The Return of the Schmittian: Radical Democratic Theory at its Limits
30 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2010 Last revised: 28 Sep 2010
Date Written: October 7, 2009
Over the past two decades the philosophy of Carl Schmitt has been the subject of growing interest in the field of political theory. One of the prominent engagements with Schmitt’s philosophy has been Chantal Mouffe’s attempt to mobilize Schmitt’s notion of the “political” for challenging the deliberative framework of Rawls and Habermas and reinvigorating radical democratic politics. This paper presents an exploration of Schmitt’s thought and the limits of its contemporary implications through an analysis of Mouffe’s call for thinking “with and against Schmitt.” I contend that Mouffe’s effort to accommodate the “political” within a “democratic paradox” involves a series of conceptual elisions of Schmitt’s thought, which render visible the constitutive limits of radical democratic theory. More specifically, I hold that the antagonistic distinction of friend and enemy that Mouffe tries to domesticate and displace returns with a vengeance on the borders of radical democratic pluralism and testifies to the continuing relevance of the problems posited by Schmitt. The paper concludes by pointing to a more insidious articulation of liberalism and democracy, not as a paradox but as a logic of indistinction pace Giorgio Agamben.
Keywords: Democratic theory, radical democratic theory, political theology, Carl Schmitt, Chantal Mouffe
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