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Episode #132 ... Carl Schmitt on Liberalism pt. 1

2019-07-01 | 🔗

Today we begin our discussion on the work of Carl Schmitt. 

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, everyone, I'm Stephen West. This is philosophize this. So if you love the show, consider supporting it, unpatriotic patriarch is almost exclusively how the show is made possible these days. It's a crowd funding platform for episodic content like this show, pledge a certain amount per episode, help get philosophy out there to the world. What more could anyone ever wanted? A life currently turning it problems with the website fixed transcriptions at the episodes. A sort of things are not free, so I really does want to say thank you to all the people out there that are currently helping with that thinks forget being on your end, so that I can keep giving on my end said today releasing two new episodes of the show, the probable if you listen to him back to back, there's a lot of important stuff to talk about. That's gonna set the stage for the rest of the twentieth century and I think the first Episode ends when they're still a lot more to talk about. So, if it's possible, can I listen to both of them back to back? This is part one on the philosopher, Karl Schmidt and his critique of liberalism. I hope you love the show today
So we're three episodes into this new arc of the show and, as you know, we're talking about the early twentieth century here once again, it's important to keep in mind all that's going on. During this time. Political philosophy is going through a serious trends, can face, because in many ways the world is going through a serious transition face red loosens are taking place Wars are on the horizon. The rise of fascism, authoritarianism, entire legacy of the enlightenment, is being called into question and what This means for the world of philosophy is at the thinkers doing their work during this time are very quickly coming face to face with the realisation that in this post nuclear world, but for the first time the consequence, the war, could Britain the entire existence of the human race? They are. The people that are gonna have to figure all this out. Think of the pressure these thinkers were faced with. At the time,
to be a thinker born into the early twentieth centuries to be born to a world where the strength of your ideas is gonna be tested in real time, while the fate of the world hangs in the. Being born into this time period is like the forces of history, common deering you for one of the most stressful jobs in the history of the world imagine your first day at a new job, and the oars nation is here's the entire history of western civilization, they wanted. The new job is well time for you to fix it all I get to work now. This job would be pickled enough. If we are looking back at a history of total chaos in the west, but keep in mind the western world at this time is the self proclaimed centre of political thought. The self proclaimed must advise.
A collection of societies that have ever existed in history. So if this really is such an advanced developed environment that the rest of the world should draw inspiration from, why do we have such a rich history of things? Failing miserably? Think of the history this world is emerging out of the age of reason and the political thought of the enlightenment produce for us what we've long considered to be the greatest political strategy in existence. Liberal capitalist democracy By this time, for over a hundred years, liberal capitalist democracy has been the gold standard in the west when it comes to how we should be structuring our societies. The problem facing political philosophers at the beginning of the twentieth century is this: what exactly is it about our long standing strategy of liberal capitalist democracy that seems to in very We lead society into an end game of dictatorship, bloodshed and political instability when John Dewey, an entire
the programme she show up with their lunch box on the first day at the new job. This is the first order of business. People like them are going to have to deal with now. It's right here. That we can understand why the two of them went in the respective directions. They did because, like we talked about the beginning of the TH century, can be broadly understood in terms of three major. Branches of political discussion. Three primary conversations that are going on we already talked about to them and understand, all three of them is going to be absolutely crucial, because the contents of these converse, is, is gonna going to dictate the direction of almost all subsequent political philosophy. All the way up to the present day, when a philosopher sets out to contribute something to the political discussion of the twentieth century,
They are almost without exception, doing so in consideration to one of these three major critique of the way we ve done things in the past. Once again, what we ve done in the past is liberal capitalist democracy. The three major critiques are gonna, be John Dewey and his critique of traditional democracy, Antonio Grant she in his critique of capitalism and the guy we're gonna, be talking about today, the philosopher Karlsefni, and his critique of liberalism, but where is the best place to begin explaining one of the most scathing critiques of liberalism in existence? Maybe the best thing to preface this with just given the demographics of the show is that when Carl Smith sets out a critique, the doctrine of liberalism he's not setting out to critique live
Let them in the context that some living in the modern, United States may think of liberalism. You know that it's one end of a political spectrum, diametrically opposed to conservatism, with these two poles being defined by the current state of the EU s political landscape. That's not the liberalism is talking about here, Carl Schmidt, believe it or not, is not setting out in his work to critique some modern political cliche. You know some pro choice: Greenpeace Platinum Card member who rollerblades to work and thinks health care should be a human right. That's not the liberalism he's talking about. Let's talk about what the word liberalism is actually referring to. In the context of this broader philosophical discussion, that's going on the term liberal wisdom is referring to a political philosophy and method of determining political legitimacy that emerged out at the beginning of the enlightenment. Modern historians, when looking back at history, often described liberalism as the dominant political strategy, the enlightenment era. That should be contrasted with the methods of
turning political legitimacy before the enlightenment, which historian sometimes this. Group altogether and refer to as pre liberal thought, so we have liberalism of the enlightenment, that is to be contrasted with the pre liberal thought, which is the way we did things before the event To put all this in a very philosophize, this way look people form into societies. Those societies have problems that need to get salt. The people that make up societies have to figure out the answer to several basic, but very important questions. What kind of society do we want to produce? What sort of values do we want to uphold when engaging in our political process? What makes something a legitimate political problem at all. How do we solve these problems specifically? What is having a political the disagreement even going to look like in our society, because that's a variant, important distinction that might not immediately seem like something our political process defines the parameters of, but keep in mind political disagreements of today look nothing like the political disagreements of a thousand years ago,
and this is a big reason why liberalism is often contrasted with pre liberalism before liberalism burst onto the scene. Societies determine levels of political legitimacy with very different methods, and we do today please liberal societies, often inform their political process through things like divine revelation, tradition, ritual pure authoritarianism, theological scholarship, the interpretation of scripture was an important part of political process, pre, liberal societies relied on these methods, and these men, reliably produced a certain type of society. People get fed up with this type of society and put their heads together and the enlightenment to try to come up with some better criteria to base our political decisions on. These criteria and the positions they naturally arrive at have come to be known as liberalism now this transition looks like in keeping with the theme of the enlightenment overall political How did she starts to move away from revelation and instead
beginning to rely a lot more on reason once again from Pre Liberal, too liberal, when making political- decisions does a turn away from pre, liberal methods of theological scholarship and Turned towards a new liberal focus on secular scholarship, there's a turn, away from political decisions based on divine intervention towards a new content. In decisions that are hashed out the rational debate, the pre rural standard of there being some single anointed we're Terran leader that has ultimate say over the political process is quickly being replaced by things like parliamentary politics, separation of powers demand we see civil and human rights. There is a new focus on issues regarding equality. Capitalism starts to become the dominant economic approach, liberal capitalist democracies, as opposed to futile
aristocracies liberalism primarily aims to do away with the authoritarianism and divine revelation of the past and replace it instead with things like limited government, equality, freedom of expression, secular science and rational debate somebody born into our modern world. That's largely grounded and liberal principles might be confused. As to how anybody in their right mind, could ever possibly disagree with this method of doing things politically. This episode does not. Talking about the merits of liberalism, but curl Schmidt's critique of liberalism might think. Look, I know we ve had our problems in the west over the years, but all this Just seems like common sense. I mean back to the modern United States liberally. Seems to be the foundation of both political parties. How could anybody possibly think that its liberalism, that's the problem with liberal capitalist democracy? Carl Smith would probably say to this person, that the most dangerous political ideology is the ideology that currently popular the kind of ideal,
logical assumptions you make about the political process that are so ingrained so steeped in tradition that don't even think twice about them, because if we should regard the thinking before the unlike meant as pre liberal and the thinking during the enlightenment. As liberal then Carl Schmidt, be regarded as someone trying to bring about a new posts. Liberal way of thinking politically modern, anti Liberal is how is often described So for the sake of understanding where Carl Schmidt's coming from the important thing to keep in mind right, here at the beginning. Is that when there's a shift towards liberal principles during the enlightenment What comes along with that is a promise from the thinkers of the time that this new strategy is going to bring about a better world for everyone. One of them theories among the fingers of the enlightenment was that if we let these liberal values play out and allow them to reach their natural conclusions, we will be the architect of a brand new, cosmopolitan peaceful world, the likes of which we ve never seen to understand Carl Schmidt. This is the perspective from which we need to view
liberalism, liberalism was created as an alternative political philosophy. Supposed to be a solution to many of the political problems of the past. These things are looking back at history, seeing the pattern of dictators, bloodshed and political instability and their turn Come up with some new way of conducting politics where these things are going to happen anymore. Is actually really good way to understand. It me see why many of the hallmarks of liberalism are what they are when you think about them in nation to some historical problem. They were trying to solve history of dictatorships and authoritarianism. Its introduce separation of powers checks and allowances on the executive branch history, sprawling empires and rigid national and religious identities. Well, we're all members of a global economy let's have political and religious identity is take a back seat for now, and instead, United world under a flag of mutually beneficial consumerism. History,
political and religious wars. Well, let's not find on the actual battlefield anymore, let's instead hush our political differences in the battlefield of rational debate, where people can still be at odds with each other They can still gonna war, but this way nobody has to die. This was the hope, ambition of liberalism as a political philosophy. Liberalism was supposed. was to be an alternative way of doing stuff that solve these problems of the past, but Carl Smith. Can. I say this is nowhere near what actually happened. Credit yourself in the shoes of Carl Schmidt, see liberalism, through the eyes of a philosopher living in the early twentieth century, similar the early liberal thinkers Carl Schmidt is looking back in history and he to seize the pre liberal world of dictatorships, bloodshed and political instability. Oh, but then along comes liberalism to save the day and then what is, this is really not Changing at all What he sees is that, throughout the entire tenure of liberalism, things contain to descend into dictatorships, bloodshed and political instability. All the way up to the present day,
I think. The only reasonable thing to conclude from this state of affairs is that there is a big difference between the hopes and ambitions of liberalism and how things actually play out in the world. Liberalism to Carl Schmidt doesn't produce the world that it claims to produce throughout several years of his career Carl Schmidt attack. Liberal some from so many different angles that there really isn't a clear starting point here. So want to just jump right into some different examples of hallmarks of liberal thinking that Smitt takes issue with use that as a skeleton and then try to flesh out the rest of his position from there so just to get started? One of the biggest delusions of liberal thought in the eyes of Carl Schmidt is the expectation
that it is possible for us to produce a society where people can have extreme political differences and by adhering to the tenants of liberalism, these people can coexist, live peacefully amongst each other and just agree to disagree. Have things ever get heated? Put in the words of political philosophy, this is the toleration of difference. We see this kind of thinking in western liberal democracies every second of everyday me. You'll often hear people talk about political discussion, with the expectation that this sort of thing is possible. You know we may be totally different people. We may disagree on almost every element of how a society should be structured, but at the end of the day we can shake hands live and let live and just go on about our lives. Carl Schmidt would say that this is a liberal fantasy world that, if you pay attention to what's actually going on in the real world of the the political, this is not the way
Extreme political differences interact with each other in our societies. Liberalism just creates the illusion that they do to Carl Schmidt. This expectation that we're going to be able to coexist, tolerant of extreme political differences comes from the more fundamental liberal belief that there is a no political difference so extreme that there can be some sort of solution eventually arrived at in an open forum of rational debate. That there is no chasm between worldviews. That is so unbridgable that there happy some sort of reasonable compromise its arrived at by both parties, this is a hallmark of liberal thought. A cornerstone of the liberal political process. Now Carl Schmidt would say this idea, just in theory no doubt sounds really wait I mean who doesn't want a world where we can always just talk things through politically. Who wouldn't want a world where we never have to implement political policy by force. The problem for Carl Schmidt is it this isn't how the world works
Liberalism is marketed to people as an alternative, more peaceful way of engage doing in the political but Curl Schmidt, believes all that liberalism really does is allow people to avoid engaging in the political, rational debate puts on a good show, but it's mostly political theatre. We have long periods of normalcy where a bunch of people get dressed up in suits and go to building downtown and scream at each other for a few hours about issues that are almost entirely and consequential? This all provides a nice soap opera for people to watch that supposed to be evidence of the liberal political process and action. A look at our peaceful, we ve all learn to be her re for liberalism is what we're supposed to say, but Carl Smith would say, look at history. What happens every single time? There is a truly serious political you were? The differences between parties are irreconcilable. I mean what happens when you try to have a rational debate with someone whose whole political belief is that I should be king of the world and you shall be my slaves. Well, it doesnt work
There's, no reasoning with that person you and try to solve that difference of opinion with rational debate. Now it you'd tell that person to sit down and be quiet, or else are gonna, be thrown in jail, so it's at least possible to have a critical situation that all the debating in the world isn't gonna solve. Ok, now think of all the political differences that can possibly present themselves, that are far less of a cartoon Carl Smith, start by saying: look, there are going to be groups that emerge in the political landscape whose entire existence is predicated on the destruction of another group. The Rio, Quality of the world is that there are political differences that are irreconcilable and he's Differences are not all that uncommon to Carl Schmidt. This is one of the failures of liberal political philosophy, no matter how good it feels tell ourselves we're gonna to be open to outsiders and just talk things out when we disagree. Rational debate cannot solve political problems of this magnitude.
No matter how much of a poster child you are for liberalism faced with political beliefs sufficiently hostile to liberalism faced with example and authoritarian regime that wants to ascend to power, you are eventually going to have to do. One of two things. Choice number one be willing to accept the destruction of liberalism simply because something else was popular at the time or choice number to use the power of the state to silence opposition, or, in other words, Temporarily behave like what we would otherwise call a dictator by using the sovereign authority that, to Schmidt, is intrinsically embedded into the political process. Choice number two of those two is something that liberals are absolutely terrified of good reason, remember they're, looking to societies of the past that are structured around social contract theory, society is an agreement between the citizenry and the sovereign. Citizens job is to serve the sovereign. The sovereigns job is to ensure the security of the citizen. Sometimes
to do this effectively. The sovereign needs to wield and authoritarian level of power to political philosophers in the days of pre liberalism having a designated sovereign body like a king that has the ability to maintain certain elements of society unencumbered by the political process was absolutely crucial. During Formation of liberalism, people look back at our history of doing things, this way and realize many of the downfall of the great societies of the past occurred when, in this volatile place of a sovereign body seizing control. Liberal philosophers understandably tried to do away with the concept of a sovereign. They saw it as an outdated and dangerous idea. Carl Smith makes the case that this is why, once liberalism comes onto the scene, the thinkers at the time become absolutely obsessed with finding any possible way they can to make it so that we don't have to have a sovereign anymore. The idea of a dictatorship which, at the time was historically one of the most common structures of a successful society, dictatorships
in this new liberal world become unthinkable, and Carl Schmidt wants to mark another distinction here between liberal theory and the reality of how the world is the reality. The world, is that society sometimes need the ability to make swift and decisive decisions and in the post, enlightenment, world this reality get swept The rug for the sake of pandering to the liberal fear of authoritarianism he thinks this taboo towards the idea of a dictatorship certainly makes us feel good. But it simultaneously ignores the need for capabilities that healthy societies require to Carl Schmidt. This is yet another failure of the liberal political process. Not only does liberalism ignore societies occasional need for a sovereign, but even if it wanted to get the sovereign altogether. Liberalism doesn't actually, remove the sovereign from the political process. Once again, it just creates the illusion that there isn't a sovereign
until we actually need one liberalism, performs the solution by engaging in various different types of what parliament referred to as normative ism. To put it bluntly it saying that liberalism, terrified of the idea of a sovereign dictator holding power so to safeguard against that possibility. They ve come up with all these different attempts to hold political power to a set of predefined norms and rules. Liberals are obsessed with this process of normative. Isn't this is the rise of constitutional demand
she's in the West constitutions are designed to be safeguards against the swift and decisive action of authoritarianism. Normative ISM is sold us an incredible feature of liberalism that helps protect the will of the people. Now Carl Schmidt uses this term of normative ism in a way that mostly intended to poke fun at the hopes of liberalism, because, like I just alluded to normative, ISM, is an illusion to complement the hope and ambition of liberalism is up by coming up with these norms that political leaders have to follow whenever somebody comes along. That starts to look like one of those sovereign dictators we seen throughout history, but with this pull out, the constant national it in their face, though, burst into flames and will never have to hear from them again, but Carl Schmidt's going to say. This is yet another delusion of liberalism that doesn't shore up with the reality of the world. First of all, he would say it doesn't matter how long you sit down and talk about what the parameter should be for someone holding a position of power,
you are never going to be able to come up with a set of rules that accounts for every contingency. Give. How many moving parts are involved when making decisions that affect this. Many people to Carl Schmidt, trying to normative eyes. These highly volatile moments that leaders are faced with is at best drastically oversimplifying how complex the world can be, and at worst severely weakening your society and its ability to adapt and defend itself in a bad situation, here's the Good NEWS, though, to Carl Schmidt: this isn't actually how things ever play out and liberal societies anyway, because even the most liberal society in existence eventually recognizes how necessary temporary extra constitutional power is given the right circumstances. Carl Schmidt is saying that even in liberal societies, whenever it really comes down to it in the face with some sort of existence, crisis. The constitution goes out the window anyway. Citizens of liberal constitutional democracy is often have this expectation of, while the government
just go rogue and do whatever they want their held to the constitution. There are checks and balances, they gotta get permission to do something right But what happens every time there is an emergency in something needs to get done, oh well, they just take action, in other words to Carl Schmidt, Liberal, some claims to have gotten rid of the sovereign from the political process. But what have in these societies. Whenever something actually has to get done, and we need a sovereign abracadabra poof, the sovereign was there the whole time who would have thought me. This is a great magic trick and to Carl Schmidt, the misdirection of this magic trick was performed by the liberal political process. This is yet another liberal theory, verses reality thing to him: the hope of liberalism, was to get rid of the sovereign. The reality of the world is that we have these long periods of normalcy, where the government does almost nothing punctuated by rare moments of extreme action. Whenever things actually need to get done, liberalism
hasn't, removed the sovereign from the political process and the only time pieces of paper like the constitution prevent the sovereign Fomc our during periods of normal, see when the sovereign wouldn't be exercising authoritarian power anyway, to Carl Schmidt, the biggest difference between our modern societies and the ones that existed in the pre liberal world at the pre liberal societies were just a lot more honest about the authoritarianism that was going on. Nowadays, we This grand illusion of liberalism that puts a bunch of window dressing on the whole process and pretend the world something that it's not Racism is in many ways and impossible utopian fantasy and the eyes of Karl Schmidt. Now, there's a lot more to talk about and admit, ways we ve just started getting into the main section of the ideas. So please, if you have the time, listen to the next episode now or at least while the stuff is still fresh in your brain, it's out released for your listening enjoyment right now. Thank you for listening I'll talk to you next time.
Transcript generated on 2020-09-29.