Essential Reading: Carl Schmitt’s Land and Sea

Writing at the Claremont Review of Books, Aaron Zack reviews the new English translation of Carl Schmitt’s Land and Sea, now available from Telos Press. Purchase your copy in our online store and save 20% by using the coupon code BOOKS20.

Telos Press’s new edition of Carl Schmitt’s Land und Meer: Eine weltgeschichtliche Betrachtung (Land and Sea: A World-Historical Meditation) provides an essential guide for understanding sea power. . . . Schmitt provides an intriguing analysis of the link between the sea and the modern project’s culmination in creative, free-thinking individuals moving and acting within a liberal, global order . . .

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The Perception of Space

“The human receives a particular historical consciousness from his ‘space,’ which is subjected to great historical transformations. The variegated forms of life correspond to equally differentiated spaces. Even within the same time period, the environment of individual humans for the practice of daily life is already defined differently by their different life occupations. An urbanite thinks the world otherwise than does a peasant farmer, a whale-fish hunter has another living space than an opera singer, and to a pilot the world and life appear otherwise not only in other lights but also in other quantities, depths, and horizons.”

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

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The View from the Land

“The human is a land-being, a land-dweller. He stands and walks and moves upon the firmly grounded earth. This is his standpoint and his soil; through it he receives his viewpoint; this defines his impressions and his way of seeing the world. He receives not only his field of vision but also the form of his gait and his movements, his shape as a living being born and moving upon the earth.”
—Carl Schmitt, Land and Sea: A World-Historical Meditation

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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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Land and Sea, Air and Fire

“If, in addition, one imagines not only that airplanes fly through the airspace over land and sea but also that radio waves from transmissions from all lands circle the globe uninterruptedly through the atmospheric space, then it would be easy to believe now not only that a new, third dimension has been achieved but also that even a third element has been added, the air, as a new elementary domain of human existence. To both the mythic beasts, Leviathan and Behemoth, a third would be added, a great bird. But we must not be overhasty with such consequential propositions. Indeed, if one thinks of the mechanized technical means and energies with which human power is exercised in airspace, and if one recognizes the explosive motors by means of which air machines are moved, then it appears that it is the fire that is the additional, genuinely new element of human activity.”
—Carl Schmitt, Land and Sea: A World-Historical Meditation

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Nomos and Land-Appropriation

“Every fundamental order is a spatial order. One speaks of the constitution of a country or a piece of earth as of its fundamental order, its Nomos. Now, the true, actual fundamental order touches in its essential core upon particular spatial boundaries and separations, upon particular quantities and a particular partition of the earth. At the beginning of every great epoch there stands a great land-appropriation. In particular, every significant alteration and every resituating of the image of the earth is bound up with world-political alterations and with a new division of the earth, with a new land-appropriation.”
—Carl Schmitt, Land and Sea: A World-Historical Meditation

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