The dispute concerning the legitimacy of modernity also implies the question of the reformation, which transferred the power away from the hands of priests into a new priesthood of everyman’s consciousness. This was the Lutheran self-affirmation of economic theology (it has been laid out by Monica Ferrando’s recent work). The new priesthood implied a consolidation of the power over interpretation, since the biblical sources were now opened to battle over meaning itself. The interests over the Hebrew sources were not new, as a contemporary scholar has shown, but it was of central interest to the hermeneutics of sola scriptura over the scrutiny of the canons . If this is the case, how come Thomas Hobbes account of the religious sources point to a different dimension of revelation? As we know, Hobbes was not alien to the ancient Hebrew sources, but his treatment and conclusions were entirely misplaced. Here I want to briefly account for this divergence.
In reality, it was Carl Schmitt who best confronted this problem in a late essay form 1964, published in “Der Staat, “Die Vollendete Reformation” by asserting that Hobbes’ place in the constellation of the modern political theology of the reform was rooted in the invention of the autonomy of the political. Schmitt works his way through Hobbes’ second bibliography in a subtle way, reminding us that the theorem “Jesus is the Christ” meant the artificial creation of a political technique over the battle over “meaning and truth” that fueled the European wars of religion. Hobbes, contrary to the theologians, became the founder of a counter-power: the confrontation between Leviathan and Behemoth. Indeed, for Hobbes the “reformed theologian” stands as the Behemoth, but it has yet to come to terms with the question posed by Leviathan as who will decide. This is for Schmitt the kerygmatic theme of the New Testament, which will only be decided at the end of times, but meanwhile the decision through authority is the only way in which the problem of “civil war could be neutralized. As a commentator of his time, Schmitt was directing a direct arrow to Rudolf Sohm’s idea of reform, which ultimately coincided with an economic theology bypassing the fact that the era of concrete political theology had its ultimate principle in authority of the sovereign’s decision .
Although never registered directly, the lesson of Hobbes for Schmitt resided in circumventing the rationality of the scientist and the technocrat, going as far as to mention Simone Weil’s critique of the codependency of the total state with the essence of technology . The question of decision was Hobbes’ metaphysical solution to an “intra-evangelical war”, which introduced the immanentization of indirect powers unto the flatten space of civil society. In other words, for Schmitt, the true father of the “spirit and letter” of the Reformation was neither Luther nor Calvinism, but Hobbes’ Leviathan insofar as it was able to offer a third option against the secularization of a universal priesthood of the autonomous economic theology. But this is only the beginning of the problems, since we know that Hobbes’ political philosophy was dependent on “civil society” preparing the conditions for the liquidation of anti-normative decisionism. Schmitt himself was aware of this towards the end of his monograph on Hobbes as a farewell to state form. Hence, the epoch of political theology was brought to an end not through reformation, but through the ever-expansion of the operative sphere of the concept of the civil. The triumphant economic theology that has only intensified well into our days adequates to the fullest extent to the infrastructure of Hobbes’s project.
If this is the case, the differentiation that Schmitt establishes in Political Theology II between ius reformandi and ius revolutionis collapses, given that the solicitation of the autonomy of the social requires an ever-expanding outsourcing of administrative apparatus that will turn legality into the bin of administrative application (Verwaltungsrechts einzufügen unwissenschaftlich) . And in the face of administration political theology loses its grip, and economic theology silently takes hold. The subsequent internal triumph of the verwaltungsrechts einzufügen will bring to an end the epoch of political theology. The ideal of the Reform took this challenge and brought it to the very anthropological core of humanity.
1. Eric Nelson. The Hebrew Republic (Harvard University Press, 2010), 8.
2. Carl Schmitt. “Die vollendete Reformation: Bemerkungen und Hinweise zu neuen Leviathan-Interpretationen”, Der Staat, Vol.4, 1965, 51-69.
3. Ibid., 66.
4. Ibid., 67.