Merely Political: Waldemar Gurian and Carl Schmitt’s Early Political-Theological Divide

Part of the Boston Studies in Philosophy, Religion and Public Life book series (BSPR, volume 6)


In the midst of the dissolution of the Weimar Republic, the personal, the political and the theological collided for the German intellectuals who explored the areas of Church-state relations, constitutional law, intellectual history and cultural criticism. Carl Schmitt serves as a prime example of one for whom the consequences of professional political decisions threw into upheaval, and in many cases permanently ruined, friendships that had been formative to his development as a legal and political theorist. The obvious narrative is that Schmitt’s turn to National Socialism in 1932 caused many of his acquaintances, Catholic intellectuals who had adored his early work and who had in turn helped shape it, to abandon him entirely. Perhaps the most dramatic of these ruptures is that between Schmitt and his student, Waldemar Gurian, which seems to have been brought on by the former’s alliance with the Papen government and the publication of 1932s Legalität und Legitimität with its concept of the “total state.” However, this is an incomplete account of the friend-to-enemy transformation of this relationship, which, I would argue, begins not with National Socialism, but with the Church.


  1. Arendt H (1955) Men in dark times. Harcourt, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Balakrishnan G (2000) The enemy: an intellectual portrait of Carl Schmitt. Verso, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Becker W (1998) Briefe an Carl Schmitt. Duncker and Humblodt, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  4. Bendersky J (1983) Carl Schmitt: theorist for the Reich. Princeton University Press, PrincetonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dahlheimer M (1998) Carl Schmitt und der deutsche Katholizismus, 1888–1936. Ferdinand Schöningh, MunichGoogle Scholar
  6. Dulles A (2000) Models of the church, expanded edn. Random House, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Gurian W (1929) Die politischen und sozialen Ideen des französischen Katholizismus. 1789/1914. Volksvereins-Verlag, MönchengladbachGoogle Scholar
  8. Gurian W (1931) Der integrale Nationalismus in Frankreich. Charles Maurras und die Action Française. Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am MainGoogle Scholar
  9. Gurian W (1948) Peace ideals and reality. Ann Am Acad Pol Soc Sci 257:75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gurian W (1954) Introduction. In: Gurian W, Fitzsimons MA (eds) The Catholic Church in world affairs. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre DameGoogle Scholar
  11. Hartwich W, Assmann A, Assmann J (2004) Afterword. In: Taubes J (ed) The political theology of Paul (trans: Hollander D). Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  12. Hürten H (1972) Waldemar Gurian. Ein Zeuge der Krise unserer Welt in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts. Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, MainzGoogle Scholar
  13. Hürten H (2005) Waldemar Gurian and the development of the concept of totalitarianism. In: Maier H (ed) Totalitarianism and political religions: concepts for the comparisons of dictatorships. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Kennedy E (2004) Constitutional failure: Carl Schmitt in Weimar. Duke University Press, DurhamCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Koenen A (1997) Der Fall Carl Schmitt: Sein Aufstieg zum “Kronjuristen des Dritten Reiches”. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, DarmstadtGoogle Scholar
  16. Krieg RA (2004) Catholic theologians in Nazi Germany. Continuum, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. McCormick J (2011) Post-enlightenment sources of political authority: Biblical atheism, political theology, and the Schmitt-Strauss exchange. Hist Eur Ideas 37:175–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mehring R (2009) Carl Schmitt: Aufstieg und Fall. Verlag C.H.Beck oHG, MunichGoogle Scholar
  19. Meier H (2006) Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: the hidden dialogue (trans: Lomax JH). University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  20. Müller J-W (2003) A dangerous mind: Carl Schmitt in post war European thought. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  21. Schmitt C (1917–1918) Die Sichtbarkeit der Kirche: Eine scholastische Erwägung. Summa. Eine Vierteljahresschrift 1–2: 71–80. English edition: Schmitt C (1996) The visibility of the Church: a scholastic consideration. In: Roman Catholicism and political form (trans: Ulmen GL). Greenwood Press, WestportGoogle Scholar
  22. Schmitt C (1917–1933) Briefe an Carl Schmitt 1917–1933. Reinthal A, Kuhlmann W (ed). Manutius Verlag, HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  23. Schmitt C (1922) Political theology: four chapters on the concept of sovereignty (trans: Schwab G). The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  24. Schmitt C (1923) Römischer Katholizismus und politische Form. (1st ed) Jakob Hegner Verlag, Hellerau. Second edition: Schmitt, Römischer Katholizismus und politische Form (1925) Theatiner-Verlag, Munich. English edition: Schmitt C (1996) Roman Catholicism and political form (trans: Ulmen GL). Greenwood Press, WestportGoogle Scholar
  25. Sohm R (1892–1923) Kirchenrecht, vol 2. Jacobi E, Mayer O (ed) Duncker and Humblot, Leipzig and MunichGoogle Scholar
  26. Stark T (2013) Complexio oppositorum. October 146:31–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Storey JS (2008) Schmitt’s decisionism revisited. In: Minkov S, Nowak P (eds) Man and his enemies: essays on Carl Schmitt. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  28. Thümmler E, Mehring R (eds) (2011) Schmittiana, Neue Folge, Bd. 1. Duncker and Humblot, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  29. Wacker B (1994) Die eigentlich katholische Verschärfung Konfession, Theologie und Politik im Werk Carl Schmitts. Wilhelm Fink Verlag, MunichGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Boston UniversityBostonUSA

Personalised recommendations