IILJ Working Paper 2004/8 (History and Theory of International Law Series)

Puzzles and Solutions: Appreciating Carl Schmitt’s Work on International Law as Answers to the Dilemmas of his Weimar Political Theory

Christoph Burchard

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Carl Schmitt and his impressive oeuvre have become focal points of today’s academic interest, whilst his work on international law and international relations does so far not conjure intense discussions. It seems common to deem Schmitt’s turn to geopolitics awkward and abrupt or to consider it a mere tactical maneuver to overcome academic and political isolation. Schmitt’s early and deep-going entanglement with Nazi Germany and his prominent role as the Kronjurist of the Third Reich not only made him a persona-non-grata on the international parquet or in Germany’s post-War scholarship, but already before the end of the Second World War had the German jurist been isolated in Nazi circles. To report an anonymous commentator, whose view seems to prevail today: Schmitt ‘seeks a new field of activity in which he would like to avoid his complete marginalization, hoping eventually to regain his momentum.’ Somewhat ironically, this view is not referring to the contemporary disregard for Schmitt’s turn to foreign affairs, but the anonymous commentator served as an operative for the Nazi secret service.

In this article, I intend to challenge the contemporary academic indifference for Schmitt’s reflections about the international arena. I will not argue that Schmitt’s ideas on the international realm are worthwhile being introduced into contemporary debates on how to reframe the global architecture; rather, I will submit that his foundational works on international law and international relations provide answers for various dilemmas and puzzles that pervaded and even dictated his Weimar pieces on domestic political theory.