Back in early 2018, when Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life was a global sensation, he was interviewed by North London luvvie Helen Lewis for GQ. In that interview she complained to Peterson about Nietzsche(1:24:44):
You write in your book about Nietzsche, who became the Nazis’ favorite intellectual…
I determined then and there that I would read everything that Nietzsche wrote. Because when Good Little Girls know that something out there is “eeuuww,” you know there’s gold in them thar hills.
I also know that Carl Schmitt – the “German jurist, political theorist, and prominent member of the Nazi Party,” as La Wik puts it – is out of bounds to all respectable people. How do I know? I just know; it’s in the air I breathe.
So last week I decided to brave everything and buy Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political. And it changed my life. You may say that, at age 75, it’s a bit late for that. I couldn’t possibly comment.
Schmitt starts by noticing that nobody has ever defined the political.
In general, “political” is in some way equated with “state,” or at least related to the state. The state then appears as something political, to political as something related to the state[.]
So, it’s up to Schmitt, Nazi or not, to define the political for us. And he does, in Chapter II.
The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be traced is the distinction between friend and enemy.
Ouch. That is what changed my life. Schmitt goes on in his smarmy Nazi way to relate the friend-enemy distinction to “good and evil in the moral; beautiful and ugly in the aesthetic.” They are not the same, because only in politics does disagreement lead to conflict.
[The enemy] is just the other, the stranger… so that in extreme cases conflicts with him are possible.
The word “conflict,” he writes, “does not mean competition” or “debate” or the routine “struggle” of life. It means killing.
The terms friend, enemy, and conflict… refer specifically to the real possibility of physical killing.
Let’s make it real simple. In politics, you need your friends, but you really need an enemy. And when push comes to shove, you have no problem killing your enemies: Jews for Hitler, kulaks for Stalin, “class enemies” for Mao.
What about religion? According to Schmitt, when a disagreement between religions escalates into a “religious war,” the war is political because the opposing religions experience each other as enemies. Same with the Marxist “class struggle.” It may start out as economic or cultural, but when it escalates to civil war -- or world revolution -- we are talking about the classes experiencing each other as enemies, not merely as ordinary exploiters or average wage earners.
The “enemy” experience is key. If you experience other people in politics as beyond the pale – racists, sexists, homophobes – then it is a short step to deciding that they should all be put in jail, or, in the worst case, eliminated.
I notice that when I write something that is going to skewer lefties or wokies or progressives I like to preface the rhetorical jab with “our liberal friends.” Just to show that they are not enemies.
But the problem of our age is that “our liberal friends” believe that politics is the royal road to justice. And politics always needs an enemy; that’s what Nazi Carl Schmitt says, and the Nazis know.
"The high point of politics are the moments in which the enemy is, in concrete clarity, recognized as the enemy," wrote Thiel, quoting Schmitt, in his essay. He would later assign the philosopher to a class he taught at Stanford in 2019.
Politics is the exercise of collective power against human opposition.
There is no politics without an enemy.
The thing that worries me is that our liberal friends really have No Idea that their faith in politics is playing with fire. They think they can use the white working class as punching bags, stigmatize them as white supremacists and armed insurrectionists, and continue to rule as they have always done. Living in their bubble they have No Idea that they are stirring up rage and opposition all across the fruited plain.
And they are clumsy. That’s my evaluation of the Steele Dossier, the Trump Russia Collusion, the impeachments, the cancelings, the January 6 “armed insurrection,” the absurd response to the Wu Flu.
These people are flapping around incoherently, and if their wonderful programs haven’t bent the arc of history towards justice it must be the work of the enemy.
Maybe they should read Nazi Carl Schmitt. They might learn something.
Original published on September 21, 2021. See here.