Mastery and Dominion: Carl Schmitt's Juridical Concept of the Political
Moore, Thomas P
This thesis examines the juridical framing of the political in the thought of Carl Schmitt. The purpose of this discussion is to draw attention to the fundamental inconsistencies that are present in Schmitt’s thinking on the political. These inconsistencies arise from Schmitt’s desire to advance a concept of the political that can be understood autonomously in terms of the friend-and-enemy grouping. This thesis argues that Schmitt’s concept of the political should not be understood autonomously but in terms of a juridical ethic of mastery and dominion. Schmitt’s desire to ground the political in an autonomous field of meaning—where the political achieves mastery over all other domains—reduces the political down to a juridical moment. Schmitt fails in his mission to construct an autonomous concept of the political, primarily because theology frames Schmitt’s analysis of sovereignty. Moreover, Schmitt’s concept of the political presupposes the state and a decisionist discourse of sovereignty. Schmitt’s decisionism is expressed in terms of a sublime, symbolising the highest region of both political conduct and knowledge. For Schmitt, mastery and dominion are the core values of the political. This has severe implications for the concept of legality and the democratic functioning of the state. Thinking beyond a juridical formula unleashes political thought from the strictures of both proceduralism (liberalism) and decisionism (authoritarianism). This reflexive approach to the political—present in the work of Foucault, Butler, and Mouffe—allows for the shared regime of mastery and dominion to be critically reformulated. Without the imperative of mastery—the unilateral control of conduct by the subject—political thought is freed from the need to exercise dominion and can focus on the ways in which the subject can be constituted in less exclusionary ways.