Through the power of relativity, a million-year picnic may pass in an hour.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I liked it, at any rate.

Personally, I found Schmitt’s essay to be a fascinating read. I get that most people seem to have been bored by repetition, both internal and external, or galled by oversimplification (Andrew’s post seems to be an example of both). Perhaps it’s just that as a generally apolitical person, I haven’t run across these ideas before, but I thought that Schmitt’s essay was really fun and interesting, both in the general ideas he discusses, and as a period piece. *Acknowledges general grumbling and disagreement.* I do agree that the way he boils down all political action to the ability of a group to declare war, whether it chooses to do so or not, is an oversimplification of the way we view the “political,” however using the definition of the political that Schmitt provides, his theories have an internal consistency. Schmitt says that, “The political is the most intense and extreme antagonism, and every concrete antagonism becomes that much more political the closer it approaches the most extreme point, that of the friend-enemy grouping” (29). Because this is his definition of the political, it makes sense that he continually comes back to conflict, war, and the enemy as defining factors in what makes a state, the political entity. This definition of the political comes across well in his description of party politics. He says

The equation politics = party politics is possible whenever antagonisms among domestic political parties succeed in weakening the all-embracing political unit, the state. The intensification of internal antagonisms has the effect of weakening the common identity vis-à-vis another state. If domestic conflicts among political parties have become the sole political difference, the most extreme degree of internal political tension is thereby reached; i.e., the domestic, not foreign friend-and-enemy groupings are decisive for armed conflict. (32)

Thus, Schmitt argues, “party politics” can exist without being “political” because the conflict between the two parties would have to escalate to the level of civil war in order for them to be political entities, or groups that have acquired the power to wage war, whether they exercise that power or refuse to exercise it.

Like Liz, I found that I couldn’t help comparing some of what Schmitt said with concepts we discussed in Ender’s Game. Beginning with Schmitt’s concept of the “other” as “existentially something different and alien” (27). I found it interesting, however that only a few paragraphs later, Schmitt argues that “An enemy only exists when, at least potentially, one fighting collectivity of people confronts a similar collectivity” (28). So, despite our finding something completely alien about our enemies, in order for them to be enemies, something similar must exist between “us” and “them.” Unfortunately, this point comes across in the middle of his differentiation between the private and public enemy, so he does not go on to describe what is similar, only that a similarity exists.

Another concept I found spoke well to our discussion of Ender’s Game is Schmitt’s idea of who can legitimately judge the validity of a conflict. He says

Only the actual participants can correctly recognize, understand, and judge the concrete situation and settle the extreme case of conflict. 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 existence. (27)

Therefore, as outsiders to the conflict, we cannot judge the legitimacy of the IF’s decision to fight the buggers because we are not actual participants in the conflict. Since the IF believed that the buggers “intend[ed] to negate [their] opponent’s way of life,” they were justified in going to war. Further, Schmitt says, “The justification of war does not reside in its being fought for ideal or norms of justice, but in its being fought against a real enemy” (49). Since the IF viewed the buggers as a “real enemy,” their war is also justifiable, according to Schmitt.

There are a couple of other quotes that I found interesting, but since you're probably getting tired of reading this post by now, I'll spare you. From reading other posts, you all know much more than I do about political theory, so feel free to correct any misapprehensions on my part.

1 comment:

Air Viper said...

Believe me Mel, you know more about Sci Fi than I ever will. I found the same things interesting and noteworthy in the essay. Feel free to come and I'd be glad to share some of the information I have on the Weimarer Republik.