ABSTRACT

This article analyzes the critical dialogue between Walter Benjamin and Carl Schmitt, to which a letter and several references in their work testify. It shows how affinities and differences between their respective positions can be explained from a shared theologico-political approach. Both authors believe that, in spite of secularization, political phenomena can only be adequately understood in light of certain theological concepts, images, and metaphors. However, they explain these theologico-political analogies differently. Whereas Schmitt advocates the authoritarian state, which he compares to God’s omnipotence, Benjamin endorses the proletarian revolution, in which he recognizes traces of a divine law-destroying violence. Challenging existing interpretations, this article shows how the political theologies of Benjamin and Schmitt are not static but developed in the course of their dialogue, in which both authors respond to each other’s criticism by changing and correcting their own positions in significant ways.

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