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10 Can. J. L. & Jurisprudence 21 (1997)
Carl Schmitt and the Paradox of Liberal Democracy

handle is hein.journals/caljp10 and id is 23 raw text is: Carl Schmitt and the Paradox of Liberal
Democracy
Chantal Mouffe
In his introduction to the paperback edition of Political Liberalism, John Rawls,
referring to Carl Schmitt's critique of parliamentary democracy, suggests that the
fall of Weimar's constitutional regime was in part due to the fact that German elites
no longer believed in the possibility of a decent liberal parliamentary regime. This
should, in his view, make us realize the importance of providing convincing argu-
ments in favor of ajust and well-ordered constitutional democracy. Debates about
general philosophical questions, he says, cannot be the daily stuff of politics,
but that does not make these questions without significance, since what we think
their answers are will shape the underlying attitudes of the public culture and the
conduct of politics:
I agree with Rawis on the practical role that political philosophy can play in
shaping the public culture of democratic political identities and in contributing to
their creation. But I consider that, in order to put forward a conception of the liberal
democratic society able to win the active allegiance of its citizens, political theorists
must be willing to engage with the arguments of those who have challenged the
fundamental tenets of liberalism. This means confronting some disturbing questions,
usually avoided by liberals and democrats alike.
My intention in this article is to contribute to such a project by scrutinizing Carl
Schmitt's critique of liberal democracy. Indeed, I am convinced that a confrontation
with his thought will allow us to acknowledge-and therefore be in a better position
to try to negotiate-an important paradox inscribed in the very nature of liberal
democracy. To bring to the fore the pertinence and actuality of Schmitt's critique,
I will organize my argument around two topics which are currently central in polit-
ical theory: the boundaries of citizenship and the nature of a liberal democratic con-
sensus.2
Democracy, homogeneity and the boundaries of citizenship
The boundaries of citizenship have lately excited much discussion. Several
authors have recently argued that in an age of globalization, citizenship cannot be
confined within the boundaries of nation-states; it must become transnational. David
Held, for instance, advocates the advent of a cosmopolitan citizenship and asserts
1. John Rawls, Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996 (paperback)) at
Ixi.
2. 1 would have thought that everybody was able to understand that it was possible to use, so to
speak, Schmitt against Schmitt, i.e, to use the insights of his critique of liberalism in order to
consolidate liberalism-while recognizing that this was, of course. not his aim. However, it does
not seem to be the case since Bill Scheuerman in his book Between the Norm and the Eception
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994) at 8 criticizes me for presenting Schmitt as a theorist of rad-
ical pluralist democracy!

Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence

Vol. X, No.1 (January 1997)

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