Whose Reason, Whose Law, Whose Public? "The Political" and "Hegemonic Sovereignty" in Carl Schmitt

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Günsoy F.

SYNTHESIS PHILOSOPHICA, vol.31, pp.169-180, 2016 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 31
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Doi Number: 10.21464/sp31112
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.169-180
  • Bursa Uludag University Affiliated: Yes


Carl Schmitt is one of the most dedicated opponents of liberal universalism, with its notion of pluralist, rational and non-exclusivist consensus politics as a progressive democratic project and its understanding of the political arena - "purified", being free from struggles and conflict - as the progressive move of democratic logic. In this paper I will first try to show Schmitt's pessimistic and negative stance based on ontological and theological grounds on the deliberative model of politics with its claim about the possibility of making particular wills reach the conception of common public interest or the common good through discussion and dialogue. Secondly, I'll try to show that, within Schmitt's project, the concept of the sovereign dictatorship exists as the necessary counterpoint to the concept of the political. Schmitt refuses to understand political life as a medium of dialogue leading to a rational consensus. In this context, the sovereign in Schmitt's theory should be precisely understood as a force constructed to reproduce homogeneity in a hegemonic manner. Hegemonia, in a Gramscian sense, is not a bare oppressive force. Rather, it refers to a ruling force which is able to inject its own ideology and world view into the public through persuasion. In this framework, leftist thinkers like Mouffe, who recommended that we should think "with Schmitt against Schmitt" in order to develop a new democratic political understanding, draw attention to Schmitt's thesis that every political identity functions as "we-they" antinomy, yet they miss the fact that it is impossible to deduce a conception of a truly democratic public sphere from Schmitt's theory. As it will be emphasized in this paper, democracy in the Schmittian sense can be the perfect form of sovereignty, one which in contrast to liberal democracy results in homogenization and the exclusion of the heterogeneous and thus must be conceived as a fundamentally hegemonic system. The Schmittian ideal of democracy requires that political identities, public opinion, public sphere and will formation are the products of a sovereign will and not of open and free discussion.