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Colloquium Series - William Rasch "Carl Schmitt's Defense of Democracy"

Friday, March 13, 2015
12:00 AM
Rackham - East Conference Room

Carl Schmitt accommodated himself to the ascendency of democratic thinking in the post–World
War I world of the 1920s. No sovereign authority, he argued, could fail to acknowledge “the
people” as the constituent power of an established political order. Consequently, democracy and
“the political” become synonymous in his Constitutional Theory (1928). To champion democracy,however, Schmitt emphasized the historical distinction between democracy, based on equality and homogeneity of the collective, and liberalism, which features the primacy of the private individual’s liberty. My paper shows that key to understanding Schmitt’s defense of democracy
against liberalism are his notions of representation, acclamation, and plebiscitary leadership, as
well as a strong sense of the public persona of the citizen. I argue that even though we shun his
reading of democracy today, a full understanding of the liberal-democratic compromise that we
now call democracy benefits from a close reading of Schmitt.

Discussion of pre-circulated paper - please contact Gitta Killough at
to request an electronic copy.