The Emergence of a New Nomos

“Some believe themselves to be experiencing the end of the world. In reality we are only experiencing the end of the relation between land and sea, which had held up to this point. Still, human angst [Angst] in the face of the new is often as great as the angst in the face of the void, even when the new is the overcoming of the void. Thus, the many see only senseless disorder, where, in reality, a new sense struggles for its order. Admittedly, the old nomos falls away and with it a whole system of received measures, norms, and relations. But that which is coming is not therefore only measurelessness or a nothingness hostile to nomos. Even in the embittered struggle of old and new forces, just measures emerge and sensible proportions are constructed.”

—Carl Schmitt, Land and Sea: A World-Historical Meditation

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Carl Schmitt the Fundamental Meanings of Nomos

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Michael Millerman looks at Carl Schmitt’s “Appropriation/Distribution/Production: Toward a Proper Formulation of Basic Questions of any Social and Economic Order” from Telos 95 (Spring 1993).

As indicated by its title, Carl Schmitt’s essay addresses to two problems: (1) what are the basic questions that we must raise about the social and the economic order? (2) how are those questions properly formulated? A moment’s reflection should reveal to us the great generality of these problems, which are designed—so Schmitt says—to answer a need for “comprehensive consideration” of social life in its unity (52). Whether we are asking about orders democratic, non-democratic, capitalist, or socialist; whether we inquire into totalitarianisms, fascisms, traditionalisms, ethno-nationalisms; whether we put the question to republics or princedoms, Schmitt is indicating that there are basic questions to ask, and he is suggesting that he has the key to their proper formulation.

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