Reading Schmitt geopolitically

Nomos, territory and Großraum

RP 161 () / Article

With the 2003 translation of The Nomos of the Earth, a rather different set of Carl Schmitt’s ideas became accessible to an anglophone audience. While previously his work had shaped debates on politics, the political, the friend/enemy distinction, the question of democracy and the sovereign decision, his ideas on international politics became available.1 A 2004 conference session led to a symposium in the Leiden Journal of International Law and an edited book on his ‘international political thought’, in which The Nomos of the Earth is hailed as a ‘missing classic’ of International Relations.2 In a 2008 book William Hooker describes Schmitt as ‘one of the most profound and most prolific theorists of international order in the twentieth century’, with The Nomos of the Earth likely to be guaranteed a place ‘in the canon of essential IR reading’.3 In another recent work we are told that Schmitt’s work ‘involves a complex theory of political territory’.4 Hooker also suggests that Schmitt’s ‘bold vision of the importance of spatial concepts in shaping the possibility of political order’ qualifies him as a geographer,5 and a couple of sessions at the Association of American Geographers have led to a forthcoming edited book.6 The interest in Schmitt, to an extent, parallels both the appropriations of Giorgio Agamben, whose own ideas draw greatly on Schmitt, particularly in terms of the ‘space of exception’, and the impact of Hardt and Negri’s Empire on the thinking of global order. Schmitt apparently can help us understand terrorism, the ‘war on terror’, responses in terms of security, the post-Cold War world, the European Union and globalization.7