Pol 266: Notes

As promised, here are my notes for Schmitt’s fourth chapter:

Ch 4 Irrationalist Theories of the Direct Us of Force [65-76]
65: note that this is about ideal circumstances, in order to see moral predicament, and strength, of parl
-even if Marxist dictatorship of proletariat could be rational, really, theories of direct action & use of force rely on irrationalism
. . . -in reality, multiple movements & tendencies may coexist
. . . . .-eg, that Bolsheviks destroyed anarcho-syndicalists doesn’t mean don’t share a chain of thought
66: -perhaps Bolsheviks succeeded in Russia b/c its proles lacked a Euro understanding [of themselves]
. . .-yes, shared a fondness for [rationalist] force w the Jacobins & Soviet edu a kind of ‘radical educational dictatorhip’, but its use of force was also motivated by irrationalism
. . . . .-a ‘new belief in instinct and intuition that lays to rest every belief in discussion & would also reject the possibility that mankind could be made ready for discussion thru educational dictatorship’
-so, consider Sorel’s Reflections on Violence, which ‘reflections on the use of force is a theory of unmediated real
67: life
-Proudhon & Bakunin against all systematic unity, uniformity, parl, bureaucracy, military, police, religion
. . .-the state and God alike, and both must be rejected [Pr]
. . .-Bakunin extended this: the unity of the Enlightenment & democracy must itself be rejected: ‘unity is slavery’
. . . . .-thus, struggle against state & God also against intellectualism & trad forms of education
. . . . .-reason, science, may understand the general, but it is not life & should not rule it: it sacrifices the individual to the abstraction—unlike art
. . .-thus the appeal to the working class, which expresses itself in unmediated [direct] action, thru unions & the strike
68:  . . . . .-and in that direct action, a contradiction of rationalism, balancing, pub discussion, & parl
-to Sorel, the ability to act heroically reside in myth, be it Greek, ancient Christianity, revolutionary France, liberated Germany: ‘Only in myth can the criterion be found for deciding whether one nation or social group has a historical mission and has reached its historical moment.’
. . .-it is out of a genuine life instinct, not reason, that one acts, and only in fulfilling a myth that a class may find its courage to use force, to become a world-historical actor: ‘Whenever this is lacking, no social and pol power can remain standing, and no mechanical apparatus can build a dam if a new storm of historical life has broken loose.’
. . .-won’t find this sense of life among the mod bourg, anxious about money & property, & its govt’al form, liberal demos, a “demagogic plutocracy”
-so where is this life today? the socialists, with their strikes?
69: . . . -there can find the sense that could bring the whole pol & econ house down
. . .-from the prole perspective, bourg pragmatism a ‘monstrosity of cowardly intellectualism’, a dessication
. . .-against balance, get image of bloody decision battle, as in 1848, when both left & right opposed parl
. . .-and so Proudhon declared “The day of radical rejection and the day of sovereign declarations is coming”
70: the people themselves will make it so
-Sorel saw warlike heroism as ‘true impulse of an intensive life’, something which no parl could satisfy
71:  . . . -parl politics, discussion, participation only erode that life-force: ‘Whatever value human life has does not come from reason; it emerges from a state of war’
. . .-rev excitement & ‘expectations of monstrous catastrophes’ drive life & history, & can only come from the masses themselves, never intellectuals or ideologues
‘Every rationalist interpretation falsifies the immediacy of life. The myth is no utopia.’
. . .-rationalism may lead to reform, at best
. . .-nor should ‘martial elan’ be confused w militarism: must be kind of [disciplined] spontaneity: ‘Creative force that breaks loose in the spontaneity of enthusiastic masses is as a result something very different from dictatorship’
. . .-to Sorel, rationalism, centralization, uniformity, all come from rationalism
72:  . . -which leads to slavery, horror, & mechanized life, a ‘military-bureaucratic-police machine’
. . . . .-rev force, on the other hand, while it may be wild & barbaric, never systematically horrific
-the Sorelian dictatorship of the prole not merely a repetition of the ancien regime, but something new, with “violence” in place of [centralizing] power
-to respond to irrationalism, best to note discrepancies rather than its logical mistakes
73: so, for example, Sorel retained emphasis on economic class (pace Marx) & thus econ as arena of struggle
. . .-but if follow bourg into econ, must not also follow into demos & parl?
. . .-and what of rationalism of production itself: how both to intensify production and destroy it?
. . . . .-less of a problem for Marx, who was a rationalist
-the psych & historical meaning of myth undeniable, and construction of bourgeoisie out of Hegelian dialectic created an enemy worth hating
74: -the history of the image of the bourg as important as the history of the bourg itself, spreading beyond Marxism itself, which gave the world a world-historical & metaphysical enemy of humankind
-the image also migrated east, into Russia, where it met nationalism
75: ‘Prole use of force had made Russia Muscovite again’, that is, gave it back its nation
-Sorel noted that nationalism always the stronger myth: Fr, Spa, Ger
‘In national feeling, various elements are at work in the most diverse ways, in very different peoples.’
. . .-race, descent, speech, tradition, culture, education, sense of community & distinctiveness— ‘all of that tends toward a national rather than a class consciousness today’
. . .-can, of course, be combined, esp against a common enemy (eg Irish nationalists & socialists), but when in confrontation, nationalism wins, as in Mussolini’s Italy
. . . .-as it does against demo parl, as in Muss’ Italy: “We have created a myth, this myth is a belief, a noble enthusiasm; it does not need to be reality, it is a striving and a hope, belief and courage. Our myth is the nation, the great nation which we want to make into a concrete reality for ourselves.”
. . . . . .-in that speech, Muss called socialism an inferior myth
-that myth so crucial now a symptom of decline of rel rationalism of parl thought
. . .-risky, too: solidarity may fail before ever-expanding number of myths, which pol is wont to produce
-in any case, so strong that partisans of parl cannot simply say there is no alternative


Note: some of the modified-outline formatting may be a bit off (which I tried to offset with the ‘. . .’), but if you read these in conjunction with the text, it shouldn’t be a problem. The numbers on the left are page numbers.

Also, some abbreviations (probably obvious, but just in case):

  • parl: parliament, parliamentarism
  • bourg: bourgeois, bourgeoisie
  • govt: government
  • demo(s): democratic, democracy
  • rev: revolution, revolutionary
  • Fr, Spa, Ger: France, Spain, Germany

Finally,  a phrase in ‘single quotes’ is a direct quote from Schmitt; a phrase in “double quotes” is something Schmitt is quoting from another source.

Hope this helps, and good luck with your essay.


About proftp

I teach political science and bioethics as an adjunct at a CUNY school.
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