The Crisis of Political Form: The Question of Space in the Work of Carl Schmitt

Rory Rowan

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis examines the role of space in the work of the German legal and
political theorist Carl Schmitt (1888-1983). It has two fundamental aims.
Firstly, to identify what role spatial concepts play in Schmitt's work. Second,
to examine what relevance Schmitt’s spatial thought might have for thinking
about the relation between space and politics today. In response to the first
question the thesis argues that spatial concepts occupy a structural position
throughout Schmitt’s work that has thus far been overlooked. The central
claim is that Schmitt understands political order, in the absence of necessary
foundations, to be fundamentally grounded upon the division of space. The
division of space allows political relations to be managed within a formal
framework. However, Schmitt understood this relationship between spatial
division and political relations to be in crisis in the twentieth century. The
thesis traces Schmitt's various attempts to address this crisis first within the
horizon of the state and then on the basis of new global spatial divisions
beyond the state form. In answering the second question the thesis argues
that in order to assess the contemporary relevance of Schmitt's spatial
thought it must be contextualized in relation to both the central concerns of
his work as a whole and the political contexts within which it emerged. This
is of particular importance in judging how Schmitt's involvement with
National Socialism bears on the contemporary value of his thought. In
conclusion the thesis argues that whilst a critical awareness of his troubling
past is necessary in approaching Schmitt's work it none-the-less raises
fundamental questions of enduring relevance.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Minca, Claudio, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


  • Geography, Carl Schmitt, Space, The political, Politics, Nazism, Philosophy, Geopolitics,

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