  • Two parties

    • the sovereign

    • the people

“Whatever power and authority the sovereign prince confers upon others, his own person remains excepted. He always retains more authority than he gives away…” (348)

Law contract
Law upon others, his own person remains excepted. He always retains more authority than he gives away…” (348) Contract

Laws upon others, his own person remains excepted. He always retains more authority than he gives away…” (348)

  • “A prince is not bound by the laws of his predecessors and much less by his own laws and ordinances. … it is impossible, in the nature of things, to give to oneself a law that depends on one’s own will…” (349)

Promises agreements and contracts
Promises, Agreements, and Contracts upon others, his own person remains excepted. He always retains more authority than he gives away…” (348)

  • The sovereign is bound by the promises and oaths he/she has made, as any private individual… (350)

  • “God himself is bound by his promise”

The prince vs the tyrant
The Prince vs. the Tyrant upon others, his own person remains excepted. He always retains more authority than he gives away…” (348)

Saint paul
upon others, his own person remains excepted. He always retains more authority than he gives away…” (348) Saint Paul

“For it is the law of God and of nature that we must obey the edicts and ordinances of him to whom God has given power to us, unless his edicts are directly contrary to the law of God, who is above all princes.”

Also, the laws that “concern the state of the kingdom and its basic form” must be respected… because they are “annexed and united to the crown”

Is the sovereign bound to the contracts of his her predecessors 349
Is the sovereign bound to the contracts of his/her predecessors? (349)

  • “if the kingdom is hereditary, the prince is fully bound [to the contracts of his predecessor]… The same holds if the kingdom is transferred by testament to someone other than the next in line…”

  • But if the kingdom is transferred to the next in line by testament…

    • if he accepts it, he is bound to it

    • if s/he renounces the succession, and claims the crown in virtue of the custom… s/he is not.

To the sovereign and must proceed by

People (and the Estates) owe predecessors? (349)

to the sovereign... And must proceed by

  • Subjection

  • Service

  • Obedience

  • Supplication

  • Request

In a monarchy the people
In a monarchy, the People predecessors? (349)

  • “must swear to keep the laws and take an oath of loyalty to the sovereign monarch, who does not himself owe any oath except to God alone, of whom he holds his scepter and his power.”

The sovereign and the estates
The Sovereign and the Estates... predecessors? (349)

  • Consultation due to Custom

  • The Estates have no power of determining anything (neither in France nor in England)

  • The entire sovereignty belongs to the kings and the Estates are only witnesses (350)

  • The sovereignty of the monarchs is in no way altered by the presence of the Estates

Emperors either charles v or roman emperors are not sovereign
Emperors, either Charles V or Roman Emperors, predecessors? (349)are not sovereign

Religion. predecessors? (349)

  • “… if the prince follows the true religion without sham or make-believe, he will be able to turn the hearts of his subjects to his religion, without using violence or punishments. In so doing he will avoid hard feelings, troubles and civil war, while leading the subjects who had gone astray into the haven of salvation.” (352)

Against war
Against War predecessors? (349)

  • “One must therefore beware of raising a warlike spirit among the subjects, guiding them toward such an execrable life, nor seek war under any circumstances, except when it is a matter of repelling violence in an extreme emergency.” (354)

“Bodin’s state is strong but not aggressive; monarchical but not tyrannical.It became the model for the new national state…” (E & E 347)