Political theology and legitimation

But Schmitt's correspondences served purposes beyond the merely diagnostic. Since the correlations were mutually reinforcing, the decline of one meant the inevitable weakening of the other. And in Schmitt's construction of history, that is what has happened, as religious conceptions of the world gave way to philosophical and metaphysical conceptions, and they in turn to the instrumental rationality of technical reason, mathematics, and the natural sciences. For Schmitt it was axiomatic that the political order needed legitimation: "No political system can survive even a generation with only the naked techniques of holding power. To the political belongs the idea, because there is no politics without authority and no authority without an ethos of belief' (1996c: 17, emphasis added). "[S]ince Comte we have had many new experiences that affect the ineradicable need for legitimation of every human being" (1970: 101n).

The pairing of Roman Catholicism and Political Form with Political Theology reflected his conviction that the political and the religious spheres had a unique affinity. This affinity was grounded in their common expression as law. The science of the law in Europe was actually descended from canon law on its "maternal" side, though the child eventually had to leave its mother (1950: 69). A political theology was genuinely possible partly because of the peculiar interconnection of the disciplines of the canonist and the jurist (1970: 101).

The political and the religious spheres also shared a common alienation from modern forces such as liberalism, economism, and "technicity" (Schmitt 1988: 32-50; 1996a: 69-79; 1996b: 42-50, 55-62, 68-74). The unhappy effects of these forces were to be seen in such developments as the distinction of public and private in politics and law, the fragmenting of the state by the pluralistic forces of society ("depoliticization"), the pure normativity of law without regard to its roots in personal authority and personal decision, the division of powers in parliamentary democracies and the splintering of sovereignty, the substitution of discussion and debate for decision, the exaltation of private property and laissez-faire economics, the reduction of meaning to material production and consumption, and value neutrality in questions of morality and belief. Catholicism, he argued, could accommodate liberal democracy, industrialization, and financial capitalism, but it could never be their ally. "An alliance of the Catholic Church with the present form of industrial capitalism is not possible. The alliance of throne and altar will not be followed by an alliance of office and altar, also not of factory and altar" (1996c: 24). The reason for this incompatibility was the special representative role of the church:

The political power of Catholicism rests neither on economic nor on military means but rather on the absolute realization of authority. The Church also is a "juridical person," though not in the same sense as a joint-stock company. The typical product of the age of production is a method of accounting, whereas the Church is a concrete personal representation of a concrete personality. All knowledgeable witnesses have conceded that the Church is the consummate agency of the juridical spirit and the true heir of Roman jurisprudence. Therein - in its capacity to assume juridical form - lies one of its sociological secrets. But it has the power to assume this or any other form only because it has the power of representation. It represents the civitas humana. It represents in every moment the historical connection to the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ. It represents the Person of Christ Himself: God become man in historical reality. Therein lies its superiority over an age of economic thinking. (1996c: 18-19)

The church sought coexistence with the state as a natural partner that, like itself, was also a societas perfecta. The state too was based on representation, even if modern parliamentary democracy had obscured that fact. The state too took on "political and juridical forms that are equally immaterial and irritating to the consistency of economic thinking" - immaterial because they took into account other than merely economic values (1996c: 16, 27). Here Schmitt saw no difference between capitalism and Marxism: "The big industrialist has no other ideal than that of Lenin - an 'electrified earth.' They disagree essentially only about the correct method of electrification" (1996c: 13).

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