The Sovereignty of the Political
Carl Schmitt and the Nemesis of Liberalism


Ironically, at a time when the liberal state and its attendant secularism seem to have totally triumphed over all their rivals, the political theorist is no longer insistent upon banishing the metaphysical from his discourse. In fact, there is a growing trend to make a distinction between politics and the political, between agency and regime, that allows the metaphysical a legitimate role in the definition of political identity. (The same fascination with philosophy, and protest against restrictive empiricism, is noticeable in other intellectual milieus, as evidenced by the occurrence of parallel terminology in French (la politique and le politique) and German (die Politik and das Politische).) Politics, according to this scheme, denotes the realm of partisan power struggles and is amenable to empirical research; the political, on the contrary, alludes to the quasi-metaphysical and transcendent bid to assign meaning and symbolic import to the polis; the former translates into policy, the latter into polity. This re-enchantment of the 'postmodern' political conscience, as it were, is not a gift of fundamentalism, nor does it display a longing for any theocratic scheme of things. On the contrary, it is the discovery of the mutuality of the existential and the transcendent orders of political reality, the symbiosis of existence and truth, that has been instrumental in restoring the unity of politics and ontology.
 

Works Discussed in this Essay:


The Concept of the Political. By Carl Schmitt. Tr. by George Schwab. The Rutger University press, New Brunnswick/New Jersey, 1976. Pp. 104.

Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty. By Carl Schmitt. Tr. by George Schwab. Cambridge, Massachuesetts, The MIT Press, 1985. Pp. 70.

Carl Schmitt and Authoritarian Liberalism. By Renato Cristi. University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 1998. Pp. 252. ISBN 0-7083-1441-4.

The Lesson of Carl Schmitt: Four Chapters on the Distinction between Political Theology and Political Philosophy. By Heinrich Meier. Tr. by Marcus Brianard. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London, 1998. Pp. 179. ISBN 0-226-51890-6.

Martin Heidegger and European Nihilism. By Karl Löwith. Ed. By Richard Wolin. Tr. by Gary Steiner. Columbia University Press, New York, 1995. Pp. 304. ISBN0-231-08407-2.

Civilizational Transformation and the Muslim World. By Ahmet Davutoglu. Mahir Publications, Kuala Lumpur. Pp.136. ISBN983-70-0313-8.

Inter-Civilizational Relations and the Destiny of the West: Dialogue or Confrontation? By Victor Segesvary. Edwin Mellan press, Lewiston NY (USA), 1998. Pp. 354. ISBN 0-7734-8327-6.

One of the earliest, most perceptive, but also the most controversial, thinker who exposed the theological moorings of the secular, liberal, polity and thereby sought to transform state theory (Staatslehre) from political philosophy to political theology was the German thinker Carl Schmitt (1888-1985). As an expert in constitutional law, Schmitt wrote some of his most incisive and seminal studies during the Weimar years and acquired a well-deserved reputation as 'the enemy of liberalism'. And yet his terse formulations of the theory of the state and the constitution, or his radical insights into the nature of sovereignty, sustained largely by labyrinthine legal arguments and beclouded by a haze of mystical romanticism, have aroused, and keep on doing so to this day, an enormous interest not only in his native land but on the other side of the Atlantic as well. However, the most fateful event in Schmitt's extra-ordinarily lengthy intellectual carrier, which would forever blot his character and scholarship, was his decision to actively collaborate with the Nazi regime. Condemned to live in oblivion after the War, Schmitt spent his energies to reestablish his reputation, but remained aggressively unrepentant about his past and he never recanted his virulent anti-Semitism. Whatever his moral failings, or the force of his personality, it was the rediscovery of his books that gradually established his current reputation as an original and incisive thinker.

In the time since his death, Schmitt has become a very influential, and hotly debated, political thinker, both in the Continent and in the English-speaking world. Not only his own writings, including even manifestly minor and unimportant tidbits, have been reissued, the corpus of studies devoted to his thought is now enormous and continues to grow by the day. Apart from Andreas Koenen's massive biographical study (979 pages!), a more mundane and dwarfish presentation of Schmitt's life by Paul Noack has been popular enough to warrant a paperback edition in Germany. Indeed, there exists even a periodical, Schmittiana, that collects and reproduces newly discovered Schmitt memorabilia; his correspondence, memoirs, bibliography and gossip are all objects of fervent scholarly commentary. Despite the scandal of his Nazi leanings, and the disturbing implications of his insights, there is a growing recognition of his significant contribution to the European tradition of political reflection and analysis.

Thus, the list of Schmitt's admirers is not restricted to the champions of conservative and anti-liberal causes but includes such unlikely names as the unassailably liberal Raymond Aron, who referred to him in his Mémoires as a great social philosopher in the tradition of Max Weber. As for a strikingly negative judgement, we may refer to Stephen Holmes who asserts that Schmitt is 'a theorist who consciously embraced evil and whose writings cannot be studied without moral revulsion and intellectual distress.' (Need we remind the reader that another original political thinker, Niccolo Machiavelli, provokes equally passionate, and diametrically opposite, responses.)

Undoubtedly, the easiest access, and the best introduction, to Schmitt's radically original and disturbing vision of politics is afforded by his slim but immensely suggestive treatise, The Concept of the Political. Far more insinuative than what its modest title claims, the treatise forms, according to Leo Strauss, perhaps the most incisive and astute commentator of this infamous text, 'an inquiry into the "order of human things",... into the State.' Instead of offering an exhaustive and academic definition of the political, Schmitt conceptualizes it 'within the totality of human thought and action', in terms of the primordial and seminal antithesis between 'friend' and 'enemy': 'just as in the field of morals, the ultimate distinctions are good and evil, in esthetics, beautiful and ugly, in economics, profitable and unprofitable, so the significantly political distinction is between friend and foe.' For Schmitt, then, the political is primordial; it comes before the State and transcends its mundane and routine policies. It reveals itself, historically, at the foundational moment of the polity, and conceptually, in the unwritten metaphysics of the constitution. Indeed, the political in the specifically Schmittian sense incarnates existential totality and determines a choice between being and nothingness.

The totalizing thrust of Schmitt's argument is directed against liberalism, which by the postulation of a false universalism, according to him, obscures the existentially paramount nature of politics and replaces it with the struggle for purely formal notions of rights. Thus, Schmitt is at pains to underscore that, within the purview of his theory, friend and foe are not to be construed as metaphors or symbols, for they are 'neither normative not pure spiritual antitheses.' Elsewhere, he elaborates the same point in the following manner: 'The distinction of friend and enemy denotes the utmost degree of intensity of a union or separation, of an association or dissociation. It can exist, theoretically and practically, without having simultaneously to draw upon all those moral, aesthetic, economic, or other distinctions. The political enemy need not be morally evil or aesthetically ugly; he need not appear as an economic competitor, and it may even be advantageous to engage with him in business transaction. But he is, nevertheless, the other, the stranger; and it is sufficient for his nature that he is, in a specially intense way, existentially something different and alien, so that in the extreme case conflicts with him are always possible. These can neither be decided by a previously determined norm nor by the judgement of a disinterested and therefore neutral third party.' (26-7; emphasis has been added.)

The political enemy, furthermore, must not be confounded with the private adversary whom one hates. For 'an enemy exists only when, at least potentially, one fighting collectivity of people confronts a similar collectivity. The enemy is solely the public enemy, because everything that has a relationship to such a collectivity of men, particularly to a whole nation, becomes public by virtue of such a relationship.' (28; my emphasis.) Given Schmitt's quintessentially tribal and bellicose conception of politics, it is not surprising that he is not disturbed by the New Testament exhortation: 'Love your enemies' (Matt: 5:44; Luke: 6:27) for the Bible quotation, he claims, does not touch the political antithesis, and 'it certainly does not mean that one should love and support the enemies of one's own people.' Thus, loving one's (private) enemy and pursuing the politics of the Holy Crusade are accepted as two complementary religio-political activities. Carrying his argument about the legitimacy of the two-tier, public-private, morality further, Schmitt then appeals to the logic of history itself: 'Never in the thousand year struggle between Christians and Moslems did id occur to a Christian to surrender rather than defend Europe out of love toward the Saracens or Turks.' (29) Thus, defining one's enemy is for him the first step towards defining the innermost self: 'Tell me who your enemy is and I'll tell you who you are,' Schmitt has pronounced on more than one occasion. Little wonder that he claims that 'the political is the most intense and extreme antagonism.'!

Given the possibility of actual, physical killing in a friend-enemy encounter, the political cannot be made subordinate to any other set of values or institution, whether religious, moral, aesthetic or economic. The political transcends all norms and upholds the sovereignty of the existential over the theoretical. Thus, 'war, the readiness of combatants to die, the physical killing of human beings who belong on the side of the enemy - all this has no normative meaning, but an existential meaning only, particularly in a real combat situation with a real enemy. There exists no rational purpose, no norm no matter how true, no programme no matter how exemplary, no social ideal no matter how beautiful, no legitimacy or legality which could justify men in killing each other for this reason. If such physical destruction is not motivated by an existential threat to one's own way of life, then it cannot be justified. Just as little can war be justified by ethical and juristic norms. If there really are enemies in the existential sense as meant here, then it is justified, but only politically, to repel and fight them physically.' (48-9; my italics) The justification for war, then, does not reside in its being fought for ideals or justice, or economic prosperity, but in its being fought for preserving the very existence of the polity.

In the final analysis, the political, inasmuch as it is sovereign, cannot be evaluated and measured by norms that are external to it; nor can it be avoided. The political is the fundamental fact of existence, the basic characteristic of human life from which man cannot escape; or, expressed differently, man would cease to be man by ceasing to be political. From the inevitability of the political, it also follows that pacifism is a lost cause and conciliatory visions of a universal humanity are nothing but pious delusions: 'The political entity presupposes the real existence of an enemy and therefore coexistence with another political entity. As long as a state exists, there will always be in the world more than just one state. A world state that embraces the entire globe and all of humanity cannot exist. The political world is a pluriverse, not a universe.' (53). It is hardly surprising that Schmitt's concept of the political has been understood as a strongly polemical text that exposes the hypocrisy of liberal humanism. Liberalism, with its predilection for vacuous abstractions, its burdensome legal formalism, its vacillation between military pacifism and moral crusading, its sham universalism of rights and its real espousal of inequality, remains for him the ultimate enemy of the political man. As for liberalism's moral claim to universal humanism, Schmitt is mercilessly candid: 'The concept of humanity is an especially useful ideological instrument of imperial expansion, and in its ethical-humanitarian form it is a specific vehicle of economic imperialism.'

Another work by Schmitt, equally succinct in format but equally explosive in its radicalism, is Political Theology which forms a necessary complement to The Concept of the Political. Here Schmitt extends the scope of his reflection on the political to arrive at a clearer understanding of the nature of statehood and sovereignty - and, in doing so, manages to destroy some of the most hallowed myths of liberal modernism. Schmitt, the disenchanted Catholic believer makes a pact with Schmitt, the utilitarian legalist, and re-examines the proper order of things political. The state, which for him is governed by the ever-present possibility of conflict and annihilation, requires a sovereign who, in the face of existential uncertainties, incarnates an authority that is superior to that of the law itself. Hence, the thundering opening of his treatise: 'The sovereign is he who decides on the exception.' It is a disturbingly 'realistic' view of politics, which, in the manner of Hobbes, subordinates de jure authority to de facto power: autoritas, non veritas facit legem. (The law is made by the one who has authority (i.e. power) and not the one who possesses the truth (the legitimate sovereign).)

The problem of the exception, for the constitutional jurist Schmitt, can only be resolved within the framework of a decision (an actual historical event) and not within that of a norm (an ahistoric and transcendent idea). Moreover, the legal act which decides what constitutes an exception is 'a decision in the true sense of the word', because a general norm, an ordinary legal prescription, 'can never encompass a total exception'. If so, then, 'the decision that a real exception exists cannot be derived entirely from this norm.' The problem of the exception, in other words, demarcates the limit of the rule of law and opens up that trans-legal space, that no-man's land of existential exigency, which is bereft of legal authority and where the decision of the sovereign abrogates the anomaly of the legal void. However, it is against the background of the liberal theory of the state, which equates 'sovereignty' with a simple 'rule of law', that Schmitt's highlighting of the problem of the exception becomes significant and meaningful. For, against the legal positivism of his times, Schmitt seems to be arguing that not law but the sovereign, not the legal text but the political will, is the supreme authority in a state. States are not legal entities but historical polities; they are engaged in a constant battle for survival where any moment of their existence may constitute an exception, it may engender a political crisis that cannot be remedied by the application of the rule of law. From the existential priority of the sovereign over the legitimacy of the norm, it would also follow that according to Schmitt, law is subservient to politics and not autonomous of it.

Far more formidable than the involuted argument about the juridic import of the exception is Schmitt's striking claim that 'all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts.' Schmitt identifies thereafter all the major metaphysical milestones that during the modern march from theology to jurisprudence transformed the omnipotent God into the supreme lawgiver. He suggests that in the course of the past four centuries, the spiritual centre of Western existence has changed four times, from theology to metaphysics, to humanistic morality to economics. However, it is a development that also signifies for him a deviation, an elimination of the idea of the miraculous which in jurisprudence reveals itself as the problem of the exception. Thus, the modern constitutional state 'which triumphed with deism - a theology and metaphysics that banished miracles from the world - refuses to acknowledge the problem of the exception', the sovereign's direct intervention in a valid legal order. Further, modern sociology has assumed functions that earlier were exercised by the natural law, namely, 'to utter demands for justice and to enunciate philosophical-historical construction of ideals.' Similarly, the modern state has acquired its own metaphysics: 'The concept of sovereignty in the theory of the state and the theory of "the sole supremacy of the state" make the state an abstract person so to speak, a unicum sui genris, with a monopoly of power "mystically produced": .. religious fiction is thus replaced by juristic fiction.' (39). In short, 'a continuous thread runs through the metaphysical, political, and sociological conceptions that postulate the sovereign as a personal unit and a primeval creator.'

Of course Schmitt is not alone in exposing the pre-modern, theological moorings of the modern state. The theme of representation, the symbolization of political-existential order on the analogy of the cosmological, has been admirably treated by Eric Voegelin, albeit a few decades after Schmitt's pristine analysis. Nevertheless, even in Schmitt's perception, just as in any discussion on political order, the problem of transcendence looms large. While in the seventeenth and eighteen centuries, he declares, the conception of God underscored his transcendence vis-à-vis the world, everything in the nineteenth century was governed by conceptions of immanence. Nearly all of the political and legal symbolism of that period thus reflects an immanentist scheme of things. But the problematic development, of which Schmitt then could have only faint premonitions, pointed towards an age when 'conceptions of transcendence will no longer be credible to most educated people, who will settle for either a more or less clear immanence-pantheism or a positive indifference towards any metaphysics.' However, by conceiving the sovereign as a trans-legal authority in times of crisis, Schmitt may have produced a satisfying answer for his own, Catholic, doctrine of political theology, but can the ultimate question of political legitimacy, valid for all believers, Catholic or otherwise, be resolved in this way; for, how can such a 'sovereign', any sovereign, command obedience if his rule lacks a transcendent normative basis?

From among the rich flora of exegetical and critical texts that all focus on Carl Schmitt, the man, and his challenging and disturbing legacy, the one by Renato Cristi, Carl Schmitt and Authoritarian Liberalism, is singular in not treating him as the nemesis of liberalism. Instead, Cristi demonstrates that Schmitt who, through his theory of the state, addressed the task of securing, in times of crises and external threats, the state's autonomy and integrity, was a supporter of 'strong state and sound economy', a model of statehood that has been found attractive by the ruling classes of contemporary states as divergent as Singapore and Chile. Schmitt however was not a 'totalitarian', because 'if totalitarianism means that the state ultimately assimilates and metabolizes civil society, at no point of his intellectual development did Schmitt espouse such a totalitarian view.' Similarly, if liberalism may be conceived as a purely formal system of legality, the self-regulating 'rule of law' (Rechtsstaat) that pretends to maintain itself with no reference to any substantive order of things, Schmitt would have to be reckoned as an implacable foe of this kind of apoliticism. However, if liberalism were to acknowledge the necessity of a sovereign state, a polity over and beyond the policies of the market, Schmitt could probably have reconciled himself to such a form of conservative or authoritarian liberalism.

Cristi's study further recommends itself on account of its balance, lucidity and academic rigour. Without the aid of esoteric imagery and arcane language, without theological and metaphysical niceties, but not without a fair degree of intellectual sophistication, he succeeds in introducing the general reader to Schmitt's discomfiting thought, just as he manages to situate his activities in a historical context that is immediately intelligible. It is a study not about the elusive 'political' of Schmitt's theory, but about politics, about the concrete world of European history where Schmitt's abstract ideas acquired a habitat and a form; where his philosophy and polemics affected both him and others. That it is an eminently reasonable tract, a highly appropriate guide to the gallery of Schmittian facts and artifacts, may be sampled through Cristi's concluding statement: 'Like Hobbes, Schmitt rejected cosmopolitan ideals and the intrinsic goodness of humankind... If we all lacked intrinsic goodness and virtue, this would mean that the political was unavoidable. Like Hobbes, Schmitt identified an autocratic strand within liberalism, but by Schmitt's time in Germany the danger to liberal society had become so acute that the danger to liberal society had become so acute that reincarnating the leviathan would be insufficient to save it. Schmitt conjured a darker vision than Hobbes and thereby warned us against engaging in any false optimism about the natural tendencies of liberal society. His critique of humanitarian liberalism should caution us about weaknesses of liberal theory at the end of the century. The preservation of a liberal society which maintains and sustains freedom requires us to look beyond liberalism to forms of social solidarity which are not wholly dependent on exclusive private property and economic growth, and are more open to participatory forms of democracy.' (211).

Heinrich Meier's The Lesson of Carl Schmitt belongs to a totally different breed of Schmittiana, in that by shifting its focus from political philosophy to political theology, it transforms Schmitt, the putative classical political theorist, the clear-eyed realist who studied the foundations of politics without liberal moral illusions, into Schmitt, the bizarre romantic whose heretical Catholic theology embraced a reactionary vision of a totalitarian theopolity. Meier, whose earlier study, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: the Hidden Dialogue, had cast doubt as to the veracity of the commonly held image of Schmitt as a 'political realist', now consummates his task by revealing the essentially theological, and medieval, context of Schmitt's intellectual universe. Meir's present work is very erudite, superbly structured, seductively written, but biased. He observes the 'theological-political predicament', the enchanted world of political philosophy, through the eyes of Leo Strauss, retaining his mentor's classicist preferences but also displaying a bemused neutrality that fails to hide his own, modernist prejudices. Nevertheless, it is a rewarding work and must be appraised as such, even by the Muslim critic.

Of the numerous manifestations of revulsion and critical acumen against the uncanny savagery of Schmitt's political theory, perhaps nothing matches the perspicacity, pathos and anguish of Karl Löwith's critique, 'The Occasional Decisionism of Carl Schmitt', that is now available in an English translation as part of a collection of essays, Martin Heidegger and European Nihilism. Löwith, who is perhaps best known for his landmark studies of modern, historicising consciousness, which barters transcendence for temporality but which discovers no ultimates but nothingness, responds to the scandalous claims of Schmitt's political theory in a spirit of enviable intellectual vigilance and moral defiance. Schmitt's antiromantic, atheological decisionism, Löwith reminds us, 'is simply in keeping with his conduct, which in each case has been dictated by opportunity and circumstance.' Significantly, however, though Schmitt comes to the insight that the central domain of life - which for him is always the political domain - cannot be neutral, he has no inkling as to what the myth of our times, of twentieth century, incarnates. For Löwith, it is the aesthetic that provides the link between these transformations, for 'this aestheticization of all the domains of life was simply a prelude to the radical neutralization which then took place by means of economy and technology.' Or, the root of the depoliticization of the life-world that Schmitt finds so abhorrent lies in the aesthetic.

Starting from Schmitt's insight that 'what is characteristic for the romantic in general is that for him anything can become the centre of his spiritual life, for his own existence has no middle', Löwith concludes that as long as the romantic is a romantic, the world becomes for him a mere occasion, a vehicle or an incentive that has no meaning other than the self-realization of his ironic, scheming ego. Little wonder that 'the romantic conception of occasio negates - as does Schmitt's concept of decision! - every commitment to a norm.' It would also follow that political romanticism is merely psuedopolitical, because it lacks moral seriousness and political energy. In the light of all this Löwith can now confidently claim: 'Of course Schmitt's own theory of politics lacks not only an underlying central domain, but also a metaphysics of decision, which he rightfully recognizes to be the sustaining foundation of Marx's "scientific" socialism, and it further lacks the theological foundation which sustain Kierkegaard's religious decision in favour of an authoritative government. Hence, it will remain to be asked: by faith in what is Schmitt's "demanding, moral decision" sustained..?' (141). In the end, there's no escaping the conclusion, embarrassing for Schmitt and his allies, that the doctrine of decisionism - pure will that bows before no sovereign truth - is nihilistic. In the final analysis, it cannot sustain the political will which is the given of its discourse. In sum. Karl Löwith cogently demonstrates that the political, and hence the existential, as a sovereign domain, as a norm unto itself, is 'meaningless' and cannot stand at the highest rung of the scale of human values - a conclusion with which no Muslim, indeed no believer, can disagree.

Löwith's book claims further attention from the Muslim reader on account of its penetrating analysis of the other fashionable trends of European philosophy that all terminate in the wasteland of nihilism - the bête noire of Islamic thought. He guides us through the intellectual and philosophical landscape of the dark times of the European past, times when another German thinker, Heidegger, annunciated his own nihilistic doctrine of Existenzphilosophie. For Löwith, the intellectual affinities between Schmitt's political existentialism and Heidegger's philosophical existentialism are far from fortuitous. 'It is no accident', he asserts, 'if Heidegger's existential ontology corresponds to a political "decisionism" in Carl Schmitt, a decisionism that shifts the capacity for "Being-as-a-whole" of the Dasein which is always on its own to the "totality" of the state which is always one's own. The self-assertion of political existence, and to "freedom toward death" correspond the "sacrifice of life" in the political exigency of war. In both cases, the principle is the same, namely "facticity", i.e., what remains of life when one does away with all life-content.' Yet again are we reminded of the futility of all purely temporal - existential, occasional, decisionist -schemes of things and their inability to engender any ethic of right and wrong!

The Muslim interest in Carl Schmitt, I believe, is not for historical reasons, insofar as the context of his life does not eclipse the text of his thought. Schmittism may be a specifically European phenomenon that can only be understood and appraised against the background of philosophical nihilism and political uncertainty from which it emerges. Nevertheless, some of the questions that Schmitt raises about politics, law and the state, and the very provocative answers that he gives to them, are the very stuff of political reflection and as such far transcend the narrow confines of his European context. From the moral point of view, he may be despicable and the normative import of his theories may be virtually nil, but it is as a phenomenologist of the political - he characterizes himself as the 'metaphysician of the political' - that his insights make demands on the Muslim thinker. That he has been totally ignored by the Western 'Islamologue', or that Muslim writers show no awareness of his radical theories, is a fact that may be regretted but which may not daunt the critical Muslim thinker from making a direct and independent encounter with his thought. Carl Schmitt's problematic political philosophy, in my opinion, not only de-masks the duplicity of the dominant liberal ideology, it also helps us de-construct many of the peculiarities of fiqhi discourse that arouse the outsider's squeamish aversion and the insider's ingenuous perplexity. This last suggestion, namely to initiate, within the discourse of fiqh, a hermeneutical reflection that takes full cognizance of Schmitt's phenomenology of law, however, demands a much wider inquiry and deserves a far more extended comment than is possible within the scope of this review essay and may therefore be reserved for a future occasion.

Far less innocuous than any hermeneutical encounter between Schmitt and the fuqaha of the past, however, is the ghost of Schmitt that haunts Muslims here and now in the Islamophobic scenarios of a future 'clash of civilizations.' For there can be no doubt that this barbaric 'theory', wishful thinking if not a self-fulfilling prophecy, is nothing but a reincarnation of the infamous Schmittian 'friend-enemy' distinction that according to him constitutes the heart of political existence. Of the very few Muslim responses to this challenge, i.e., the deliberate, persistent and vicious cultivation of imagery and discourses that define Islam as the 'enemy', the one by Ahmet Davutoglu, Civilizational Transformation and the Muslim World, merits scholarly attention, not least because of its sophistication candour and optimism. Through a panoramic, trans-cultural vision, Davutoglu surveys the mileposts of 'universal' history and detects in our own times an air of crisis, a moment of 'ontological insecurity', 'epistemological relavitity', 'ethico-material and ecological imbalances', etc. Perceiving also that a new, global civilization is emerging, Davutoglu resents the fact that historic animosities and perverse political interests of the West prevent Islam from playing a meaningful and legitimate role in this transformational process. The current world order, he rails, incorporates an inveterate and congenital form of anti-Islamism. He ends his sustained reflection, as strategic as it is philosophical, by exhorting the Muslims to develop civilizational visions and strategies to reclaim their rightful share in the future of humanity. All of this makes Davutoglu's rather terse statement both Isamically significant and ideationally rewarding.

In a similar vein, Victor Segesvary, a Hungarian emigré in the US who has been associated with the United Nations, meditates on the spiritual, moral and cultural state of the world. His is however a tract of meta-theory that incorporates, in the author's own idiosyncratic manner, philosophical insights, moral criticisms, utopian visions and religious homilies of almost every notable thinker under the sun. It is a Herculean effort, a formidable display of the author's erudition, an eloquent testimony to his involvement with the future of our humanity, but, alas, it lacks focus and clarity. Notwithstanding its imposing, even intimidating, title, Segevary offers no 'political' blueprints for the future world which has experienced the 'collapse of the universalistic worldview.' On the contrary, he hopes that a new civilization will arise on the basis of an 'ontological/cosmic perspective.' It is a visionary reflection that should appeal to other visionaries!

For Muslims, who find themselves at the receiving end of civilizational polemics, the lesson of Carl Schmitt is precisely the political nature of the world-order, the duplicity of its institutions and the sanctimony of its moral crusaders. Universalism is the mask that hides the countenance of hegemony and might is the right of the elect. Carl Schmitt's thought, an authentic product of Western elf-reflection, opens up an intellectual space that allows us the luxury of indulging in counter-polemics. And yet, we must be weary of the polemical as well as the political. For the ultimate value that Islam stands for is not political but trans-political; the final aim of its mission is not the eradication, or subjugation, of its enemies, not the establishment of a universal state, not the sustenance of a global order of terror and economic exploitation, but the unity of man and peace in the city of humanity. Islam means sovereignty of the Transcendent and not of the political.

Stockholm                                                                    S Parvez Manzoor



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