Thomas Hobbes and Carl Schmitt on the tension between sovereign and law

Ünlü, Özlem
This thesis aims at developing an understanding of the vital role that the political decision plays in the tension between sovereign and law through an examination of the constitutional theories of Thomas Hobbes and Carl Schmitt. In Schmitt’s classic work Dictatorship of 1921, the sovereign decision derives its legitimacy from its norm-preserving power, whereas in Political Theology appeared in 1922, it legitimizes itself on basis of the norm-giving power. In The Concept of the Political, the decision on who the enemy is precedes the norm-giving power of decision in such a way that it has an existential value before being legally relevant. The core of Schmitt’s theoretical transformation is already present in a precursory footnote of Dictatorship on Hobbes’ three constitutional forms in De Corpore Politico, De Cive and Leviathan. Once the distinction between norm (law) and decision (sovereign) is made, the norm always risks incorporating what it excludes (the exception) into itself through the decision. In that regard, not only Schmitt’s decisionist positions, but also Hobbes’ constitutional forms become indistinguishable. It can be argued that Hobbes’ liberal decisionism still takes this risk. First, the moment of constitution is not totally a normless one in the sense that the decision entails a distributive content. Second, the sovereign decision must observe the content of the covenant because the first act of the sovereign is not voluntary. Thus, one can argue that Hobbes’ legal order derives its legitimacy from the laws of nature as much as the decision.


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Citation Formats
Ö. Ünlü, “Thomas Hobbes and Carl Schmitt on the tension between sovereign and law,” Ph.D. - Doctoral Program, Middle East Technical University, 2018.