Now Available: Carl Schmitt’s Land and Sea

Telos Press Publishing is pleased to announce that Carl Schmitt’s Land and Sea: A World-Historical Meditation is now available for purchase. Order your copy today in our online store.

Land and Sea:
A World-Historical Meditation
by Carl Schmitt

Translated by Samuel Garrett Zeitlin
Edited and with Introductions by Russell A. Berman and Samuel Garrett Zeitlin

Originally published in 1942, at the height of the Second World War, Land and Sea: A World-Historical Meditation recounts Carl Schmitt’s view of world history “as a history of the battle of sea powers against land powers and of land powers against sea powers.” Schmitt here unfolds his view of world history from the Peloponnesian War to European colonial expansion to the birth pangs of capitalism, while polemically setting Nazi Germany as a continental land power against Britain and the United States as its maritime enemies. In Land and Sea, Schmitt offers his interpretations of the rise of Venice, piracy, “corsair capitalism,” the spatial revolution of European colonial expansion, the rise of the British empire, and his readings of thinkers as diverse as Seneca, Shakespeare, Herman Melville, and Benjamin Disraeli.

This new and authorized edition from Telos Press Publishing, translated by Samuel Garrett Zeitlin and edited by Russell A. Berman and Samuel Garrett Zeitlin, includes extensive textual annotations that compare critical variations between the original 1942 edition of Land and Sea and the subsequent editions published in 1954 and 1981.

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Alain de Benoist on the Value of Empire

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, Beau Mullen looks at Alain de Benoist’s “The Idea of Empire,” from Telos 98–99 (Winter 1993/Spring 1994).

Few political concepts have appeared as destined to be cast into history’s dustbin as that of empire. The nation-state is the most widely accepted model for sovereign territories, and imperial ambitions of nations are often condemned by the international community. The existence of great empires, such as that of the Romans or of the Holy Roman Empire, it appears, are simply regimes that are relics of a distant, less enlightened historical era. The areas once encompassing the great empires have now fractured into sovereign nation-states, each with its own polity and allegiances. Furthermore, serious modern confederation between nations is most often based on monetary concerns, not the furtherance of any imperial goal or ambition. The sun, it could be said, has set on the idea of empire.

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The Unsatisfactory Discourse on American Foreign Policy

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, Frederick Wertz looks at Elliot Neaman’s “The New (Old) Discourse on the American Empire and the War in Iraq” from Telos 132 (Fall 2005).

Critiques of American imperialism are easy to find at the domestic and the international level, especially in today’s partisan and reactionary political climate. The contemporary discourse is beginning to focus on the decline of the American empire, despite the fact that there is very little consensus as to whether or not America ever even had an empire to begin with, in any objective historical context.

In an article written in the midst of a heated debate about American imperialism and the War in Iraq, Elliot Neaman takes a step back from the fray and takes a look at the development of the contemporary discourse surrounding the issue. While the debate may or may not have evolved significantly from where it was in 2005, Neaman’s analysis of various critiques of American empire has enduring aspects that pertain far beyond the scope of American foreign policy. By looking at various pro- and anti-empire positions from both the Left and Right, we can draw meaningful lessons about the development of discourse and the interpretation of history.

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The Obsolescence of Anti-Imperialism:

Despite the approaching mid-term elections and the criticism of the Bush administration’s conduct of foreign policy, the left—domestically and internationally—has had a hard time in articulating an alternative positive vision. “Not Bush” only gets you so far: sooner or later a substantive alternative is needed to give opposition credibility. Facing turmoil (to say the least) in the Arab and Islamic world, what foreign policy would be preferable? Evidence demonstrates that neither “UN” nor “EU” is a believable response. But the problem is deeper than the pragmatics of current diplomacy.

The left (and liberal) imagination would prefer to cast the confrontation with Islamic extremism or, yes, Islamic fascism, as a matter of imperialism and “anti-imperialism.” The terminology constitutes a treasured legacy of the left, not only from Lenin’s account of imperialism and capitalism (which then permitted him and his successors to mask Soviet Russian expansionism as somehow “anti-imperialist”) but also from a more honorable resistance in the US and Europe to imperial expansion of the late nineteenth century.

In the meantime, anti-imperialism is today’s last hurrah of the traditional left. Having given up nearly all of its other principles, especially in the phase of multiculturalism and post-modernism, it drapes itself in the anti-imperialist flag as a way to remember its glory days. Hence the grotesque sight of the (extreme) left celebrating the reactionary forces of Hezbollah (ask about the role of women or the status of free unions).

The problem however is that the theory of anti-imperialism—probably insufficient already a century ago—is simply irrelevant today. Exactly which natural resources are being fought for in Afghanistan, that fabled land of plenty? Which advanced capitalist company really needs to export its “surplus capital” to the Sunni triangle? And which is the national liberation movement that leads Sunni to kill Shi’a in Pakistan?

None of these conceptualizations of empire and anti-imperialism is adequate to the current situation, which is very explicitly being driven by something else: either an ideological-religious fanaticism or, on a deeper cultural level, a desire for death. Let us consider the account most recently televised by our compatriot and now Al-Qaeda operative Adam Gadahn, otherwise known affectionately as “Azzam the American.” Gadahn, who has been sought by the FBI for several years aired an address on on September 2. In it he articulates aspects of the Islamic-fascist critique of the West and, as has been widely reported, called for conversion to Islam. . . . 

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