ABSTRACT

The interest of Carl Schmitt’s Theory of the Partisan (2007) is that it throws new light on central categories with which we have been familiar since the publication of his classical study, The Concept of the Political (2007) in 1928. What the work we are now considering adds to that book is a new emphasis on political subjectivity and new precisions on the links between war and politics, together with a differentiation between various kinds of hostility. It is to this differentiation that my commentaries will be mainly addressed, but before that I will briefly describe the logical sequence of the main categories of Schmitt’s theory of the partisan. Schmitt starts by pointing out a momentous event that took place in European

military history: the emergence of an irregular kind of warfare whose first expression was the Spanish partisan resistance to the Napoleonic Armies between 1808 and 1813. At the epicenter of this new phenomenon we find the revolutionary restructuration of the art of war brought about by Napoleon, who broke with all the classical rules of the military art as they had been codified in the eighteenth century. Schmitt quotes a Prussian general as saying that the Napoleonic campaign against Prussia in 1806 had only been a partisan operation on a big scale. The Spanish example, however, was not widely followed in Northern Europe except for the brief guerrilla war in the Tyrol in 1809, and the long conflict was finally settled at the battle of Leipzig by a classical confrontation between regular armies. The restoration brought about by the Vienna Congress codified, inter alia, the rules of war between European states, rules that established neat distinctions between war and peace, between those engaged in the war and the civilian population, and between an enemy and a criminal. These rules dominated European history until the First World War, which started as a pure inter-state conflict in the most traditional sense, and whose nature was only modified by its revolutionary sequels.