Levi 2007 – Professor of English at Drew University (Neil, New German Critique, 34.2 101, “Carl Schmitt and the Question of the Aesthetic”, Duke Journals, WEA)
I want to use Schmitt’s defense of his concept of the political against its enemies as a license to suggest that in the Schmittian universe there are such things as enemy concepts and that Schmitt sees the aesthetic as the conceptual enemy of the political. When Schmitt talks about the aesthetic, he means the realm of the autonomous production and evaluation of art, art governed by its own laws and sovereign figures, functioning independently of political, religious, or moral strictures. He also employs a notion of “aesthetic consumption” that is akin to Benjamin’s notion of aestheticization. Like aestheticization, aesthetic consumption imports the mode of perception usually brought to works of art and to nature to other spheres of human activity, especially politics. ¶ A conceptual enemy will not fulfill all the terms of Schmitt’s definition of the enemy: for example, a concept is not a collective. But it will satisfy some important requirements. To say that Schmitt sees the aesthetic as the enemy of the political will be to say that he sees the aesthetic as that which negates and threatens, but also brings to light, the political’s distinctive features.¶ If the enemy embodies our own question, then the enemy cannot be merely an alien, opposing force. To embody a fundamental question we have about ourselves the enemy must also have a distinctive relationship to us. In “Weisheit der Zelle” (“The Cell’s Wisdom”), in which Schmitt delivers the line “The enemy embodies our own question” for the first time, he also asks, “Whom can I recognize as my enemy? Clearly only he who puts me into question . . . and who can really put me into question? Only I, myself. Or my brother. That’s it. The other is my brother.”23¶ Schmitt then comments that human history begins with Cain and Abel. Perhaps his point is that the brother is the one who reminds you of what you can least tolerate in yourself or who knows how to ask the questions that get right under your skin. Perhaps it is that the brother who resembles me puts into question my uniqueness in the eyes of others. Cain wanted to be special, too. In any case, if we follow Schmitt here, then my enemy is neither an uncanny Doppelgänger nor a total alien but one who is both significantly different from and disturbingly similar to me. And if the enemy is in some sense my brother, then between enemy concepts there will be something like an unsettling family resemblance. ¶ Schmitt sees the aesthetic as the existential negation of the political in two apparently contradictory ways. On the one hand, he suggests that the dominance of aesthetic perception is a precursor to destruction of the Lebensform, to political defeat: “Everywhere in political history the incapacity or the unwillingness to make [the] distinction [between friend and enemy] is a symptom of the political end” (CP, 68). For example, before the Revolution the Russian bourgeoisie romanticized the Russian peasant, he says, while “a relativistic bourgeoisie in a confused Europe searched all sorts of exotic cultures for the purpose of making them an object of its aesthetic consumption” (CP, 68). For Schmitt, romanticization and exoticization of the other are modes of aestheticization. Aesthetic consumption, he thinks, is a condition, like consump- tion proper, with fatal consequences. It negates political perception—negates, that is, the ability to recognize a mortal threat when one sees it.24 On the other hand, Schmitt believes that if the friend-enemy distinction and, with it, war itself vanished from the earth, the world that remained would be, so to speak, an aesthetic world. Schmitt writes that if war became impossible, then “the distinction of friend and enemy would also cease” and what remained would be “neither politics nor state, but culture, civilization, economics, morality, law, art, entertainment, and so on” (CP, 53). Commenting in the 1930s on this list of remainders, Strauss pointed out that “the ‘and so on’ following on ‘entertainment’ hides the fact that ‘entertainment’ is in actual fact the final member of the series, its finis ultimus. . . . what the opponents of the political have in mind is to bring into being a world of entertainment, a world of fun, a world devoid of seriousness.”25¶ Schmitt himself recommended Strauss’s commentary to his friends as one that he believed saw right through him like an X-ray. For Schmitt, then, the world of arts and entertainment is the world of the decadent European bourgeoisie become universal: a world in which everything is interesting but nothing is taken seriously. One thinks of contemporary diatribes against postmodern irony, especially during the soul-searching that took place in the United States for a few weeks after September 11, 2001, weeks in which the idea of the enemy could still raise questions about one’s own form of life.
Metaphors are weak politics – the political requires a concrete and absolute identification of the enemy – it’s the only way to solve real life violence.
Kahn prof english @ berkeley 2k3 (Victoria, “Hamlet or Hecuba: Carl Schmitt’s Decision” Representations, No. 83 Jstor)
In The Concept of the Political Schmitt also equates liberalism with an aesthetic approach to politics. He begins by defining the political, in contrast to the liberal ideals of formal neutrality and depoliticization, as an "intensification" of differ- ences and allegiances to the point where "public collective enemies" are willing to fight each other on the battlefield (38, 28). Here Schmitt repeatedly insists that the friend/enemy distinction is not a "metaphor" but a "concrete, existential" reality(27), linked to the possibility of "real physical killing" (33). Reiterating the thesis of Political Theology, he argues that the extreme case of war reveals the core of politics precisely because it is an exception and requires a decision (36). Politics is at its core a matter of conflict; law, which attempts to adjudicate conflict is a form of "civi- lized" depoliticization and thus the counterpart of aesthetics (53). Thus "all genuine political theories"-those of Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Benedict de Spinoza, for example-"presuppose man to be evil" (61), inclined to violent conflict and con- cerned with self-preservation (67). In light of this elemental truth of human nature and the existential intensity of the friend/enemy confrontation, liberal representa- tive democracy and the notion of the "absolutely autonomous" "aesthetic value judgment" (72) appear as fundamentally suspect. Political and aesthetic representa- tion are equally condemned. Both in politics and in art, in short, Schmitt argues for myth and against representation, for decisionism and against the aesthetic.