On the core concepts of political theory: Hannah Arendt, Carl Schmitt and the ancients

Akarapattananukul, Yared (2019) On the core concepts of political theory: Hannah Arendt, Carl Schmitt and the ancients. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Hannah Arendt and Carl Schmitt are often thought to be diametrically opposed to one another. This thesis interrogates this view not only by focusing on the differences, but also the similarities between these two thinkers. It challenges previous studies that have overlooked the appropriation by Arendt and Schmitt of the ancient Greek and Roman traditions of political thought and practice, by arguing that looking through the lens of these traditions provides another way of the understanding Arendt’s and Schmitt’s political theories. Examining the work of Arendt and Schmitt, and their insights into the subjects of politics, sovereignty, law and war, my original contribution is twofold, in (1) comparatively elaborating the core aspects of the concepts of politics, sovereignty, law and war, with which then to (2) identify their rival appropriations of the Greek and Roman traditions underpinning political enquiry in respect of these four concepts.

This thesis finds that both Arendt and Schmitt provide a public space for politics as distinct from the private sphere. However, Arendt connects her conception of politics to the Greek polis and Augustine’s idea of natality; politics for her embodies a freedom of acting and speaking, where the protection of politics by law has its root in the Greek concept of the nomos and the Roman concept of lex. The unspeaking activity of sovereignty, which Arendt finds in Augustine’s relational account of God as an antidote to monological sovereignty thinking, should be eliminated from politics, and the concept of war that has its root in the Roman recounting of the Trojan War might function to show how politics can begin anew. Schmitt’s conception of ‘the political’, on the other hand, is bound up with the distinction between friend and enemy in accordance with Greek conceptions of πολέμιος and ἐχϑρός, and Roman conceptions of hostis and inimicus. This sheds light on the absolute power of sovereignty in Christian theology during the time of Constantine, the Greek nomos and Roman ius conceptions of law, and the real possibility of the experience of war from ancient Rome as opposed to the Greek agon.

Although Arendt and Schmitt do not give completely accurate accounts of these traditions in themselves, the findings of the thesis eventually bring modern political philosophy back to the contribution of classical political thought, adding another facet to understand these two political thinkers apart from the standard reading of Arendt and Schmitt that solely outline their political thought in light of the context of modernity.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Holland, Ben K.
Khan, Gulshan
Keywords: Hannah Arendt, Carl Schmitt, political theory, political philosophy
Subjects: J Political science > JC Political theory
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Politics and International Relations
Item ID: 56484
Depositing User: Akarapattananukul, Yared
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 06 May 2020 14:31
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/56484

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