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Carl Schmitt’s Critique of Liberal International Legal Order Between 1933 and 1945

Carl Schmitt was an intellectual who made the discipline of international law grapple with the major issues of his time. His work as an international lawyer remains largely untranslated. It is riddled with racism and anti-Semitism. However, an interest of his work is that it reflects the ‘shadow side’ of contemporary international law, forgotten because the moral defeat of Germany in 1945 was so total. Schmitt argues for an inherent tendency to violence and demonization in Western liberal international law theory and practice. He argues for the acceptance of difference as against homogeneity in world society as the only way to limit this violence. Finally, he argues that the liberal tradition is fundamentally compromised by its own colonialist heritage. Its objections to Nazi Germany translating this colonialist imperialism onto Eastern Europe are incoherent. Schmitt’s avowed racism and anti-Semitism remain shocking. The article does not try to downplay this aspect of his work. However, it is worth noting that his Nazi bosses, for the most part, thought his racism insincere. If any negative spirit imbues the actual technical detail of Schmitt’s work it is his aversion to the West. This probably had its roots in the envy which the Kaiserreich had of the British, French, and American Empires while Schmitt was growing to maturity.


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