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date: 06 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Carl Schmitt’s conceptual history of war is routinely invoked to comprehend the contemporary mutations in the concept and practice of war. This literature has passively relied on Schmitt’s interpretation of the nomos of the Ius Publicum Europaeum, which traced the transition from early modern ‘non-discriminatory war’ to the US–American promotion of discriminatory warfare as a new category in liberal international law . This chapter provides a critical reconstruction of Schmitt’s antiliberal narrative of war and argues that his polemical mode of concept formation led to a defective and, ultimately, ideological counterhistory of absolutist warfare, designed to denigrate liberalism’s wars as total while remaining silent on Nazi Germany’s de facto total wars. The historical critique is supplemented by an interrogation of his theoretical presuppositions: decisionism, the concept of the political, and concrete order thinking. It shows that Schmitt’s history of warfare is not only empirically defective but also theoretically unsecured by a succession of arbitrarily deployed and hyperabstract theoretical registers. At the center of Schmitt’s work yawns a huge lacuna: the absence of social relations as a category of analysis.

Keywords: jus publicum europaeum, nomos, absolutist warfare, nondiscriminatory war, discriminatory war, total war, decisionism, concept of the political, concrete-order-thinking

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