Depoliticizing Power

Stephen Turner wrote in 1989:

Carl Schmitt’s renovated Hobbesianism, with its insistence on the antithesis between authority and truth contained in the Hobbist slogan auctoritas, non veritas facit legem, (law is decided by authority, not by truth) provides the dialectical counterpoint to any attempt at the reduction of the political to the non-political. For Hobbes and Schmitt, one might say, discussion is always an illusion or an instrument of authority, not its basis. The conflict between these theoretical extremes is sharpened by political history, the taint that Schmitt’s brief political role as ‘Crown jurist’ of National Socialism brought to his ideas.

Neither extreme has prevailed either in practice or in theory. The concept of the political has not collapsed into a concept of the rational settling of conflicts, either in political theory or practice, and the liberal ideal of government by discussion has not come to be seen as fundamentally incoherent and as irrelevant to practice. Indeed, on the level of ideas the model of political rationality and the ideal of discussion are perhaps more secure today than is the concept of scientific rationality.

At least it is an ideal to which persons with very diverse orientations appeal as an unproblematic point of reference. This messy intellectual history, and especially its intersection with actual politics, needs to be kept in mind: no formulation on the extension of the terms ‘power’ and ‘politics’, or of the oppositions and contraries of these terms, is innocent.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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