Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Schmittizing of leftist critique

This New Republic piece seems to be a trashing of Richard Neuhaus from Damon Linker, who was his associate editor at First Things from 2001-05. One paragraph really stood out:
Carl Schmitt, the political theorist who devoted a great deal of thought to this dilemma, determined that such men have no choice but to make an arbitrary yet resolute decision to obey some authority, any authority. Taking account of the options in Germany in 1933, Schmitt swore obedience to Hitler. Neuhaus, of course, makes an infinitely more respectable decision in favor of the Vatican. He does so because, in his words, 'the promise of Jesus that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide his disciples' is a 'promise made to the Church.' But why does Neuhaus--and why should we--trust this promise? He claims that he can know that the Church's authority is worthy of his obedience in the same way that a bride can 'know' that her 'bridegroom will be faithful.' Though Neuhaus does not employ the term, what he is describing is merely another leap of faith, a melodramatic form of cosmic confidence that derives its psychological strength from its aversion to philosophical thinking.
It's not as though Neuhaus frequently cites Schmitt or that there is some other obvious connection. Carl-Schmitt-slander seems to have become a trend, hasn't it? I hadn't heard of the guy before last year, and now, he's the hip brush with which to tar conservatives. Maybe Tim Robbins will write an awkward play about him. At least with Leo Strauss, there was an actual, discernable influence that the man had, albeit not nearly as pervasive as critics claim. My take is that of prominent modern conservatives, few are Strassians; virtually none are Schmittsters (what would the word be?).
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