Republican Political Theology in the Age of Hobbes
Feisal G. Mohamed (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
This is a Faculty Membership talk. With its doctrines of endless war, indefinite detention, and ubiquitous battlefield, the past decade has left ringing in our ears the infamous pronouncement of Carl Schmitt: “Sovereign is he who defines the exception.” This talk shall explore the ways in which a return to Schmitt in our own moment repeats earlier debates on the legal and the political: his emphasis on the decisionism of sovereignty set itself against the thought of Hans Kelsen, a neo-Kantian arguing for supra-national norms as legitimating the legal order of the state. Similar tensions are evident in the age of Thomas Hobbes, a historical moment to which Schmitt intermittently returns in his writings, though the English republican antidote to Hobbesean sovereignty depends not on legal proceduralism but on the decisionism of an elect few, an anti-democratic strain that persists in notions of popular sovereignty undergirding post-Enlightenment republics.