Political Theology between Reason and Will

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Contemporary practitioners of political theology make use of Carl Schmitt's account of sovereignty to criticize liberal political theory. But whereas Schmitt focused on "states of exception," the new decisionism holds that decision-making is a quotidian feature of jurisprudence: the interpretation of law depends upon judicial decisions that serve to impose meaning on otherwise semantically indeterminate norms. Ironically, it is possible to detect in the contemporary decisionist critique of liberal theory, with its focus on law's meaning, a liberalizing tendency: by insisting on the ubiquity of decision-making, the exception is made to seem unexceptional. In this way, Schmitt is tamed, and sovereignty is diffused into the mundane world of administrative governance. I want to resist this normalizing account on philosophical grounds: if one is to appreciate the exceptional character of the decision, it is important to retain some background of regularity with which it can be contrasted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-67
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Law, Religion and State
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Carl Schmitt
  • decisionism
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • Paul W. Kahn
  • philosophy of law
  • political theology
  • the self
  • voluntarism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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