Operative determinations in Carl Schmitt’s concept of the enemy. by Gerardo Muñoz

If the modern state presupposes the concept of the political, then the notion of the political presupposes the concept of the enemy. And if in Political Theology (1922) Schmitt claimed that the modern ethos was predicated as a struggle against the political, a decade later The concept of the political makes the case as to why the political could have only emerged in the wake of the crisis of the modern liberal state aggravated by the rise of the total state and the politization of the economy. All things considered, what Schmitt claims about “politics as destiny” (quoting Walter Rathenau, although the original is handed to us by Hegel quoting the Napoleon- Goethe conversation) has been misunderstood: “It could be more exact to say that politics continues to remain the destiny, but what has occurred is that economics has become political and thereby destiny” [1]. The total politization of economic relations – social contract as structured in value transaction and production – does not imply that Schmitt thinks that politics is destiny. If the ‘concept of the political’ is suppressed and subsumed by economics and techno-administration, then this implies that every sphere of human activity becomes political including one’s destiny. But no destiny can be fully administered or it ceases to be one.

The suppression- expansion of the political allows for the destruction of the enemy, who turns a mere protuberance in a pacified world order. In other words, for Schmitt (unlike what is usually said on his behalf) proposes a concept of the political to achieve a separation from politics that doesn’t amount to ‘critique of politics’ (allegedly what Liberal epoch offers), in the same way that the figure of the enemy is not to be understood normatively as the telos of political activity, but rather an operation that indicates degrees of association and dissociation given that the modern theory of the state is inseparable from plural conflict. In fact, as Schmitt states, the concept of the political as operatively defined by the enemy does not turn its back to pluralism, but rather wants to produce (“yield other consequences” is the language used) pluralism without suppressing the political unit itself [2]. And to yield “space of recognition” for friend-enemy divide does not entail war is neither the end nor the continuation of politics, as it has been understood, but rather an optimal effect whenever there is the existence of political units [3]. In this sense, the notion of enemy as presupposed in the concept of the political is not a substantive and personalist notion, but a particular operation that tries to contain domination while providing breathing space for a non-suppressive practice of politics (a counterpoint to fleeing from catastrophic techno-politics, suggested by Erich Unger’s Politics and Metaphysics during the same time).

One could outline at least four operative determinations of the enemy, which support the thesis of Schmitt’s effort to amend the conditions of the liberal state not negating them: a) the enemy is always a public enemy (hostis) and not a private one (enemicus). Here Schmitt retains the modern juristic conception of positive law. As Schmitt recalls in Ex captitvate salus, for the theologians the enemy is something to destroy, but he thinks as a jurist and not a theologian [4]. b) the hostis is not reducible to a person, but rather to a political unit, although the political could amount to an existential condition. If the “enemy is one’s own question as figure (Gestalt)”, as Schmitt quotes from Däubler, this also means that enemy is a principle of differentiation and mediation rather than a substantive essence, ideological or otherwise [5]. This is why it could be a mistake to confuse the gestalt formation with the unity and relative homogeneity of society required for the modern state.

c) If any political thinking is a thinking oriented towards optimization of the extreme case (this presupposes a negative anthropology), then it follows that the enemy is also the “enemy” in a concrete conflict. And it is clear why Schmitt taught that the suppression of war in the wake of the Kellogg Pact 1928 meant, as least tendentially, that enemies cease to be taken as a unit of differentiation transforming politics into a world police as the dominant practice of managing partners that eradicate the hostis. d) Finally, the notion of the enemy allows the state to recognize concrete threats and dispose of capabilities to respond to a crisis (here the polarity between decision and discussion comes to light), but also without discarding the basic principles of the rule of law such as nulla poena sine lege. In this final determination, the concept of the political is directed at displacing the separation of state and civil society, which according to Schmitt was incapable to offering a concrete response to the rise of neutralization posed by totalization of the “society” superseding the authority of the state (this is a variant of the economic primacy). The notion of the enemy is thus understood best as an optimal operativity that seeks to relieve politics from this polarity (totalization and repression) laying bare at the origin of the modern state.




1. Carl Schmitt. The Concept of the Political (University of Chicago Press, 1996), 78.

2. Ibid., 45

3. Ibid., 34.

4. Carl Schmitt. Ex Captivate Salus (Polity, 2017), 135.

5. Ibid., 136.

6. Carl Schmitt. “Premessa all’edizione italiana”, Le categorie del politico (Il Mulino, 1972), 39.

An epoch unmoved (V). by Gerardo Muñoz

The intrusion of appearance in the world posits the question of the unlived in every life. This taking place that appears in the world descends temporal finitude; and, more fundamentally, it posits the caducity of its unlived possibilities. In a recent book on the history of citrus in Italy, the author says in passing that blood oranges, being from the lowlands near the Etna, mixes a variation of flavors that ultimately make this particular orange expire sooner than others of its kind. Heterogeneity is a marker of caducity. The shimmering crust of this orange reveals that something like the mystery of what has not happened yet (and perhaps never will) comes to us in the sensorium, in the open of the ambient, and in the time of decay: “It gave us pause for thought. How long does it take for a lemon to completely rot?” [1]. This sense of the unlived in life was thematized by Hölderlin in his late drama The Death of Empedocles, a figure intimate to the Etna volcanic topoi“In holy union each beloved clings to love, a love One thought was dead…To they are this! The ones we so long did without, the living; The goodly gods, declining with the star of life! Farewell!” [2]. We have yet to develop a theory of the encounter that opens the epoch. But the solicitation for an experience entails the seeking of an outside to reality, in which the unlived facilitates nearness to an escape route. As we know, Hölderlin thought of the fissure of unity as excess between outside and reality, in which the relation between object and subject, thinking and action, imagination and things come to a tragic diremption.  

In this light, the actualization of the unlived is the vortex against the immobility of the epoch in which life is rendered actual in its becoming. But this requires specification; or at least a certain amendment of the pure aorgic immanence. We know that centuries before Hölderlin, Angelus Silesius provided a point of entry: “The Sun gives movement unto all, and makes the stars dance in the sky: if I still stand immovable, no part in the great whole have I” [3]. The mystical kenosis is ground cero to attunement of life. However, Silesius also seems to be suggesting that even under the dress of nature, movement is the condition for any instantiation with the abode. If glimpsed from the interior of the site of the natural world, pure immanence appears as the interrupted image without partition; but if described from the exteriority of the unlived, then world and life now meet in a kinetic extraneous divergence. 

But what is the limit of an intensity? There are two ways of coming to terms with this problem: every process of intensification reaches its caducity whenever its violence is overcome by the seduction of possession in submitting to the absolutism of reality. On the other hand, every intensity is perturbed when it finds an obstruction in the formal orientation of the concept. Therefore, when the co-existence between the exogenic and ecstatic limits meet, the free playing of forms becomes flow (plynein).  In other words, we cease to become immobile to deviate from the obstruction of the suspended wreck of every encounter.

Untimely, this invites that we reconsider the status of happiness. As a contemporary philosopher that I admire has insinuated it: perhaps happiness is the unthought notion in our tradition. In a certain way, the unthought and the unlived depart from the caesura of their own evasion. There is perhaps no need to reconstruct how “happiness” has been subordinated to designs proper to politics or commerce; or, as in the more classical tradition, the moral virtue for self-regulation and privation. Everything changes if we locate happiness in the site of the unlived, insofar as now the violence that is constituted of the separation between form and event in the texture of life. The immediacy of happiness is not being able to conquer something like a state of “blessed life” but being able to release the unlived in every succession of deaths that traverse a life [4]. 

But the unlived exits not only to de-constitute the vital determination, but also, and more fundamentally, to escape the seduction of the negative that assumes that loss and tragicity are irreparable limits. Rather, because there is something like an unlived there is happiness in the way that we constantly move within the available set of unlimited possibilities. The unlived initiates a physics that cuts absolute immanence in virtue of the genesis of style, since it is only in style where the overcoming of the unlived shelters the soul in the face of caducity. Indeed, it is in this invisible texture where the color of our mobility approaches asymptotic twirl between divinity and the world.




1. Ciaran Carson. Still Life. Winston: Wake Forest University Press, 2020. 16.

2. Friedrich Hölderlin. The Death of Empedocles. Trad. Farrell Krell. Albany: SUNY, 2008. 93.

3. Angelus Silesius. El peregrino querúbico. Madrid: Ediciones Siruela, 2005. 

4. Pacôme Thiellement. “Le Bonheur est un twist”, 25 june 2017: www.pacomethiellement.com/corpus_texte.php?id=326 : “l y a deux lumières: il y a la lumière d’avant la nuit et il y a la lumière d’après. Il y a celle qui était là au début, l’aube radieuse du jour d’avant, et puis il y a celle qui a lutté contre les ténèbres, la lumière qui naît de cette lutte : l’aube scintillante du jour d’après. Il n’y a pas seulement deux lumières, il y a aussi deux joies : il y a la joie d’avant la peine et il y a celle d’après. La joie originelle, la joie innocente, primitive, cette joie est sublime, mais c’est juste un cadeau de la vie, du ciel, du soleil… La joie qui vient après la peine, c’est le cadeau que tu te fais à toi-même : c’est la façon dont tu transformes ta peine en joie, l’innocence que tu réussis à faire renaître des jours d’amertume et des nuits de bile noire. C’est le moment où tu commences à vivre, mais vivre vraiment, parce que tu commences à renaître de toutes tes morts successives. C’est le moment où tu t’approches de la divinité ou du monde”.