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date: 09 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Carl Schmitt’s theory of emergency powers has garnered substantial attention in the aftermath of terrorist attacks on the US, UK, and Spain. Against those who underscore apparent discontinuities in Schmitt’s view of emergency government, or see him as advocating law-based and/or a constitutional model of emergency government, this chapter revisits three key historical and intellectual contexts—the First World War, the Weimar debate about Article 48, and the disintegration of Weimar democracy after 1930— to offer an alternative interpretation. The radical anti-legal character of Schmitt’s position, along with its underlying continuities, is emphasized. Three recent post 9/11 employments of Schmitt’s ideas about emergency power are then examined. Each is found inadequate, in part because each accepts too much of the underlying logic of Schmitt’s theory and thus becomes vulnerable to its normative and political frailties.

Keywords: Carl Schmitt, dictatorship, emergency powers, exception, rule of law, state of siege, Weimar Republic

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