EuroStorie research seminar: Tuukka Brunila 17.4.2020

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Time: Friday 17.4.2020 13:00-14:00

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Tuukka Brunila: De-politicization of the economy as a political process – On Carl Schmitt, liberalism and the economy


In contemporary discussion of Carl Schmitt’s critique of liberalism, his relationship to liberalism is seen as two-folded. On the one hand, Schmitt is seen as an enemy of the liberal order, but on the other hand, his theory of the state is seen as a predecessor of neoliberal authoritarian state. Schmitt is definitely not a liberal, but his intellectual relationship to liberalism remains contested. “For many,” as Martti Koskenniemi writes in The Gentle Civilizer of Nations, Schmitt “was an external enemy, while others regard him an internal critic.”

This presentation takes on this lack of clarity by looking at Schmitt’s ideas about the relationship between the state and economy. Schmitt is very critical of classical liberalism and its de-politicization of the economy. However, Schmitt opposes politicization of the economy as well, and declares that only a strong state can maintain the independence of the economy from the state. He thus claims that a de-politicization - or literally the establishment of a “state-free area” – is only possible through political means. I argue that even though Schmitt opposes liberalism, he operates within the liberal distinction between the political and economic spheres. Whereas the classical liberals, at least according to Schmitt’s accusations, established the independence of the economy from the political, Schmitt wants to establish the independence of the political from the economy.

Because Schmitt remains within this framework, one that sees politics and the economy as distinct spheres, it becomes understandable why some ordo- and neoliberals were influenced by Schmitt’s theory of a strong authoritarian state. A strong state can limit the politicization of the economy. However, Schmitt is definitely not a (neo)liberal, and the neoliberals rejected Schmitt’s ideas about how a state should operate. Nonetheless, my analysis of Schmitt’s conception of de-politicization brings more emphasis to the point Leo Strauss, another conservative political theorist, has made that Schmitt’s anti-liberalism remains within the “horizon” of liberalism.

About the speaker

Tuukka Brunila (M.A.) is a PhD student in EuroStorie subproject 2, Discovering the Limits of Reason – Europe and the Crisis of Universalism. He specialises in continental philosophy and history of philosophy. His main topic of interest is the relationship between politics and reason.