A Dangerous Mind


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Carl Schmitt in Post-War European Thought

Jan-Werner Müller

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Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) was one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant and disturbing critics of liberalism. He was also one of the most important intellectuals to offer his services to the Nazis, for which he was dubbed the “crown jurist of the Third Reich.” Despite this fateful alliance Schmitt has exercised a profound influence on post-war European political and legal thought—on both the Right and the Left. In this illuminating book, Jan-Werner Müller traces for the first time the permutations of Schmitt’s ideas after the Second World War and relates them to broader political developments in Europe.

Offering a fresh account of Schmitt’s life and career along with discussions of his key concepts, Müller explains why interest in the political theorist continues. He assesses the current uses of Schmitt’s thought in debates on globalization and the quest for a liberal world order. He also offers new insights into the liberalization of political thinking in post-authoritarian societies and the persistent vulnerabilities and blind spots of certain strands of Western liberalism.

Jan-Werner Müller is a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He is the author of Another Country: German Intellectuals , Unification and National Identity, also published by Yale University Press.

“Jan-Werner Müller’s A Dangerous Mind is the most comprehensive account yet available of Carl Schmitt’s pervasive, indeed corrosive, intellectual influence over post-war Europe. Through meticulous research in multiple languages, with conceptual sophistication and often eloquent prose, Müller demonstrates that Schmitt’s ideas have set the terms of debate for the last half-century, not only in European political philosophy, jurisprudence, state administration, and foreign affairs, but in the fields of theology, aesthetics and historiography as well.”—John P. McCormick, University of Chicago

“In his rich new book, Jan-Werner Müller examines the post-war appropriation of the ambiguous legacy of Carl Schmitt, the arch anti-liberal. This is an important book, and anyone concerned with modern political thought will learn from this paradoxical study.”—Mark Lilla, Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago

“Carl Schmitt is at once one of the most sinister and one of the most interesting, and in his warped way stimulating and insightful, legal intellectuals of the twentieth century. A leader of anti-liberal thought, this reactionary Catholic and later Nazi thinker nevertheless managed to attract a strong posthumous following among the European New Left, and his thought remains fascinating, seductive, and dangerous—all as brilliantly shown in Müller’s book. Liberals ignore Schmitt at their peril.”—Richard A. Posner, judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and author of Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy

"[A] lucid overview . . . as disturbing as it is fascinating. No small part of Müller's achievement rests upon his masterful summary of Schmitt's hermetic, highly stylized, continually fluctuating view of politics. . . . [A] fine study. . . . A Dangerous Mind is an important contribution to the history of political theory with special relevance for understanding the development of German social and political thought from 1956 to the present. It is is required reading for anyone interested in these themes."—Allan Janik, Central European Studies

"Deft and impressive, condensing broad bodies of work into elegantly written nuggets of intellectual history. . . . [Müller's] book's extraordinary range and depth make it an authoritative guide for a broader historical exploration."—Benjamin G. Martin, German Studies Review

"[An] exemplary piece of intellectual history. It traces the continued presence of Schmitt's thought in the European discussion after 1945. For English readers, Muller's book also gives an exciting account of some of the most central intellectual fields and debates that have marked political culture in Germany from the 1960s to the 1980s, and as such it is much more than simply a reception history of Schmitt's ideas."—Christian J. Emden, H-Net Reviews


"Jan-Wener Müller's book on Carl Schmitt is perhaps one of the best books written about this controversial political thinker and constitutional jurist. . . . Müller's account is even handed, and to a great degree covers a lot of ground that will be useful to scholars interested in Schmitt, critiques of liberalism, the connection of the anti-liberal impulse and critiques of globalism, and the like."—Clifford Angell Bates, Jr., Political Studies Review


A Dangerous Mind offers a welcome summary of what Schmitt thought and a detailed account of the fortunes of ‘Schmittian thought’ in post-war Europe. Müller . . . is a lucid and expert guide.”—Edmund Fawcett, Times Literary Supplement

ISBN: 9780300196498
Publication Date: October 21, 2003
304 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
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