Crisis Sovereignty: The Philosophy of History of The Exception

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandling

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Abstract

Since the international political turmoil in the wake of the financial crisis, sov-ereignty has resurfaced as an urgent and controversial topic of political debate. While critics have argued either that the concept is an anachronistic leftover of past absolutism or that it was always just an illusion of jurisprudence con-fusing normativity with social reality, its proponents have long seen crisis as a call for sovereign intervention, and they therefore envision our new epoch of crisis as the return of sovereignty. This thesis argues that the modern juridico-political concept of sovereignty was always linked with a historico-philosophi-cal notion of modernity as crisis temporality. It does so through a critical reading of Carl Schmitt’s theory of sovereignty from his decisionist period in the time of the Weimar Republic and approaching Schmitt as a prism for a wider tendency in state theory from Thomas Hobbes onward.
The thesis consists of three parts. Part 1 situates the discussion by delimiting sovereignty as a problem and as a concept. Chapter 1 argues that sovereignty should neither be approached as a question of juridical normativity nor as a question of political violence but as the problem of their mediation. The func-tion of sovereignty, it concludes, is to respond to the problem of the realization of law by establishing a relation to a source of legitimacy outside of the jurid-ico-political sphere itself, namely within a metaphysics of time. Yet, the thesis does not assume that sovereignty completes this function successfully. Chapter 2 discusses the possibility of analyzing the concept of sovereignty as non-self-identical, that is, as a concept in contradiction with itself. Insofar as it is aimed at addressing social conflict, the concept of sovereignty may not add up to the reality it is supposed to mediate, and thus its inner contradiction is not simply a logical flaw but a central element of its functionality.
Part 2 locates Schmitt’s theory of sovereignty within a tradition of modern European intellectual history conceiving of modernity as crisis time. Against Karl Löwith’s canonical interpretation of Enlightenment philosophy of history as secularized eschatology, chapter 3 reconstructs an alternative tradition of conservative crisis theory, tracing a line from Juan Donoso Cortés’s and Jacob Burckhardt’s eschatology of modernity to Schmitt’s notion of the state of exception as the constitutional foundation of the modern state. Chapter 4 dis-cusses the debt of this concept to Thomas Hobbes’s theory of the state of nature, arguing that both of these concepts aim to extract, from the historical crisis, a juridico-political concept of state. By revisiting the debate between Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss on Hobbes and his influence on the self-conception of modernity, the chapter demonstrates how Schmitt’s state of exception not only draws from Hobbes’s state of nature but also deviates from it in order to reflect the specificity of Schmitt’s late modern crisis in contrast to Hobbes’s foundational moment of early modernity.
Whereas part 1 approaches the topic of the thesis logically, and part 2 his-torically, the analysis of part 3 proceeds politically. Through a close reading of Schmitt’s definition of sovereignty in his Political Theology (1922), chapter 5 argues that the defining concept of state of exception or Ausnahmezustand should be understood in a double sense: as both historical crisis and juridical measure simultaneously and interchangeably. In a performative move to strengthen the sovereign institution, Schmitt glossed over the role of crisis and emphasized the sovereign suspension of the law, and this shift in emphasis has been passed down in the reception and has allowed for a one-sided interpre-tation of sovereignty as a totalizing logic and force of history, yet the ambiguity of the crisis/exception concept, the chapter concludes, is central to the legiti-mizing function of sovereignty and thus to the power of its institution. Chapter 6, finally, turns the argument of the thesis around to investigate how this con-cept of sovereignty informs theories of modernity as crisis time, which culminates in a diagnosis of our contemporary era as a time of permanent crisis. Sovereignty and crisis together form a nexus of modernity, which the chapter seeks to counter by recovering Walter Benjamin from the tradition of sovereignty theory in which he has mistakenly been integrated and reconstruct-ing his double critique of the notions of sovereignty and modernity as politically invested concepts of philosophy of history.
Through these steps, the thesis aims to contribute to the understanding of the relationship between modern state theory and philosophy of history by developing the novel concept of crisis sovereignty as an analytical tool for the critique of contemporary appeals to sovereign power in times of crisis.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
UdgivelsesstedFrederiksberg
ForlagCopenhagen Business School [Phd]
Antal sider274
ISBN (Trykt)9788775681952
ISBN (Elektronisk)9788775681969
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 2023
NavnPhD Series
Nummer26.2023
ISSN0906-6934

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