Jack Bauer, meet Carl Schmitt
It’s been a few years since Alan Wolfe said, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, that to understand contemporary politics you have to understand Carl Schmitt. Now it looks like TV critics will have to wrap their minds around political theology as well.
Jerome Eric Copulsky, assistant professor and director of Judaic studies at Virginia Tech, wrote a piece for Sightings, the online journal of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School, in which he calls 24 a “sustained lesson in controversial jurist and political theorist Carl Schmitt’s decidedly illiberal concept of sovereignty.” He continues:
“Sovereign is he who decides upon the exception,” Schmitt proclaimed at the beginning of his 1922 treatise Political Theology. To have this power is to stand outside the law, to decide upon the state of exception, when the normal rules do not apply. If we follow Schmitt’s claim that “significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts,” the human sovereign is the political analogue of the omnipotent God.
What better description could there be of counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer, the hero of 24?
And what better illustration of the mainlining of a philosophical idea?
Our books by Carl Schmitt include Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty and The Concept of the Political. Also relevant: State of Exception by Giorgio Agamben, from which we have an excerpt.