Fall 2024

Carl Schmitt and the Jurisprudence of Illiberalism

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-342


Adam Sitze (Section 01)


(RESEARCH SEMINAR)  Few twentieth-century intellectuals are as controversial and as influential as the German jurist Carl Schmitt (1888-1985). A prominent critic of liberal democracy during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), Schmitt generated novel theories of dictatorship, political theology, sovereignty, constitutional law, and emergency powers that were studied closely by all sides of the Weimar political spectrum. Following Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Schmitt joined the Nazi Party and became one of its most prominent legal thinkers, in which capacity he published numerous antisemitic texts. Following the defeat of Nazism in 1945, American authorities arrested Schmitt and permanently banned him from university teaching. Schmitt’s post-war detention and ban was initiated and led by Amherst College professor Karl Loewenstein (1891-1973), whose 1945 arrest warrant called Schmitt “a man of near-genius rating." From 1945 until his death, Schmitt published and lectured on topics mainly related to international law, the laws of war, and geopolitics. Today he remains widely condemned for his Nazism and antisemitism, while also being widely regarded as an especially incisive critic of modern legal institutions, theories, and practices. In this research seminar, our primary goal will be to study Schmitt’s key texts in relation to their political, legal, and historical context. Our secondary goal will be to develop methods for parsing the extensive secondary literature that has emerged on topics related to Schmitt's thought. Along the way, we shall pay special attention to the question of Schmitt’s complicity with political evil and ask what lessons, if any, Schmitt’s texts might hold for our own time. 

Limited to 15 students. Fall Semester. Professor Sitze.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to LJST Juniors and Seniors

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: (a) emphasis on written work, and (b) emphasis on heavy readings.

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2024