Spatial contestation? – The theological foundations of Carl Schmitt’s spatial thought

Release date: 2012-06

Carl Schmitt’s work on the political is extensively used as an intellectual point of departure in contemporary academic debates about political contestation. More precisely, Carl Schmitt’s friend versus enemy-distinction is invoked as an essential figuration of political contestation. At the same time, the past few years have seen the attention paid to the spatial thought of Carl Schmitt increase. However, references to the work of Carl Schmitt fail to take the embeddedness of his theories in a complex theological–political–spatial triangle into account. This article aims at joining these readings of Schmitt with regard to the current debate about contestation and space by analyzing the idiosyncratic connection between Carl Schmitt’s Catholic faith, especially in the figure of the katechon, his theory of the political and his conceptualization(s) of space. The underlying logic of his worldview becomes explicit by reviewing his concepts of (a) the nomos, (b) land and sea, (c) the Großraumordnung, as well as (d) the Partisan, which form the benchmarks of his work between the 1930s and the 1960s. Against this background we analyze the value of Schmitt’s work for the ongoing debate about contestation and space. Our core argument is that his understanding of the spatial–political nexus and his metaphysical worldview stand in contrast to contemporary conceptualizations of spatial–political relationships.