What’s Left in Schmitt? Critique of an Academic Fashion

Duke alumnus Matthew Specter is Associate Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University.

In the past quarter of a century, the academy has witnessed an explosion of interest in the political theory of Carl Schmitt (1900-1985). For some of the Left, Schmitt offers resources for a critique of U.S. Imperialism, the narrow spectrum of liberal democracies, and the idealism of deliberative democracy. This lecture uses Schmitt’s biography and political theory to highlight and criticize recent Schmitt appropriations on the political Left. It argues that Schmitt, or Schmittianism, as a leftist project is historically incoherent. The theorist of fascism and the ideologist of Nazi Lebensraum is simply not worth the tendentious stretching and pulling necessary to turn him into a progressive and emancipatory egalitarian thinker. Schmitt offers no new vision for the contemporary Left.