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date: 28 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Carl Schmitt accommodated himself to the ascendency of democratic thinking in the post–World War I world of the 1920s. No sovereign authority, he argued, could fail to acknowledge “the people” as the constituent power of an established political order. Consequently, democracy and “the political” become synonymous in his Constitutional Theory (1928). To champion democracy, however, Schmitt emphasized the historical distinction between democracy, based on equality and homogeneity of the collective, and liberalism, which features the primacy of the private individual’s liberty. This chapter shows that key to understanding Schmitt’s defense of democracy against liberalism are his notions of representation, acclamation, and plebiscitary leadership, as well as a strong sense of the public persona of the citizen. The chapter argues that even though we shun his reading of democracy today, a full understanding of the liberal-democratic compromise that we now call democracy benefits from a close reading of Schmitt.

Keywords: Carl Schmitt, acclamation, constituent power, democracy, equality, liberalism, liberty, people, plebiscitary leadership, representation

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