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2021, vol. 55, br. 4, str. 1546-1568
Kriza demokratije - Šmitova kritika liberalne demokratije
Univerzitet u Beogradu, Institut za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju, Srbija
Ovaj članak je realizovan uz podršku Ministarstva prosvete, nauke i tehnološkog razvoja Republike Srbije prema Ugovoru o realizaciji i finansiranju naučnoistraživačkog rada.

Na osnovu Šmitove kritike parlamentarne demokratije tokom međuratnog perioda krize, u tekstu se odgovara na pitanje koliko su danas relevantni njegovi uvidi vezani za političke posledice ignorisanja odnosa moći u jednom društvu, te kakve negativne efekte proizvodi depolitizacija ekonomskih i društvenih odnosa. Autor zastupa tezu da Šmit precizno dijagnostifikuje ključne probleme parlamentarnih demokratija. To su nemogućnost da se zaštite od moćnih društvenih grupa koje izmeštaju donošenje odluka iz parlamenta i neutralnost spram političkog sadržaja koja može voditi zloupotrebi političkih institucija. No, rešenja ne bi trebalo tražiti u njegovoj misli, posebno zbog spremnosti da se prihvate široke kompetencije izvršne vlasti u periodu krize i opravda gušenje partijskog pluralizma.


Today's democracy is in the state of crisis, which is best illustrated by the fact that only in the period from 2014 to 2015 as many as one thousand of academic papers were written on that topic (Gagnon & Vasilev, 2016, p. 1). More precisely, parliamentary democracy is in the state of crisis, i.e. the model that connects democracy with politicians, periodical, free and fair elections and the parliament as a central institution (Tormey, 2014, p. 106). Nevertheless, the current crisis is neither the first nor the deepest one in the history of parliamentarism. The turmoil during "the twenties gave the most dramatic tone to the discourse about the crisis", at the time of the beginning of "the crisis that was fatal to constitutional rule" (Urbinati, 2016, p. 8). Just like today, the connection between liberalism and democracy at that time was tense, to say the least.

One of the fiercest critics of this connection was Carl Schmitt, who claimed that the opposed logics of liberalism and democracy united in the form of parliamentarism actually produced the crisis. The solutions he offered to this problem varied, taking into account that in his texts he often interfered in specific political events in the Weimar Republic (Balakrishnan, 2000, p. 5), which calls for taking into account the historical context in the analysis of his ideas (Cvetićanin, 2004, p. 20). At one moment he was concerned about the order being threatened by right-wing and left - wing revolutionaries (Schmitt, 2004, pp. 87-88; Schwab, 1986, xxii), while in some other places he claimed that "Bolshevism and Fascism are, like any dictatorship, anti-liberal, but not necessarily anti-democratic", and that "dictatorial or Caesarist methods [...] can be immediate expressions of democratic substance and power" (Schmitt, 1988, pp. 16-17). However, one thing in Schmitt's teaching is constant and it constitutes the diagnosis of the problems - the opposed logics of liberalism and democracy produce a crisis of parliamentarism. Moreover, Schmitt's personality, without exaggeration, is controversial1. Nevertheless, if we start from the fact that Schmitt's relevance lies in what he wrote and not what kind of person he was (Böckenförde, 1996, p. 82), part of his observations about parliamentarism may be useful for the contemporary moment as well.

In this text I will present Schmitt's critical argumentation about parliamentary democracy during the interwar crisis period. There I particularly refer to the tendency of parliamentarism to use depoliticization of economic and social relations in order to reduce rule to governance. From that, the problem derives of ignoring the relations of power within a society, which enables the enslavement of the state by powerful economic and social groups. Another problem refers to the neutrality of the liberal state and the foundation of legitimacy on legality, which opens up the space for the abuse of political institutions. I will conclude that Schmitt's arguments are indisputable when it comes to the diagnosis of the problems of parliamentarism, but his solutions go beyond the framework of the democratic form of government, which makes them unacceptable.

Depoliticization, the private and the public

Parliamentary democracy as a political form is constituted within national states established after the break with feudalism. The establishment of the civil society, autonomous from the state, in which citizens are entitled to pursue their own interests, should create the space for freedom. As a consequence of former religious conflicts, making moral decisions is left to individuals and the principle of religious tolerance is established. There is polarization of morality and politics, and the state no longer promotes any substantive values or doctrines, thus becoming a neutral actor (Koselleck, 1997). The same applies to entrepreneurial ventures - everyone is free to do business with no interference of the state. The basic idea of the civil society and capitalist state is that the private and the public spheres should be separated and that the overflowing of the political power into the private domain should be prevented. In the basis of the liberal logic there is a "contrast between the state and the free individual, the state power and individual freedom, the state and the civil society, politics and the apolitical private sphere" (Schmitt, 2001, p. 25). The boundary between the political and non-political spheres is clearly drawn and should not be easily crossed. In the political domain, the key is the electoral competition of the parties that represent social groups and support their interests in the parliament. The parliament is the central institution where political decisions should be made, while the right to enacting laws is exercised by the party that won the majority in the election. Party pluralism is, therefore, the integral part of parliamentarism, while the parliament should be an institution where "something like the people will" is formed (Kelsen, 2012, p. 21).

However, such construct could, according to Schmitt, damage the state, particularly if the relations of power inside the society are not taken into account. By accepting a clear division of authorities, the state "ties its own hands" because it renounces encroachment into the allegedly non-political spheres. Every decision about something being non-political is a political decision (Schmitt, 1986, p. 2) and, accordingly, the decision preceding the depoliticization of the civil society and economy is also political and constitutes hidden interests of bourgeoisie that preserves its economic power in that manner (Schmitt, 2001, p. 26). To make matters even worse for the state, the economic power can potentially be transformed into the political power.

That is why a number of authors think that elements of the critique of ideology may be found in Schmitt's thought because he shows how interests are often hidden behind the allegedly neutral moral and political positions (Müller, 2003, p. 12). It is bourgeoisie that favours parliamentarism most as a political form and sees it largely as an instrument of preserving its interests, taking into account that there is no barrier against the overflowing of power from the non-political spheres into the political arena. The boundaries between those two spheres are not so solid but rather porous, to the detriment of the state. Schmitt fears that powerful particular interests will use up their strength in order to "occupy" the state through the electoral victory and to promote their own interests (Schmitt, 2001, p. 29). According to Schmitt's interpretation, the Weimar Republic was the very example of the state occupied by the representatives of particular interests. At the same time, this is a universal problem of liberal democracy, because "in the parliamentary state, the party becomes the state" (Pavićević and Simendić, 2016, p. 132), and they most often represent the interests of social groups. The state has no right to intervene in the non-political areas, while the actors from those spheres are actually the ones that use the parliament for decision-making to their own benefit.

The majority can at any moment enact a law it likes, unlimited by any values that might contest it. "In essence, the law is the parliament's decision, where the parliament is the representation of the non-state civil society as opposed to the State" (Schmitt, 2001, p. 25). In that manner, neutral parliamentary democracy is filled by political content - the interests of the most powerful ones that managed to win the majority. "This is an open political opportunity legitimized by representative democracy that takes itself as ideologically neutral in relation to the content introduced into its forms" (Pavićević and Simendić, 2016, p. 154). Regardless of the content of the political agenda, which may even undermine the foundations of the state, the mathematical majority is sufficient for coming to power. The consequence of neutrality of parliamentary democracy is the actual decision-making of particular social groups.

Schmitt fiercely criticizes corporatism and pluralistic understanding of the society. Relativist-oriented liberal logic of the Weimar produced an unstable political system unable to ensure political unity in crisis periods. Corporatism, founded on liberal logic of compromise and consensus, threatened the state as the most powerful instance (Balakrishnan, 2000, p. 104). Unproductive negotiations of opposed social groups brought the existence of the state itself to question. "That was the state in which no one had a full monopoly over politics, while everyone had a little of it. Inside the state, a war of all against all was being waged among social associations" (Cvetićanin, 2004, p. 251). That is where Schmitt draws the inspiration for his critique of liberal democracy. He was one of the first to emphasize that "liberalism was an obsolete ideology", and that "in the era of mass democracy, parliaments are [...] merely façades for dirty deals between the representatives of particular interests" (Müller, 2017, p. 57). Soon after World War One it became clear that decisions were not, after all, made in the parliament itself and that power concentrated in the field of economy enable the takeover of political institutions. The very structure of parliamentary democracy was destroyed because parliaments became empty shells with no political power. That is how the crisis of parliamentary democracy begins. There is no way of prohibiting the economically powerful ones from entering the field of politics or of preventing the conversion of power from one field into another. The power drawn by some actors from other sources overflowed into the political sphere, while decisions were not made in the parliament itself. Parliamentary democracy let down its basic principle - that state will would be shaped ion the parliament, through a rational debate and under the watchful eyes of the public. If key decisions are really made outside the parliament, what is the purpose of parliamentarism? This type of critique rather convincingly points to the problems encountered by parliamentary democracy at the beginning of the 20th century, but it can also point to a similar problem with modern democracies - deregulated and depoliticized economic relations may lead to the emergence of powerful social and economic subjects that will soon occupy the field of politics (Dimitrijević, 2016, p. 87; Crouch, 2014, p. 34).

The political, pluralism and the enemy

The above-stated critique is built on by Schmitt's objection to pluralism, which is difficult to connect with the modern understanding of democracy2. Besides representing the interests of particular social groups, political parties also unhomogenize the people. In addition to pointing to the structural problem of parliamentary democracy, Schmitt was also concerned about the dissolution of political unity. "To Schmitt, the greatest evils of modern civilization were political parties [...] that struggled inside the parliamentary system in a country, and that de-homogenized the people living in that country" (Molnar, 2010, p. 30). De-homogenization may lead to irreconcilable internal political conflicts with disastrous consequences - the unity of the state and the political being threatened.

According to the definition, the political is "the most intense and extreme antagonism" (Schmitt, 2007, p. 29) and it implies existential grouping into friends and enemies, and the very "concept of the state implies the concept of the political" (Schmitt, 2007, p. 19). The difference between friends and enemies is not merely personal intolerance, but an existential conflict between irreconcilable groups. Therefore, it is not possible to take a neutral position. "In a specific historical and political conditionality, the man is always a member of a group, so he belongs either to us or to them" (Cvetićanin, 2004, p. 122). According to Schmitt, it is much more dangerous when there are irreconcilable conflicts at the internal level. Internal political grouping may lead to the dissolution of the state itself and that is why it is the opponent of pluralistic theories. To pluralists, the state is one of the associations people can belong to, and as such it is not more valuable than others. Pluralist theories deny the absolute sovereignty of the state as a political subject, emphasizing that an individual lives in many different social entities (Schmitt, 2007, pp. 40-41). The greatest threat was the potential breakout of the civil war, i.e. "the breakup of the state as an organized political entity" (Schmitt, 2007, p. 47). Pluralism is a step in that direction. Therefore, in one place Schmitt says: "Political unity is [...] the highest unity because it decides and has the potential to prevent the opposed groups from separating into the state of the ultimate animosity - that is, into the state of the civil war" (Schmitt, 1999, p. 203). Liberals are not the only ones that within the given historical context pleaded to present their position as objective and indispensable, denying the political character of their own positions. The spirit of the time was such that the denial of the political is taken as a desirable thing, with different actors hiding their real agenda behind the allegedly scientific and objective laws of social governance.

"American financiers, industrial technicians, Marxist socialists and anarchist-unionist revolutionaries were united in their request for removing the unobjective rule of politics over the objectivity of economic governance. There should no longer be political problems, but only organizational-technical and economic-sociological ones" (Schmitt, 1986, p. 65).

That is how the essentially political conflict hides behind allegedly objective positions, while prerequisites for the outbreak of the civil war are simultaneously created.

Having in mind that Schmitt's thought is related to the historical context, there is an impression that animosity between national states was considered far less dangerous. From certain works from the pre-Nazi period it may be concluded that at least he had nothing against political conflicts between national states. As he states at one point, "it cannot be denied that nations continue to group themselves according to the friend and enemy antithesis, [and] that the distinction still remains actual today it is an ever-present possibility for all nations existing in the political sphere" (Schmitt, 2007, p. 28). He adds that "the intensification of internal antagonisms has the effect of the common identity weakening in relation to another state" (Schmitt, 2007, p. 32). Defining the enemy should be an exclusive right of the state and only the state may ask for lives being given for it in borderline situations.

"The state as a decisive political entity has great power: the ability to wage wars and thus to publicly dispose of human lives. Jus belli contains such disposition. It implies twofold possibility: the right to ask its members for willingness to die and to kill enemies with no hesitation" (Schmitt, 2007, p. 46).

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that he is particularly concerned about the fact that the liberal state cherishes an impartial relationship towards all options on the political stage, even those emphasizing the primacy of internal political struggles. Schmitt reaches the climax of such thinking in the texts where he openly supported the Nazi regime. Namely, he states that the liberal state advocates a relativist view of politics, which leads to the "equalization of the enemies of the State and the People with the friends of the State and the People... " (Schmitt, 2001, p. 46). If there is no criterion for coming to power other than the procedure, then there is a threat of the state being taken over by the enemy that uses the procedure neutral to political content. Parliamentary democracy, which derives the legitimacy of rule from the legality of coming to power, is unable to prevent an actor from implementing the anti-state agenda. Without discussing whether Schmitt's subsequent texts are the product of opportunism, which in part they certainly are, it seems that the objection regarding the relativist nature of the liberal state is constant in his thought.

Legality and legitimacy

As already mentioned above, parliamentary democracy, through the procedure of free and fair elections, defines who makes political decisions. A decision is legitimate if it is legal, i.e. if it has been made in line with the stipulated procedure, regardless of the content itself. However, what happens when one party takes over power and employs its members in the public administration, takes the apparatus of power in its own hands, and gets the opportunity to manage state resources almost arbitrarily through the executive power instruments?

Schmitt believes that in parliamentary democracies there are no obstacles for the ruling party to close the channels of coming to power, thus making the political competition unequal. It does not mean that such channels will always be closed, but that the liberal state has no mechanisms to protect itself against the parties that would use such possibility3.

As long as the parties are loyal to democratic values, such situations are most unlikely to occur4. The problem arises when a certain party uses the procedure - free and fare elections - to come to power, and then legally, and thus legitimately, changes the rules to its own benefit. The very neutrality promised by parliamentarism may be disturbed by the party which identifies itself with the state after the elections. A value-neutral constitution may be subversive to itself because, after coming to power, a militant party will be transformed into the state (Schwab, 1986, p. xxiii).

The ruling party enjoys the "political surplus of values" from the legal possession of power5, which enables it an unequal battle with the opposition options (Schmitt, 2004, pp. 31-32). Law is thus instrumentalized to the benefit of political actors, while legal positivism is a naïve doctrine that gives in under the onslaught of political power. "That is why the democratic rule always leaves some empty room for the arbitrariness of those in power" (Pavićević and Simendić, 2016, p. 126). Just as the boundaries between the civil society and the state are not so solid, there is always a possibility of political power overflowing into the sphere of the law. Legal interpretations, which should ensure equality of all participants in the political competition, become instrumentalized to the benefit of the ruling party. The political competition becomes unequal while the ruling power is able to change the actual condition through its action, even if its legality is contentious. Subsequent court disputes take place too late because in the "race between the executive power and the judicial power, the latter is always late" (Schmitt, 2004, p. 32). By legitimization through legal power takeover, the ruling party, just like the dictator, is free to make decisions at will. In fact, everything is legal and in line with the procedures now. That is why Schmitt states that liberal democracy has made a trick, so that "injustice is no longer called injustice and a tyrant is no longer called a tyrant" (Schmitt, 2004, p. 29). Such rule is essentially arbitrary and unrestricted by law because any political decision almost simultaneously becomes a law. That is why Schmitt claims that actually there are no essential differences between decisionism and liberal proceduralism. Since the decision content is legitimized by the procedure of coming to power, Schmitt says that "the identification of the law with the results of the formal process only masks the real subordination to the clear decision of the authority entrusted with law-making" (Schmitt, 2004, p. 21). The power gained by taking over the executive power, and the restricted possibility of its actual control, give the ruling party the competencies that are similar to the dictatorial ones. Therefore, Pavićević and Simendić state the following:

“In that case, elections are not neutral procedures of coming to power, but the one who knows what is necessary in order to win the election may legally adjust the procedures so that he really wins. [...] Legality of exercising the state power and the principle of the open road for equal opportunities are met in the possibility of the legislation power itself deciding about “legality of competition” (Pavićević and Simendić, 2016, p. 125).

When the only source of legitimacy in parliamentary democracy is brought to question, the justification of the whole model is undermined. This is followed by the problem of the relationship between majority voting and democracy. The possibility of the existence of permanent majorities and minorities is one of the points of parliamentary democracies to which Schmitt dedicates his attention. Exploiting the advantages brought by the possession of the levers of power and the hostile relationship of the ruling power towards the opposition may create hostility inside the state. The division of the people into two opposed sides and the minimum majority, which ensure almost complete concentration of the political power on one side, is what Schmitt sees as problematic about majority voting. That is why he somewhat cynically points out that in parliamentary democracies the law is the "will of the temporary majority of the voting citizenship" (Schmitt, 2004, p. 24). Namely, there is a possibility of one side dominating over the other, completely legally and legitimately. In order to make the party competition possible, there should be agreement about the foundations the order relies on, which would be naïve to imagine in the interwar period. "It was assumed that social powers should recognize the common state and the competition rules prescribed by it, but it has never been the case" (Molnar, 2010, p. 147). The rules had a rather instrumental role and were used for the purpose of realizing particular interests. The reduction of politics to mere party politics is a trap of liberalism that is aimed at the weakening of the state.

Crisis and decision

Things become particularly complicated in crisis periods, when existential matters are put on the agenda. The liberal state "can distinguish only between the legal and illegal, but cannot decide about what is good and what is bad, or who is a friend or an enemy" (Schmitt, 2001, p. 28). During a crisis, according to Schmitt, it is necessary to overcome the narrow legalist understanding of politics and to make decisions about who the state enemy is. Instead of decision-making being most relevant to a political community, the tendency of parliamentary democracies is to avoid it by "pacifying" the political in the spheres of economy and private morality. Liberalism is "the enemy of enmity" (Müller, 2003, p. 1), and the very definition of the enemy is crucial during a crisis. Party pluralism can be an obstacle to it, while reducing politics to party politics "leads to the weakening of the overall political unit, or the state" (Schmitt, 2007, p. 32). In non-crisis times it may be possible to transfer conflicts into non-political fields and thus ensure stability, but when the onsets of crises are conflicting, the character of the political comes to the surface. That is when unity, action and struggle are necessary. That is why, in Schmitt's opinion, it would be justifiable to leave the "liberal" elements of the constitution aside - fundamental rights, principle of power division, autonomous sphere of economy and commercial activities - because they make unity relative in the name of the individual's non-political goals (Böckenförde, 1997, p. 11).

Another problem arises when there are no distinctive majorities in the parliament, when parties have indefinite negotiations, while politicians avoid assuming responsibility. In one place Schmitt says: "The essence of liberalism is negotiation; a cautious half-measure, in the hope that the definitive dispute, the decisive bloody battle, can be transformed into a parliamentary debate and an ever-lasting discussion" (Schmitt, 1986, p. 63). Since political parties have different and often completely opposed interests, decision-making is either postponed or is the product of rotten compromises. Modern bourgeois politics is "a system relying on compromises [...], and liberalism undermines the political by substituting the battle with procedures" (Strong, 2007, p. xv). Parliaments are inefficient and unprepared to put the general interest above the party interest at crucial moments. There is no sufficient time for observing procedures in a crisis. Then it is necessary to give up value relativism and make a decision that will determine the enemy.

Unlike the ever-negotiating parliament, the president acts (Schmitt, 2001, p. 9; Schmitt, 2004, pp. 68-69). Hence Schmitt's teaching about "situational law" that tells us that the modus of appearance and application of the legal depends on the given "situation", i.e. on the set of conditions marking the existence of the order at a given moment" (Cvetićanin, 2004, p. 198). In a crisis, it turns out who is actually a sovereign and who may and should make decisions. Within the context of the Weimer Republic, the president is the only instance that is not only actually able to homogenize the people and make a decision, but also the only political figure directly elected by the people, which guaranteed the greatest legitimacy (Schmitt, 2013, pp. 205-208; Müller, 2003, p. 35; Molnar, 2010, p. 151). Irrespectively of the letter of the law, the one that actually has the power to work for the purpose of preserving national unity is entitled to make decisions. "Laws are determined by the authority and not by truth" (Müller, 2003, p. 22), while the basis of the authority derives from the monopoly over political decision-making (Schwab, 1986, p. xviii). That is why the one deciding about the state of emergency is actually a sovereign, regardless of legal barriers. "A decision about the state of emergency is a decision in the true sense of that word" (Schmitt, 1986, p. 6), i.e. "every norm assumes a normal situation and no norm can be valid in an abnormal situation" (Schmitt, 2007, p. 46). In that manner, he justified the strengthening role of the president, who should be exclusively competent to make decisions. Schmitt allows that, if a "homogeneous political body sharing common values" does not exist (Pavićević and Simendić, 2016, p. 122), as it did not exist in the case of the Weimer Republic, necessary unity can be established even by dictatorial action from above (Pavićević and Simendić, 2016, p. 122; 5Raimondi, 2016, p. 5). That is why his solution cannot be considered truly democratic.

In that manner he also solves the above-mentioned "problem" of party pluralism. In an emergency, the president is entitled to fight against pluralism that disturbs political unity (Böckenförde, 1997, p. 9; Müller, 2003, p. 35). That is how parliamentarism is transformed into an allegedly more democratic plebiscitary system. Namely, "ideal democracy relies on a daily plebiscite", while "the pluralist system relies on a daily compromise" (Schmitt, 2001, p. 27). A daily plebiscite does not need parties, elections, free media and the critically oriented public. It only needs public manifestation of the united people will and the identity of the leader and the people, people will and political decisions. The order that ensures the expression of essential and undivided people will is more democratic than parliamentary democracy, even if those are "dictatorial and Caesarist methods" (Schmitt, 1988, pp. 16-17). Daily plebiscites are the expression of the political essence of a people - that is why the need for unanimity should come as no surprise as it is implied - and the expression of true democracy. To that end, "the symbolic essence wins the number (of votes) determined with the aid of the statistical apparatus" (Müller, 2017, p. 61). This form of rule does not require division of power either, having in mind that the relationship between the leader and the people is immediate.

"True democracy is based on the identification of the ruler and the subjects - on the principle from which it derives that the will of the people may be concentrated in one man, which means that dictatorships like that of Mussolini are a more convincing expression of democracy than liberal parliamentarism" (Müller, 2013, p. 136).

Therefore, Schmitt justifies the president's commissarial dictatorship that should reportedly renew the order in line with the existing constitution, unlike a sovereign dictatorship, that is not in compliance with the constitution and is often only a transitional stage towards a new order (Schmitt, 2013, pp. 205-20). If political decisions made independently by one person are identical to the political will of the people, then it is democracy in question.

In one aspect, this was an answer to the political instability of the Weimer Republic. This crisis showed that the paralyzed parliament with the parties competing over particular interests is not concerned about the general good and is unable to make a political decision. However, the solution is anti-democratic, no matter how hard Schmitt tried to prove the opposite. Even if the diagnosis of the problem might be proper, the solution is unacceptable because of undermining pluralism and justifying the dictator's rule.


Schmitt's critique of parliamentary democracy pays special attention to the problems caused by the depoliticization of the social and economic spheres and the neglect of power concentration in those fields. In the interwar period it transpired that there was a danger from power overflowing from the allegedly non-political spheres into the political domain, and that powerful social and economic actors may take over the state and use the institutions of parliamentary democracy for promoting own interests. This is an important problem diagnosis that may also be useful for studying modern democracies. Deregulated economic and social relations may create a fertile soil for the emergence of powerful social groups that will subsequently enslave the state and threaten democracy - the state should still have the right to intervene in economic relations in order to prevent the concentration of power in that field.

This is built on by the problem of legitimacy of the decisions made in parliamentary democracies, which is derived from legality and coming to power. Winning the mathematical majority gives the ruling party freedom to adopt any laws that appeal to it, making them legitimate. In that manner the ruling party gains almost dictatorial competencies under the mask of legality and acting within the democratic order. Neutrality of the liberal state may be brought to question when non-democratic actors use procedures for coming to power in order to create the order as they wish. It obliges the liberal state to renounce its full neutrality and to search for values, outside the procedures themselves, on which the order should be founded. One of the elements should certainly be political and social pluralism, as well as loyalty to democracy as a form of rule, and that is why Schmitt's solutions are not acceptable, although the diagnosis is correct.

Schmitt's justification of dictatorship during a crisis constitutes a strong but anti-democratic critique of parliamentarism. Slow decision-making in parliamentary democracies and party pluralism with each party "pulling to its own side" are the opportunity for dictators to increase their competencies and to concentrate political power ion their own hands. That is why it is increasingly necessary for contemporary democracies to find mechanisms for their self-preservation during a crisis period. To some extent, it is similar to the problem of the square footage of a circle. It is necessary to connect action and quick decision-making with the democratic form of rule. The first step in it would be reaching agreement about what should not be done - justifying someone's dictatorial rule on the grounds of the possession of mere political power and authority.



This paper was realized with the support of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia according to the Agreement on the realization and financing of scientific research work.


1Schmitt‘s personality is an almost inexhaustible topic and there is no agreement the extent to which he truly believed in Nazi ideas at certain times, about the extent to which his party membership was the result of opportunism. Pointing out that, during the Nazi regime, Schmitt “wrote pamphlets and justified some of the worst political practices”, Pavićević and Simendić state that he is “a shrewd critic of the representative legitimization scheme, with a disastrous feeling for political currency” (Pavićević and Simendić, 2016, p. 121). Jan-Werner Müller thinks that Schmitt “is not simply a conceptual opportunist who changed the meanings of his words by adapting them to political circumstances” (Müller, 2003, p. 9). Gopal Balakrishnan says that “it is almost always a question whether resisting to Fascism was opportunism, a logical culmination of pre-Fascist path or an episodic aberration” (Balakrishnan, 2000, p. 7). According to Neven Cvetićanin, Schmitt‘s personality “proves to be multilayered” and it “is not easy to classify him and say that he is just an extreme Catholic, a Nazi, an old-type Conservative, or a right-wing revolutionary” (Cvetićanin, 2004, p. 105). Although the fact remains that after World War Two Schmitt refused to undergo the de-Nazification process, in this text the author is more focused on Schmitt‘s texts themselves rather than his biographical data.
2For further details about the need to adapt Schmitt‘s theory to modern pluralistic societies and the redefinition of the concept of the “enemy” into the “opponent”, see: Mouffe, C. (1993) The Return of the Political, London & New York: Verso
3That is why Schmitt at one point states that the aim of the liberal state is to prevent the right to rebellion (Schmitt, 2004, pp. 87–88). Since every political decision of the authorities has been made legitimate by the election victory, any rebellion against such decisions is illegitimate.
4The same problem is considered by other authors of the time, by introducing the concept of malignant democracy which justifies the preventive prohibition of (Fascist) parties due to the reasonable suspicion that they might undermine the democratic form of governance (e.g. Loewenstein, 1937).
5Schmitt lists three advantages of that kind: 1) discretionary power of interpreting unclear concepts such as. state of emergency, danger, necessary measures etc.; 2) the assumption of legality on one‘s side in contentious cases, and 3) the directives or the executive power are immediately executable, which enables the change of the current condition (Schmitt, 2004, p. 32).


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Kelsen, H. (2012) Verteidigung der Demokratie. Zagreb: Naklada Breza, [In Croatian]
Koselleck, R. (1997) Kritik und Krise. Beograd: Plato, [In Serbian]
Loewenstein, K. (1937) Militant Democracy and Fundamental Rights. American Political Science Review, I. 31(3): 417-432
Molnar, A. (2010) The Sun of the Myth and the long Shadow of Carl Schmitt. Beograd: Službeni glasnik, [In Serbian]
Mouffe, C. (1993) The Return of the Political. London-New York: Verso
Müller, J.W. (2013) Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe. Fabrika knjiga, [In Serbian]
Müller, J.W. (2017) What is Populism. Beograd: Fabrika knjiga, [In Serbian]
Müller, J. (2003) A dangerous mind: Carl Schmitt in post-war European thought. New Haven-London: Yale University Press
Pavićević, Đ., Simendić, M. (2016) Disciplining Democracy: Classical Critiques and Modern Controversies. Beograd: Fabrika knjiga, [In Serbian]
Raimondi, S. (2016) From Schmitt to Foucault. Democratic Theory, 3(1): 52-70
Schmitt, C. (1986) Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty. Cambridge (Massachusetts)-London: The MIT Press
Schmitt, C. (1988) The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy. Cambridge (Massachusetts)-London: The MIT Press
Schmitt, C. (1999) Ethic of State and Pluralistic State. u: Mouffe C. [ur.] The Challenge of Carl Schmitt, London-New York: Verso, 195-208
Schmitt, C. (2001) State, Movement, People: The Triadic Structure of the Political Unity. Corvallis (Oregon): Plutarch Press
Schmitt, C. (2004) Legality and Legitimacy. Durham (North Carolina): Duke University Press
Schmitt, C. (2007) The Concept of the Political. Chicago-London: The University of Chicago Press
Schmitt, C. (2013) Dictatorship. Cambridge-Malden: Polity Press
Schwab, G. (1986) Introduction. u: McCarthy T. [ur.] Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, Cambridge (Massachusetts)-London: The MIT Press, xi-xxvi
Strong, T. (2007) Foreword: Dimensions of the New Debate around Carl Schmitt. u: C. Schmitt: The Concept of the Political, Chicago-London: The University of Chicago Press, ix-xxxi
Tormey, S. (2014) The Contemporary Crisis of Representative Democracy. Democratic Theory, 1(2): 10-112
Urbinati, N. (2016) Reflections on the Meaning of the 'Crisis of Democracy'. Democratic Theory, 3(1): 6-31

O članku

jezik rada: srpski, engleski
vrsta rada: pregledni članak
DOI: 10.5937/socpreg55-31523
primljen: 26.03.2021.
revidiran: 22.06.2021.
prihvaćen: 29.07.2021.
objavljen u SCIndeksu: 21.01.2022.
metod recenzije: dvostruko anoniman
Creative Commons License 4.0

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