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The Architectonics of Hope: Political Theology in Carl Schmitt and Johann Baptist Metz

Kyle Gingerich Hiebert’s “The Architectonics of Hope: Apocalyptic Convergences and Constellations of Violence in Carl Schmitt and Johann Baptist Metz” appears in Telos 160 (Fall 2012). Read the full version online at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue here.

This essay traces the apocalyptic re-emergence of political theology in late modernity in the work of the jurist Carl Schmitt and the theologian Johann Baptist Metz. Broadly speaking, the intellectual fault line between these two German Catholics can be provisionally drawn with reference to Hegel. On the one hand, Schmitt¹s lineage can be traced back through the conservative Catholic political philosophers of the counterrevolution (Bonald, de Maistre, and Cortés) to what amounts to, in very broad strokes, a political theology of the Hegelian Right. On the other hand, Metz¹s sympathies in his development of the new political theology clearly lie with the revisionary Marxists of the Frankfurt School (Adorno, Benjamin, and Bloch), which binds his intellectual heritage, again in very broad strokes, to the Hegelian Left. This way of putting the matter quite easily lends itself to interpretations that argue the relationship between Schmitt and Metz is straightforwardly oppositional. While perhaps conceptually useful, I argue that any easy conservative/critical dichotomy here obscures as much as it illuminates because it proffers too undifferentiated an account of the interrelationship between Schmitt and Metz. Alternatively, I suggest that the apocalyptic tone that infuses their respective accounts of political theology is the most adequate key for understanding how they function as different expressions of what I call an architectonics of hope; a reconfiguration of political theology that is structural in nature, animated by a thoroughly negative theological anthropology and that tragically acquiesces to the ongoing necessity of violence. In the end, then, Schmitt and Metz stand much closer to each other than currently realized.

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