Definition of political liberal

Carl SchmittNote: The following short synthesis of Schmitt’s classic essay The Concept of the Political stems, in part, from a recent discussion with the Bay Area Nationalist Book Club.

However it is posed, the question of the political is always about the most important issue facing every people.

The political, though, is not to be confused with “politics” or “party-politics, ” which speaks to individual or special interest in parliamentary gas houses.

“Politics” is tied to rationalism, materialism, economism, and the rule of Mammon, all of which undermine authority, tradition, and the imperatives of the “political.”


The political addresses the state in its highest manifestation as the agent of its inner peace and outer security.

Only after liberal society reformed the state — to enable private individuals to maneuver for positions of power and influence, once particular interests superseded the polity’s collective interest — did politics and the political begin to diverge. (In the Unites States, the first liberal state, politics was a business from the very beginning).

The political for Schmitt is thus not about what is conventionally thought of as politics, but rather about those situations, where the state (“the political status of an organized people in an enclosed territorial unit”) is separate from and above society, especially in situations when it is threatened with destruction by a superpersonal movement or entity and must therefore act to defend itself and the community it is dedicated to defending.


The polar categories defining the political are, as such, those of the friend–enemy distinction — a distinction implying the possibility of physical killing between rival states. This distinction is based on antithetical categories distinct to the political — distinct in the way that the categories of good and evil are specific to morality, the beautiful and the ugly to aesthetics, the profitable or unprofitable to economics, etc.


Who is the enemy? For Schmitt, it is the superpersonal other, the stranger, the existential outsider, whose intense hostility and readiness for combat threatens the state and the relations of friendship internal to it.

The enemy is thus designated not on the basis of personal feelings or moral judgments (inimicus), but only in face of an intensely hostile power (hostis), which menaces the state’s existence.

An enemy, in this sense, exists wherever one fighting-collectivity poses an existential threat to another collectivity.

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