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The Challenge of the Exception

An Introduction to the Political Ideas of Carl Schmitt Between 1921 and 1936, 2nd Edition

by George Schwab

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Cover image for The Challenge of the Exception

October 1989


Pages 189
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Politics, Law, and Government/General

The Challenge of the Exception is the key that unlocked the ideas of Carl Schmitt, a leading political theorist and jurist who influenced the thoughts of, among others, Hannah Arendt, Carl Joachim Friedrich, Otto Kirchheimer, Hans Morgenthau, Franz Neumann, and Leo Strauss. Professor Schwab clearly articulates Schmitt's key concepts and relates their centrality to politics and the state, to the political theory of liberalism, democracy and authoritarianism, and to international relations. When Schwab treats Schmitt's interpretations of constitutional questions, for example, he shows how political theory in Germany is inextricably linked with constitutional law, legal theory, and the country's history.

Not content to merely deal with Schmitt's profound contributions to twentieth-century thought, Schwab devotes considerable space to the unconscionable compromises that he made with the Third Reich. This, however, failed to help him become the political and legal theorist of Hitler's Germany. Schwab shows how the new Schmitt was suspect from the beginning and, by 1936, Schmitt the hunter had become Schmitt the hunted. Schwab's presentation of the multifaceted Carl Schmitt exposes the reader to a truly interdisciplinary excursion into the humanities and social sciences.

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Second EditionPrefaceIntroductionSchmitt and the Weimar Constitution: 1921-1933The Meaning of DictatorshipThe Meaning of SovereigntyThe Meaning of Democracy and LiberalismThe Meaning of the Presidial SystemHitler Conquers WeimarSchmitt and National Socialism: 1933-1936State, Movement, PeopleConcrete-Order ThinkingArmy, Party, StateTheology, Defeat, and the Benito Cereno MythConclusionBibliographyIndex of NamesSubject Index



The Challenge of the Exception is a truly 'pioneering' work by a student who dared to take a detached scholarly approach to Schmitt.—Joseph W. Bendersky, Virginia Commonwealth University

The Challenge of the Exception was the first book on Carl Schmitt's thought to appear in English. It is not likely to lose its place as the first source for work on this important thinker.—Ellen Kennedy, University of Pennsylvania

The burgeoning of Schmitt studies in the United States today is no doubt due primarily to Schwab, who virtually alone has pioneered that effort.—G. L. Ulmen, New York

The work of Professor George Schwab, which, while once highly controversial, is now largely accepted by Schmitt specialists.—John Stroup, Rice University

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