Mobilizing the Western tradition for present politics: Carl Schmitt’s polemical uses of Roman law, 1923–1945

In my presentation, I argue that Schmitt’s different ways of narrating the modern reception of Roman law disclose, first, the Nazification of his thought in the spring of 1933, and second, the partial and apologetic de-Nazification of his thinking in the 1940s. While Schmitt’s Weimar-era works are defined by a positive use of Roman imagery, ranging from Schmitt’s support to the Catholic Church to his endorsement of Benito Mussolini’s ‘total state’ in Italy, Schmitt’s Nazi writings from 1933 to 1936 describe the reception of Roman law as an anti-German virus that must be overcome by the Nazi movement. This shift mirrors Schmitt’s transformation from an authoritarian thinker sympathetic to Italian Fascism into a devoted Nazi. However, once Schmitt begins to see that Germany will lose World War II, he recalibrates his position.