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Theory of the Partisan: Intermediate Commentary on the Concept of the Political

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Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), one of the great legal and political thinkers of the 20th century, thought long and hard about the role and significance of war. He saw how the international law of the Eurocentric era of world history began to falter at the end of World War I and foundered at the end of World War II. Following World War II, belligerent acts around the world began Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), one of the great legal and political thinkers of the 20th century, thought long and hard about the role and significance of war. He saw how the international law of the Eurocentric era of world history began to falter at the end of World War I and foundered at the end of World War II. Following World War II, belligerent acts around the world began to assume a distinctly partisan character, and the belligerents were increasingly non-state actors. His Theory of the Partisan originated in two lectures that Schmitt delivered in 1962, which addressed the transformation of war in the post-European age. Schmitt concludes Theory of the Partisan with the statement: "The theory of the partisan flows into the question of the concept of the political, into the question of the real enemy and of a new nomos of the earth." Theory of the Partisan analyzes a specific and significant phenomenon that ushered in a new theory of war and enmity. It contains an implicit theory of the terrorist, which in the 21st century has ushered in yet another new theory of war and enmity. Consequently, this work is not only of historical interest, but is relevant to contemporary political and military developments and concerns.


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Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), one of the great legal and political thinkers of the 20th century, thought long and hard about the role and significance of war. He saw how the international law of the Eurocentric era of world history began to falter at the end of World War I and foundered at the end of World War II. Following World War II, belligerent acts around the world began Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), one of the great legal and political thinkers of the 20th century, thought long and hard about the role and significance of war. He saw how the international law of the Eurocentric era of world history began to falter at the end of World War I and foundered at the end of World War II. Following World War II, belligerent acts around the world began to assume a distinctly partisan character, and the belligerents were increasingly non-state actors. His Theory of the Partisan originated in two lectures that Schmitt delivered in 1962, which addressed the transformation of war in the post-European age. Schmitt concludes Theory of the Partisan with the statement: "The theory of the partisan flows into the question of the concept of the political, into the question of the real enemy and of a new nomos of the earth." Theory of the Partisan analyzes a specific and significant phenomenon that ushered in a new theory of war and enmity. It contains an implicit theory of the terrorist, which in the 21st century has ushered in yet another new theory of war and enmity. Consequently, this work is not only of historical interest, but is relevant to contemporary political and military developments and concerns.

30 review for Theory of the Partisan: Intermediate Commentary on the Concept of the Political

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Review: April 2010 Who is, was, and will be, the Partisan? This book, the 'Theory of the Partisan', grew out of two lectures delivered March of 1962, fittingly, in Spain. I say 'fittingly' because it was in Spain, during the resistance to Napoleon, that we first encounter the full figure of the partisan fighter. Schmitt observes that 'regular' warfare (which is contrasted with the irregular warfare of the partisan throughout this text) only emerged with (that is, in opposition to) Napoleon and the Review: April 2010 Who is, was, and will be, the Partisan? This book, the 'Theory of the Partisan', grew out of two lectures delivered March of 1962, fittingly, in Spain. I say 'fittingly' because it was in Spain, during the resistance to Napoleon, that we first encounter the full figure of the partisan fighter. Schmitt observes that 'regular' warfare (which is contrasted with the irregular warfare of the partisan throughout this text) only emerged with (that is, in opposition to) Napoleon and the armies of the French Revolution. It is as if, from the very beginning, modern 'enlightened' politico-military order called forth its demonic other. We are reminded that Napoleon had 250,000 troops who were held in check by 50,000 partisans. ...What? How? - This is Napoleon for God's sake! Well, yes, but in order to be a great General one needs at least two things: an army that will competently obey, and an enemy who will stand and fight. Even though the French Revolutionary troops provided the former, the Spanish partisans refused to provide Napoleon the latter... From these beginnings Schmitt traces the History and Theory of the Partisan in a very terse manner. (Schmitt's book, really only an essay, is only 95 pages long.) After the defeat of Napoleon the victors, at the Congress of Vienna, "reestablished the concepts of European laws of war." However, as Schmitt points out, with "the introduction of compulsory military service, all wars become in principle wars of national liberation..." Thus Schmitt implies that to lose a war now means to lose the right to be a self-determining people. Since every war is now, at least potentially, a fight for national survival, there can be (in fact) no more limited wars... Naturally, along the way, we learn something of civil wars and colonial wars, both of which always had a partisan presence. Our author also reminds us that the Russian Empire, throughout the 19th century, fought various irregular wars against numerous mountain people it sought to subdue. Russia is important to Schmitt's thesis because it is from Russia (i.e., from Lenin and Communism) that, according to our author, a most pernicious form of Partisan warfare (communist internationalism) would eventually arise. Schmitt reminds us that Napoleon also fought partisans in Russia, and that Napoleon also lost there. In frustration, Napoleon reportedly said, that "in fighting the partisan anywhere, one must fight like a partisan". But who is the Partisan? Anyone? No. Early on in this essay Schmitt concedes that one can say that 'to be a man is to be a fighter', and adds that "the consistent individualist does indeed fight on his own terms and, if he is courageous, at his own risk. He then becomes his own party-follower. (p. 19)" Though noting this possibility he dismisses this anarchy vaguely as merely a "sign of the time". So then, who are the Partisans that we are to be interested in? Schmitt defines them thusly, they are: 1. Irregular Troops (no uniforms, weapons hidden, e.g.) 2. Mobil (flexibility, speed, the ability to quickly attack and retreat) 3. Intensely Political (unlike, say, pirates, - who are really only unpolitical 'businessmen'!) 4. Telluric (a local movement, rooted to a given 'land') Or, at any rate, that is who Schmitt wishes they were. You see, the partisan "changes his essence once he identifies with the absolute aggressivity of a world-revolutionary or a technicistic [sic] ideology. (p. 20)" But of course the 'old-school' partisans described above will always be with us. "For at least as long as anti-colonial wars are possible on our planet, the partisan will represent a specifically terrestrial type of active fighter." So, you see, it is not only communist universalism that is changing the nature of the Partisan (for the worse), but progressive technocratic modernity itself. Modern weapons and communications allow telluric partisans to be easily used as pawns in the various chess matches of the Great Powers. But who really is using whom? ...Huh? Don't the Great Powers, especially the nuclear powers, seemingly by definition, always have the "upper hand"? ...So it would seem. But the following remark of Schmitt does make one wonder: "...belligerent actions after 1945 had assumed a partisan character, because those who had nuclear bombs shunned using them for humanitarian reasons, and those who did not have them could count on these reservations - an unexpected effect of both the atomic bomb and humanitarian concerns. (p. 24)" The Geneva Conventions (which "widened the circle of persons equated with regular fighters [...] and in this way [the partisans] were granted the rights and privileges of regular combatants") and nuclear weapons had the unexpected side effect of placing the Partisan at the center of World History. What no great power dared to do on its own could now be done by surrogates fighting for them. If this book were written only yesterday, instead of originating in talks delivered in the early sixties and first published then too, Schmitt would undoubtedly here say something smart about the Soviet Union destroying itself in Afghanistan fighting 'partisans' armed by America, only so the latter could then be slowly consumed in a war with its own creatures. - But that is exactly what is so astonishing about this book! At the height of the cold war Schmitt foresaw, however darkly, the utter futility of being a 'superpower'. And he sees this at a time when the 'best and the brightest' in both camps (i.e., that is, capitalists and communists) were certain that they were in a bi-polar world and that it was either "them or us"; but Schmitt, virtually before anyone, realizes that it could be neither ...and no one. The second chapter presents a brief history of the development of the theory of the partisan. We are told that the Germans historically were allergic to Partisan warfare. But we also learn of the importance of the Prussian Landsturm Edict of April 1813 ("this document is a Magna Carta of Partisan Warfare") which was changed three months later ("cleansed of all partisan dangers") even though Napoleon had not been defeated (p. 43). But that is not the end of it. Schmitt points out that while the partisan efforts of the Spanish and the Russians were, let us say, 'pre-enlightened' (if not anti-Enlightenment!), the Landsturm Edict is a result of the Enlightenment itself! Here the Partisan became, "philosophically accredited and socially presentable." (p. 47) "Berlin in the years 1808-13 was infused with a spirit that was thoroughly consistent with the philosophy of the French Enlightenment, so consistent that it was the equal of it, if not allowed to feel superior to it. [...] The nationalism of this Berlin intellectual stratum was not just a matter of some simple or even illiterate people, but rather of the educated elite. In such an atmosphere, which united an aroused national feeling with philosophical education, the partisan was discovered philosophically, and his theory became historically possible. (p.44)" What is important to note here is that what had previously been merely and purely telluric pre-theoretical partisan resistance movements first became theorized by the political Right in the German Enlightenment. Churchill somewhere remarked that the Germans, "transported Lenin in a sealed train like a plague bacillus from Switzerland into Russia." One of the burdens of Schmitt's essay is to indicate that this 'plague' was in reality of an Internationalist Partisan character, and that it was, ultimately, a product of the German Enlightenment! But today we know even more than that; we know that, as plagues are wont to do, it survived the death of its host (i.e., the USSR) and became that free-floating phenomenon we call 'terrorism'. But we have gotten ahead of ourselves. Clausewitz, a product of this Berlin Enlightenment, in "1810-11, had given lectures on guerilla warfare at the General War College in Berlin [...]." But Prussia chooses to not carry out an insurrectional war as many enlightened reformers had hoped. In the end, Clausewitz "remained a reform-minded professional officer of a regular army of his time, who could not let the seeds that we see here be developed to their ultimate consequences. (p. 46-47)" Schmitt tells us that this development "required an active professional revolutionary." That would be Lenin. He was "the first to fully conceive of the partisan as significant figure of national and international civil war, and he sought to transform the partisan into an effective instrument... (p. 49)" of the USSR. Lenin, of course, realizes that all partisans are not equal. As Schmitt observes, for Lenin if "partisans are controlled by the Communist Central Committee, they are freedom fighters and glorious heroes; if they shun this control, they are anarchistic riffraff and enemies of humanity. (p. 50)" This, of course, is the (in)famous 'they may be bastards, but they are our bastards' rationale that was the common tactic of both sides throughout the cold war era. One could perhaps say that Schmitt's essay is a meditation on how 'the bastards' emerged as a power in their own right... Lenin read Clausewitz quite seriously and annotated him in his notebooks. According to Schmitt, Lenin uncovers the primacy of the 'Friend-Enemy' distinction in this reading. Of this Schmitt says, that for "Lenin, only revolutionary war is genuine war, because it arises from absolute enmity. Everything else is conventional play (p. 52)" Unless war is based on 'absolute enmity' with the bourgeois it is merely play. This is why, for Lenin, any partisan resistance outside of the control of the communist party is such a contemptible thing. It is only a game! This "bracketed war and prescribed enmity [of International Law] were no longer any match for absolute enmity. (p. 54)" And here we have reached what for me is the heart of the problem of the Partisan. The theory of the Partisan has pre-modern, modern and postmodern moments. In its pre-modern form it is not a theoretical problem; in fact, it just says 'No!' to Enlightenment Theory. In its modern form it is a problem; it has been thoroughly theorized and 'universalized'. This means that it overturns the structures of International Law, the old 'European System', in favor of another Order, a (communist) Utopia always yet to come. We have moved from 'prescribed enmity' to 'absolute enmity'. But, I would argue, this is not the worst of it. Partisanship, after the collapse of the USSR, retains a negative 'universalism' in that one can now foment partisan war against anyone! Absolute Enmity can now be aimed at anything... Now, perhaps, I may be permitted at this point to end with a digression. Several people have asked me why I bother to read Schmitt, who is, after all and as I hope we all know, a former Nazi. The Rabbi Jacob Taubes was asked that question too. He provides an answer in Appendix A of his excellent book, "The Political Theology of Paul". First, he mentions that the hard and fast lines between Left and Right that we see today were not so clear before the Nazi's came to power. Indeed, both extremes shared an almost equal contempt for bourgeois democracy. The great Marxist Critical Theorist Walter Benjamin, for instance, was quite enamored of Schmitt and, in December of 1930, sent an admiring letter, with a copy of his 'Trauerspielbuch' to Schmitt explaining that he made free use of several of his works. When Taubes (much later) asked Adorno about the letter he was told no such letter exists. Of course, Adorno later admits it was 'misplaced'. Taubes intends for us to understand that this misplacing was a matter of political convenience; when one builds a shrine one typically excludes unpleasant materials... Next, Taubes mentions that Alexandre Kojève had the highest regard for Schmitt. (Kojève's 'Existential-Marxist' Hegel interpretation has influenced almost everyone in Continental Philosophy. Also, Kojève -not Fukuyama- is the true origin of the so-called 'End of History' debate.) In 1967, after giving lectures at the Free University of Berlin, Kojève announces "I'm going to Plettenberg", which is where Schmitt lived. More surprising than that (though, I believe, not mentioned by Taubes in this book), Kojève will say that Schmitt is the only one 'worth talking to' in Germany! Now, that does seem rather extravagant!; - the admirer of Stalin and the ex-Nazi in embrace. But as Taubes indicated, the anti-bourgeois extremes are often in practical, if not theoretical, agreement. Indeed, Kojève and Schmitt had been carrying on a lively correspondence since the fifties. But the meeting of these two in 1967 intrigues me. This essay on the Partisan was already published. It is quite likely that Kojève and Schmitt discussed it. Now, what would they have said about it? Well, what I believe both Kojève and Schmitt glimpsed in the figure of the Partisan was the vanishing of Reason from History. For the one this meant the impossibility of (Hegelian) Knowledge, while for the other this meant the impossibility of Political Order. Yes, Kojève is a Universalist while Schmitt is a Particularist. For Kojève, Knowledge (in the Hegelian sense) can only be achieved when Humanity becomes One. Ultimately, this is why, for him, History must End in the Universal Homogenous State; it is a technical requirement of Absolute Knowledge! But, as Taubes correctly points out, Schmitt is a Jurist, not a Philosopher. His problem is not Knowledge, - his problem is Order. For Schmitt, Political Order is, and can only be, a relation between separate and distinct parts. I believe that for for Schmitt, Universalism (the 'Oneness of Man' and the Universal State) is Chaos. (-That is because there are here no 'parts' to Order. Or, if you prefer, no enemies whose interactions are ordered through Law.) Okay, but if Kojève and Schmitt are almost mirror opposites how is it that I imagine that they are both opposed to the Partisan? Well, the 'Partisan Wars' that began in the late twentieth century, and still continue, are perhaps the only real material force opposing the globalization that leads to Kojève's Universal State. But why would Schmitt oppose that? - He is an anti-Universalist! Because partisan warfare, once theorized (that is, universalized and modernized), becomes unending and all-consuming; in practice (and especially today, after the collapse of the USSR), the Partisan can (or will) oppose anything. Not only any Empire, but any State, is a potential target of a Partisan War. (In the late Twentieth Century the Partisan Oppositional stance has been Universalised!) Thus our contemporary (post)modern world, under the sign of the Partisan, slowly swirls towards Chaos. Both (Universal) Knowledge and (Political) Order are ever more swiftly becoming impossible... A friend of mine once told me that this meeting between Kojève and Schmitt in '67 was a 'feast of thought'. ...No, I think it is far more likely that it was a wake. One imagines the Philosopher Kojève and the Jurist Schmitt staring into the gathering gloom, sharing a mournful brandy, toasting the impending deaths of their respective dreams... And (or so I imagine) all subsequent history has been a verification of the long, drawn out deaths (of Universalism and Order) that they first glimpsed two generations ago in the figure of the Partisan.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Charles Haywood

    This is a book born of a particular time and place. The time was 1962; the place was postwar Europe. The West was frozen in the glare of spreading Communism, paralyzed by the catastrophic end of the old European system and wholly uncertain of the path forward. Since that time, the ice has broken and the West has lurched back onto the track—the wrong track, as it happens, but that’s not what we’re talking about today. Instead, we’re talking about what "Theory of the Partisan" says to us in this t This is a book born of a particular time and place. The time was 1962; the place was postwar Europe. The West was frozen in the glare of spreading Communism, paralyzed by the catastrophic end of the old European system and wholly uncertain of the path forward. Since that time, the ice has broken and the West has lurched back onto the track—the wrong track, as it happens, but that’s not what we’re talking about today. Instead, we’re talking about what "Theory of the Partisan" says to us in this time and in this place. As befits its origin as a set of lectures, "Theory of the Partisan" is not a major work. Instead, it is an application and explication of one of Carl Schmitt’s core lines of thought, the friend/enemy distinction, fully developed in his classic earlier masterwork, "The Concept of the Political" (which I have not yet read). That book is about enemies, enmity, and how it is that only through a politics of realism that enmity can be adequately limited, in order to avoid catastrophic conflict. The relatively narrow scope of this book does not diminish its interest, however, and it has much to say about the modern situation of irregular warfare. Schmitt begins by examining what he regards as the first modern partisan conflict—that is, a conflict in which partisans confronted a modern army fielded by a modern state. This was the guerrilla warfare during the Peninsular War after Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, from 1808 to 1813. While “partisan” in general terms is any fighter who represents a party, Schmitt says that if a partisan is defined as someone who engages in irregular warfare, for him to be truly manifest there must be regular warfare, and that only arose during the wars of the French Revolution. Prior to that, there was intermittent regularity of war, and intermittent attempts to create rules of war, but those only became regularized and universal in the nineteenth century (in Europe; Schmitt expresses no interest in the rest of the world, though obviously such rules have never existed anywhere but the West). Thus, the partisan in the core sense that matters for this book could not exist before 1800. In Spain, the legitimate authority did not create the partisans; in many ways the Spanish elite cooperated with Napoleon. The partisans were a spontaneous, decentralized movement with many small-scale groups and leaders. More specifics of the Spanish partisans don’t really matter, and are anyway hard to determine at this remove. What matters is that they existed, the first to dare to resist a nation in arms. It was in part due to them that the Congress of Vienna created the modern rules of war, which rejected granting any legitimacy to partisans as a class. They were either a somewhat irregular type of soldier, but entitled to the protections of soldiers nonetheless, or simply bandits and outlaws, literally outside the law. The partisan is thereby “bracketed,” an embodied manifestation of enmity between two incompatible visions of the world, and such enmity necessarily tends to spiral upwards in intensity. And that is what we have seen, to the present day (1962), from Napoleon’s harassment by partisans in Russia to French war with partisans in Indochina, exacerbated by other changes in society, particularly technological changes. In order to fully grasp and discuss the partisan, we must fully define the partisan. First, he is an irregular fighter, not in uniform and not necessarily openly carrying a weapon. This is the starting point of departure from regular forces. Second, he is politically engaged, not a “thief or criminal,” although what that means can range greatly, depending on the politics of the moment, up to and including partisans who are better organized, due to party organization, than regular troops. That is, an irregular fighter is not a disorganized fighter. Third, he is mobile; his fighting demonstrates “flexibility, speed, and the ability to switch from attack to retreat.” With modern technology, including motorization, this characteristic becomes especially important. Fourth, he is “telluric,” meaning basically defensive and tied to the earth, not an ideological revolutionist whose fighting is wholly abstracted from location. Thus, he is neither pirate nor corsair; sea is distinct from land (an abiding fascination of Schmitt’s later work). He agrees with Joan of Arc, “I do not know whether God loves or hates the English; I only know that they must be driven out of France.” His is a “fundamentally defensive position.” These third and fourth characteristics are in tension; too much mobility, and especially mobility dependent on a greater power, and the partisan is merely a tool of that power, not a partisan. This definition also implies that mere resistance, or non-conformity in opposition to the ruling power, is not being a partisan. Thus Ernst Jünger’s forest rebel, or his anarch, is not a partisan. Schmitt notes that international (i.e., European) law has always lagged behind events when creating and updating formal structures to deal with partisans. The latest iteration of formal rules of warfare, the 1949 Geneva Conventions, addressed in practice the resistance movements of World War II, not the qualitatively different partisans of Mao Tse-Tung or Fidel Castro, and did not materially address that most partisans of the time wholly lacked any of the indicia of regular troops. In effect, therefore, the Conventions treated partisans as outside the protection of the rules of war. True, “organized resistance movements” theoretically were granted the “rights and privileges of regular combatants,” but what did that mean if the old rules requiring “organization,” such as openly carrying weapons and showing identifying badges of rank, were still in place, especially given modern changes in technology? Schmitt often cites, as indicative of modern differences in partisan warfare, the 1957 Swiss "Everyman’s Guide to Guerrilla Warfare," by Hans von Dach (published today as "Total Resistance," and popular with certain subsets of Americans, on the Left and on the Right). The net impact of updating rules is probably that the partisan is more likely in the future to be regarded, abstractly and technically, as “legal,” but that does not change that occupying powers in an international conflict will still be justified in repression of the partisan in a manner little different than before—namely, as a criminal. Finally, Schmitt places this discussion in the context of his critical distinction, found in "The Concept of the Political," that between friend and enemy. In the type of conflict that Schmitt sees as both natural and inherently limited, open, recognized enmity based on political differences leads to conflict, which must be resolved, if necessary through war. But that war is not an ideological war (where ideology means, in James Burnham’s words, “a more or less systematic and self-contained set of ideas supposedly dealing with the nature of reality . . . and calling for a commitment independent of specific experience or events”). Instead, it is limited by being directed to political ends, which, if satisfied, lead to termination of the war. Not so with ideological war, a modern phenomenon, where the enemy is criminal, and the goal therefore his permanent and total destruction. In non-ideological conflicts, the partisan is viewed by both sides as a criminal, outside the protection of the law, even if he is useful to one side. In ideological conflicts, in contrast, the partisan is viewed as a hero by one side, since he executes righteous judgment on the real criminals, the enemy. There is a “just cause,” but no longer a “just enemy,” and the partisan becomes a central figure of war. In this environment, law and rules such as the Geneva Conventions, with their “many discretely stylized compromise norms,” “appear only as the narrow bridge over an abyss.” This is a variation on Schmitt’s complaint that rejecting that enmity is natural and inevitable paradoxically makes war more terrible, since no legitimacy can be ascribed to an ideological enemy at whose feet the unnecessary existence of enmity is laid. Schmitt then turns to how the theory of the partisan has developed over time. He regards as crucial the change of partisans from self-generated, politically flexible groups to deliberately birthed political organizations. The ideology he identifies that made this possible, though, is not, as one might think, one of the modern Furies. Rather, Schmitt identifies the French Enlightenment, as embodied in the Prussian elite, as the ideology, and the time very precisely: April through July, 1813. In April of that year, a royal Prussian edict was formally promulgated and distributed, demanding the most extreme partisan activity against the invading French. Public order was to be destroyed; mobs were encouraged; reprisals and terror were to be order of the day. The Spanish guerillas, who were fantastically brutal (as were the French in their counter-partisan warfare) were held up as exemplars of behavior. “In short, this document is a Magna Carta for partisan warfare.” Schmitt regards this edict as the first “official document of a legitimation of partisans for national defense.” He is, of course, in the entire corpus of his life’s work, very focused on legitimacy, of rulers and of decisions, so this analysis is not surprising. In the French Enlightenment atmosphere of Prussia’s rulers, “which united an aroused national feeling with philosophical education, the partisan was discovered philosophically, and his theory became historically possible.” It does not matter that none of the asked-for partisan activity actually happened and that the decree was rescinded three months later. By this decree, the partisan became a political actor, and the theory of the partisan as political was then developed further by Carl von Clausewitz. “One could say that [the partisan] had become philosophically accredited and socially presentable.” The logical and historical result of this line of thought was Lenin, who, unlike other Communist revolutionaries, “recognized the inevitability of force and bloody, revolutionary civil war and state war, and thus also approved of partisan warfare as a necessary ingredient of the total revolutionary process.” Lenin studied Clausewitz, “and what he learned painstakingly, was not only the famous formula of war as the continuation of politics. It was the further recognition that the distinction of friend and enemy in the age of revolution is primary, and that it determines war as well as politics. For Lenin, only revolutionary war is genuine war, because it arises from absolute enmity.” This implies that there is an absolute enemy; the partisan was, in Lenin’s view, “the strongest negation of the existing capitalist order; he was called to be the true executor of enmity.” The irregularity of the partisan expands from lacking uniform and badge to rejection of the entire existing political and social order, and along with that expansion limitations on enmity are removed. The destruction wrought by this reformulation was inconceivable to those who built the modern European order at the Congress of Vienna, or their successors who wrote documents like the Hague Convention or the Geneva Conventions. Schmitt ascribes only to Joseph de Maistre foresight of what Lenin would do, create “an alliance of philosophy with the elemental forces of an insurrection.” Here Schmitt appears to implicitly contrast philosophy with the telluric content necessary for true partisans, implying a divorce between the two. But Lenin was the beginning, not the end; he made the partisan “a key figure of world history.” Stalin succeeded in reuniting the telluric character of partisans with the political aspect of the Communist world revolution. Mao Tse-Tung did the same, even more so, and furthered it by reuniting partisans with the Prussian principles of Clausewitz, both with respect to partisans and of embodying the nation in arms. For Mao, enmity could no longer be limited; “peace today is only a manifestation of real enmity.” Mao is the inevitable conclusion of combining the theory of the partisan, ideological enmity, and modern technology. This poses immense problems for Westerners, who are wedded to rules designed to hem war about with limits. This conflict was embodied in a French general, Raoul Salan. Who, you say? Salan was the leader of the OAS—not the Organization of American States, but the Organisation Armée Secrète, the Secret Armed Organization, the politico-terrorist arm of the Algerian French who perceived (correctly) they were being abandoned by Charles de Gaulle, immediately before the time Schmitt was writing. Salan was a “left Republican,” entirely devoted to the secular French nation, the most decorated soldier in the entire French army, including five times receiving the Légion d’honneur. When, in 1958, after serving against partisans in Indochina, he was named commander of French forces in Algeria, he came up against the partisan warfare of the FLN, the nationalist/Islamic/socialist/pan-Arabist umbrella group for anti-French insurrection. In Salan’s view, he was merely meeting terror with terror, even if that terror was executed in part in France itself. Salan commanded 400,000 soldiers, yet lost to 20,000 partisans, and lost Algeria, where a million Frenchmen lived in their native land. The OAS was his last throw; he did not apologize, and remained mostly silent during his trial, after which he was condemned to death (though his sentence was commuted, and he was pardoned in 1968). Schmitt’s point is not to comment on the justice of either side of the Algerian war, but that the iron and inevitable logic of modern partisan warfare was a “strange paradox” with an “insane logic, which could embitter a brave and intelligent man and drive him to attempt a counteroffensive.” Salan followed the logic of the situation in which he found himself, and thus he himself was transformed into a partisan, since “with a partisan, one fights like a partisan.” “He appealed to the nation against the state, to a higher type of legitimacy against legality.” In other words, the modern West finds it unable to deal effectively with partisans; we do not understand them and we can no longer fit them into a relatively neat pigeonhole in a book of rules. The result is either defeat or bizarre mutation. This is Schmitt’s lead-in to a more detailed analysis of the modern situation, or what was modern in 1962. First, the “spatial aspect” is new. The partisan, his abilities enhanced by modern technology, has a greatly expanded range of action in space, which allows (as in Algeria) a multiplication of force and effect. Second, there is destruction of social structures; the expanded power of the partisan allows a non-public sphere to develop within the res publica, which erodes the commonwealth and makes it unable to respond effectively. Because “a few terrorists are able to threaten great masses . . . [w]ider spaces of insecurity, fear, and general mistrust are added to the narrower space of open terror, creating a ‘landscape of treason.’ . . .” Third, Schmitt recurs to the erosion of the telluric character of the partisan, and his frequent absorption, to a greater or lesser degree, into a global struggle, no longer defensive or tied to a specific locality. This is especially true if there is an “interested third party,” as Stalin was to the Yugoslav partisans. Such third-party support is attractive to partisans, because it helps them to become recognized as regular enough to not be criminals, but it clouds who is a partisan at all. Fourth, and very important, Schmitt rejects that modern advances in the “technical-industrial aspect” make partisan warfare obsolete. On the contrary, technology advances the range of the partisan, as well as his capabilities—even up to “means of mass destruction,” a prescient foresight of modern fears. Technical progress, in fact, will “only intensify the old questions.” And thus, Schmitt’s conclusion is that these changes mean “The theory of the partisan flows into the question of the concept of the political, into the question of the real enemy and of a new nomos of the earth.” There has been a lot of water under the bridge, sixty years’ worth, since 1962. In Schmitt’s time, as a consequence primarily of global Communism, partisan warfare had taken on, as he acknowledges, the characteristics of proxy war, blurring what it meant to be a partisan. But Communism is dead and gone; there are no relevant partisan wars based on Communism. Even splinter groups like the Shining Path in Peru have been crushed or have abandoned the struggle. Those who claim to be Communist, like the government of Cuba, are merely thugs and looters, who no longer support ideological struggle outside their country. That does not mean partisans are gone. The most important manifestation of partisan warfare since 1991, at least with respect to the conflict of partisans with regular forces and organized states, is the warfare conducted against the United States forces occupying Afghanistan and Iraq during the past twenty years. What does Schmitt’s framework say to us of this? We should distinguish between “terrorism” and “insurrection” in this context. This is difficult, because those in favor of endless war are also in favor of propagandistically casting all resistance to whatever exactly it is we are trying to do in the Middle East as “terrorism,” since if that characterization is accepted, all opposition, foreign or domestic, is viscerally and necessarily illegitimate. But most violence directed at the United States in the Middle East, or at its finger puppets (the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan), or at its junior partners (Britain, etc.), is in fact partisan warfare, not terrorism. The distinction between terrorism and partisan warfare lies primarily in targets; any military target is by definition a partisan target. I am not expert enough in the details to say how blurry that dividing line is, but I suspect in practice it is pretty clear, and that most of those cast as terrorists are actually partisans. One man’s terrorist may not be another man’s freedom fighter, but one man’s partisan usually is another man’s freedom fighter. [Review completes as first comment.]

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    Este texto reúne un par de conferencias que dio Schmitt en Navarra y otro sitio que no me acuerod y paso de consultar, invitado por Fraga en los años 60. El título reza que es una acotación al concepto de lo político, pero lo veo más relacionado con El nomos de la tierra y la Teología política. Atendiendo al contenido de la obra es cuanto menos decepcionante: el rigor histórico presente en la mayoría de las obras de Schmitt aquí es tergiversado, concretamente en el caso de Mao y Lenin y su lectu Este texto reúne un par de conferencias que dio Schmitt en Navarra y otro sitio que no me acuerod y paso de consultar, invitado por Fraga en los años 60. El título reza que es una acotación al concepto de lo político, pero lo veo más relacionado con El nomos de la tierra y la Teología política. Atendiendo al contenido de la obra es cuanto menos decepcionante: el rigor histórico presente en la mayoría de las obras de Schmitt aquí es tergiversado, concretamente en el caso de Mao y Lenin y su lectura nacionalista del partisano. Este es concebido como aquel guerrillero irregular vinculado siempre a la tierra, y este carácter nómico-telúrico en el que Schmitt fuerza la interpretación. Al operar de forma irregular se opone a la legalidad del derecho de guerra post Westfalia, pero en tanto apela a lo telúrico su actuación es legítima (siguiendo la argumentación clásica de Schmitt). El problema de la teoría del partisano de Schmitt no se reduce solo a su obra, y su argumentación sólida acaba desvelando la flaqueza fundamental: que el carácter telúrico, originario, al que apela, se funda en la nada. Y este problema recorre también la noción de soberano que se desvela en el estado de excepción, en ese camino entre la norma y la fundación de la norma (y por tanto esa zona incierta que señala Agamben). La única oposición que ve Schmitt ante el imperio de la ley es el imperio de la tierra. Y eso es lo que le desvela como reaccionario, como alguien que critica la argumentación liberal no desde ella sino atendiendo a un estado (y un Estado) premoderno. En último término, si leo tanto a Schmitt es justo por eso mismo: porque acaba mostrando que el poder soberano se funda en la nada, en una máscara de máscaras que apela a algo tan vacío como lo originario (sea la tierra, sea el contrato social o el orden natural). Schmitt, al igual que Hobbes, se muestran como defensores de la soberanía que acaba desvelando la ficción en la que esta se apoya. PD: Tremendamente divertida esta cita (página 68): "Hay una coincidencia significativa en el hecho de que Mao Ze hubiera escritos sus trabajos más importantes en los añs 1936-38, es decir, al mismo tiempo que España luchaba en una guerra de liberación natural contra la captura comunista internacional."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rui Coelho

    Somewhat relevant on the 60s and 70s, not so much today. This text will live in the shadow of The Concept of the Political, a true classic.

  5. 5 out of 5

    M

    Tracks the development of the partisan across two centuries and his impact on international law, the concept of the political, and the very possibility of peace. The partisan gives the landscape of war a terrifying depth, brings novel and brutal forms of terror into being, and produces an enmity arms-race that can only end in absolute annihilation of the absolute enemy. Brilliant elaboration of The Concept of the Political’s themes. Read that first, then this.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Hm... I didn't really know what was going on for most of it, and knew very little about what he was referring to. It's mostly references to his other books, and then Spanish guerrillas in 1808-1814, so if you don't know a lot about both of those then I don't recommend starting here. Hm... I didn't really know what was going on for most of it, and knew very little about what he was referring to. It's mostly references to his other books, and then Spanish guerrillas in 1808-1814, so if you don't know a lot about both of those then I don't recommend starting here.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Wissam Raji

    The book discusses the theory of a partisan and its origin that started in the Spain back in 1801. He gives a description of what a partisan is in terms of internal motives and external adaptation. The book in some way might seem trivial and not supported by logical arguments but once one refers to commentary on the ideas from outside sources, things connect.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ian Fleischmann

    While I appreciate the intellectual exercise in defining the nebulous space between soldier and terrorist, I'm not sure Schmitt makes his point. Perhaps it is the translation but the complicated language is difficult to overcome. I did learn the definitions for autochthonous, acherontic, and telluric though… Also, he has structured his historical inquiry by topic-point, not time, meaning he frequently jumps back and forth between 1813, 1870, 1914, and 1941 among others. He also loves tangents. T While I appreciate the intellectual exercise in defining the nebulous space between soldier and terrorist, I'm not sure Schmitt makes his point. Perhaps it is the translation but the complicated language is difficult to overcome. I did learn the definitions for autochthonous, acherontic, and telluric though… Also, he has structured his historical inquiry by topic-point, not time, meaning he frequently jumps back and forth between 1813, 1870, 1914, and 1941 among others. He also loves tangents. The story of Salan and de Gaulle is interesting but the level of detail seemed excessive - perhaps that was a function of the trial being a relatively recent occurrence to the date of publication. It seems that Schmitt's essential point is that Clausewitz's concept of war as an extension of politics opened a theoretical door for the expansion of partisan warfare into the vexing acherontic condition that appears today. If true, then I think it could be said in simpler language. Also, I'm not sure that one can even blame Clausewitz, Lenin, Mao, and the Geneva Conventions for problematizing this concept of the partisan as Schmitt points out that the origination of the guerilla warrior, the original partisan, predated Clausewitz's theory of war. I'm sure that a detailed historical analysis of other world cultures would also show politically-motivated autochthonous/telluric, mobile forces defending their lands through irregular means going back millennia. The problem is exacerbated by a globalizing force which seeks to place greater and greater institutional defining structures on the world. If so, there doesn’t seem to be much hope of reversing the process or finding a less than messy way out of this logical pit we've dug. Again, maybe this is was Schmitt was saying; I'm not entirely clear I got the point… Ulmen's translation notes at the beginning are interesting and thought provoking. To me, it was the most interesting and useful part of the entire book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Colm Gillis

    "This interested third party is not some banal figure like the proverbially laughing third party. It belongs rather, and essentially, to the situation of the partisan, and thus also to his theory. The powerful third party delivers not only weapons and munitions, money, material assistance, and medicines of every description, he offers also the sort of political recognition of which the irregularly fighting partisan is in need, in order to avoid falling like the thief and the pirate into the unpoli "This interested third party is not some banal figure like the proverbially laughing third party. It belongs rather, and essentially, to the situation of the partisan, and thus also to his theory. The powerful third party delivers not only weapons and munitions, money, material assistance, and medicines of every description, he offers also the sort of political recognition of which the irregularly fighting partisan is in need, in order to avoid falling like the thief and the pirate into the unpolitical, which means here the criminal sphere. In the longer view of things the irregular must legitimize itself through the regular, and for this only two possibilities stand open: recognition by an existing regular, or establishment of a new regularity by its own force. This is a tough alternative." This is the style of this fascinating commentary by Carl Schmitt into the nature of the irregular soldier, the partisan, the freedom fighter or terrorist, depending on your choice of words. Primarily Schmitt juxtaposes the order and technique of highly organized states with the disorder nd flexibility of patriotic insurgents. Certain signs help illuminate this dichotomy, e.g. the clothing of both and the contrast. The book is meant to complement his earlier book The Concept of the Political. This work lacks the energy and sheer beauty of the earlier treatise. It doesnt have the memorable flourishes or sense of command that distinguiahed TCOTP. It comes across as a little jaded. The ideas in the book are useful and indeed he shows his typical razor-sharp insight. But as with most of his post-WWII work, Schmitt slightly flounders.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Pavel

    Interesting exploration how the modern theory of partisan replaces classical humanistic idea of regulated war and just enemy with absolute war and absolute enemy, who is delegitimated to the extent humanity itself is denied to him. However, at least in my laic view, the abstract juristic approach dissolves into chaotic observations of discrepancies between reality and law theory, as demonstrated for instance in discussing rather absurd question whether partisan is insurable.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cihan Koseoglu

    Read in one sitting. The hypothesis (well, theory) is solid and the author knows his point. However he might be the worst writer of all times. He doesn't know how to hold an audience and convey his points in a clear way. A friend of mine questioned my view as 'we humans stopped reading hard books we should read more hard books'. It's not that at all. He's a horrible writer. Read in one sitting. The hypothesis (well, theory) is solid and the author knows his point. However he might be the worst writer of all times. He doesn't know how to hold an audience and convey his points in a clear way. A friend of mine questioned my view as 'we humans stopped reading hard books we should read more hard books'. It's not that at all. He's a horrible writer.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nora W

    Read during Professor Elias's Weapons of the Weak class, Freshman Fall. Read during Professor Elias's Weapons of the Weak class, Freshman Fall.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Avani

    Decent foundation for the theory of a "partisan," i.e. a rebel or terrorist force. Somewhat repetitive and pretentious. Decent foundation for the theory of a "partisan," i.e. a rebel or terrorist force. Somewhat repetitive and pretentious.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fouletier

    ESSAI FORT INTERESSANT PORTANT SUR LES CONCEPTS DE GUERILLA ET DE CONTRE -GUERRILLA

  15. 4 out of 5

    Booksearcher

    A historical overview of the partisan's political development. A valuable study for what it says, specially in getting to a definition of the partisan, but also for what it hints to. A historical overview of the partisan's political development. A valuable study for what it says, specially in getting to a definition of the partisan, but also for what it hints to.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ciro

  17. 4 out of 5

    OTIS

  18. 5 out of 5

    Logan Borges

  19. 4 out of 5

    Juan Pablo

  20. 5 out of 5

    Francisca Benítez Pereira

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michal Lipták

  22. 4 out of 5

    .

  23. 4 out of 5

    Carlos Dorantes

  24. 5 out of 5

    æ

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ben Read

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robharries

  27. 5 out of 5

    Iohannes

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karam

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nico B

  30. 4 out of 5

    Flaminia

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