Cover image for Friendly Sovereignty: Historical Perspectives on Carl Schmitt's Neglected Exception By Ted H. Miller

Friendly Sovereignty

Historical Perspectives on Carl Schmitt's Neglected Exception

Ted H. Miller

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$119.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09337-6

252 pages
6" × 9"
2022

Friendly Sovereignty

Historical Perspectives on Carl Schmitt's Neglected Exception

Ted H. Miller

“Sovereignty is a major subject in discussions of politics today. Thanks to widespread interest in Carl Schmitt’s writings, it figures in critiques of liberalism that stress the reality of violent extralegal action. Covering three political thinkers, Friendly Sovereignty directs our eyes to the dangers of nonviolent, ‘friendly’ forms of extralegality—favoritism, corruption, and mercy. It is a timely warning, born of the recognition that ‘friendly sovereignty’ has been a clear and present danger in recent U.S. politics.”

 

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Over the last one hundred years, the term “sovereignty” has often been associated with the capacity of leaders to declare emergencies and to unleash harmful, extralegal force against those deemed enemies. Friendly Sovereignty explores the blind spots of this influential perspective.

Ted H. Miller challenges the view of sovereignty propounded by Carl Schmitt, the Weimar and Nazi–period jurist and political theorist whose theory undergirds this understanding of sovereignty. Claiming a return to concepts of sovereignty forgotten by his liberal contemporaries, Schmitt was preoccupied with the legal exceptions required, he said, to rescue polities in crisis. Much is missing from what Schmitt harvests from the past. His framework systematically overlooks another extralegal power, one that often caused consternation, even among absolutists like Thomas Hobbes. Sovereigns also made exceptions for friends, allies, and dependents. Friendly Sovereignty plumbs the history of political thought about sovereignty to illustrate this other side of the sovereign’s exception-making power. At the core of this extensive study are three thinkers, each of whom stakes out a distinct position on the merits and demerits of a “friendly sovereign”: the nineteenth-century historian Jules Michelet, the seventeenth-century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, and Seneca, the ancient Stoic and teacher of Nero.

Analytically rigorous and thorough in its intellectual history, Friendly Sovereignty presents a more comprehensive understanding of sovereignty than the one typically taught today. It will be particularly useful to scholars and students of political theory and philosophy.

“Sovereignty is a major subject in discussions of politics today. Thanks to widespread interest in Carl Schmitt’s writings, it figures in critiques of liberalism that stress the reality of violent extralegal action. Covering three political thinkers, Friendly Sovereignty directs our eyes to the dangers of nonviolent, ‘friendly’ forms of extralegality—favoritism, corruption, and mercy. It is a timely warning, born of the recognition that ‘friendly sovereignty’ has been a clear and present danger in recent U.S. politics.”

Ted H. Miller is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Alabama. He is the author of Mortal Gods: Science, Politics, and the Humanist Ambitions of Thomas Hobbes, also published by Penn State University Press.