Stanford Club of Germany e.V.

Pacelliallee 18-20

14195 Berlin

Tel.:  +49-030-834-096-338
Fax.: +49 (0) 30 834 096 340

Email: info@stanfordclubofgermany.de

The Enemy and the Scapegoat: An Extension of Schmitt through Girard

In the Concept of the Political, the German Jurist Carl Schmitt states that “all political concepts, images,
and terms have a polemical meaning”
. If true, it must also be applied to his work, which most explicitly
deals with the political concept itself: “the concept of the political”. The target of his polemic is apparent -
he dedicates a majority of sections to criticizing liberalism and the liberal state, especially the universal
society of humanity that it aspires towards.
For Concept of the Political to function well as a polemic, Schmitt must affirm the political over and
against liberalism and demonstrate the flaws of liberalism. He does this by demonstrating the political as
being both inevitable and necessary and the lack of “intellectual consistency”
in liberalism in practice. In
these respect, however, both his affirmation of the political and criticism of liberalism is incomplete. In
this essay, we seek to complete his criticism through referring to Strauss and Girard. We shall begin by
examining the most discernible of these inadequacies in the most polemical section 8, where Schmitt
attempts to reveal the very political nature of his contemporary liberal society.
Firstly, he begins by demonstrating the political origination of the liberal order in the nineteenth century:
“economy, trade and industry, technological perfection, freedom, and rationalization were considered
allies[, or friends] ... [in an] offensive thrust against [its enemy], feudalism, reaction, and the police
It is clear the establishment of the liberal order is founded upon this friend-enemy distinction.
While the liberal may argue that this temporary schema, of politics, is one of expediency towards the goal
of the end of the “age of wars [and politics]”
, Schmitt demonstrates that the political remains, as “new

groupings and coalitions appear”
. A new friend-enemy distinction is formed at the elimination of the

previous distinction.
Upon closer analysis, however, this phenomenon of new groupings and coalitions is entirely compatible
with the liberal ideal of the universal, depoliticized society. Here, we can draw recourse to Kojeve, who

5 Schmitt, C. “The Concept of the Political”, p.76
4 Schmitt, C. “The Concept of the Political”, p.75
3 Schmitt, C. “The Concept of the Political”, p.75
2 Schmitt, C. “The Concept of the Political”, p.70
1 Schmitt, C. “The Concept of the Political”, p.30

explained in On Tyranny and Wisdom that at the end of the Hegelian process, “Truth emerges ... once
history reaches its final stage in and through the universal and homogeneous State”
6 once all


7 “are played out on the historical plane”
. In other words, one can observe the
following: the liberal scheme of the nineteenth century resulted in the negation of the feudal, reactionary
forces. The victors of that struggle: economy, industry, technology and freedom, progress, and reason, are
now engaged in a new competition, which would once again result in the negation of one of these forces.
Assuming that such forces, being of man, is finite, this process would naturally end at the negation of all
but one historical force. This sole remaining force, without an enemy, can then naturally assume itself as
the thesis of the universal liberal society.
A second claim that Schmitt makes for the inevitability of the political is that “the fact that an economic
power position could arise proves that the point of the political may be reached from the economic as well
as from any other domain.”

9 We note here that Schmitt does not claim that the political can arise from an

economic power position, but the mere existence of an “economic power position”
indicates the

This economic power position can best be conceived as a distinction between the economically strong
and economically weak. Yet this does not lead directly to the existence of the political or in other words,
the enemy. Indeed, it is in every way conceivable, and even integral to capitalism, that there could exist
cooperation between the economically strong and weak organized through the free market and driven by
each individual actor’s desire for profit.
Even if one rejects the prior capitalistic framing as being fashioned from the same cloth as liberalism,
there remain certain inconsistencies with previous framings of the political. One may, for example, demur
the individualistic cooperative equality of capitalism and instead identify economic power position as
more than rich and poor, but as the ability of those in an economically powerful position to rule over, to

10Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.78
9Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.78
8 Kojeve, A. “Tyranny and Wisdom”
7 Kojeve, A. “Tyranny and Wisdom”
6 Kojeve, A. “Tyranny and Wisdom”

order, to demand from those in an economically less powerful position, such as employers and employees
or monopolistic market leaders and minor firms. An economic power position thus implies the existence
of an economic hierarchy, where “certain men of ... higher order rul[ing] over men of a lower order.”
Yet the existence of such a hierarchy does not essentially lead to the existence of friendship and hostility.
If this differential economic power necessarily implies friendship and hostility, then the political
distinction may be entirely analogous or transferable to that of the distinction between the strong and the
weak, or the ruling and the ruled, instead of what Schmitt identified as “friend and enemy”
. Secondly,
we will be compelled to adopt a vulgar materialist analysis of history: “the history of all hitherto existing
societies is the history of class struggles”
. If economic power differentials are hostile and political, all
economic power differentials are a form of class struggle; and if political questions hold primacy in
history, the character of history must then be class struggles. In both cases, we will have a contradiction
with Schmitt’s prior formulation of the political, or his intent in writing the work.
A final method in which Schmitt demonstrates the political nature of the liberal order is in the hypocrisy
and inhumanity of war under “a political position founded on economic superiority”
. “An imperialism

based on pure economic power”

15 would still prosecute war through an “essentially pacifist vocabulary:
[e]conomic sanctions, severance of the food supply from the civilian population, executions, punitive
expeditions, pacifications, protection of treaties, etc”

16 can all be employed to enable the imperialist

power to “protect or expand economic power”
. These measures may be even more inhuman than before,
as the war, through the liberal sphere of the ethical, is “turn[ed] into a crusade and into the last war of
18 and the enemy “an outlaw of humanity”
, which necessitates the war to be “driven to the

most extreme inhumanity”
. However, if one may examine the goal of this war, one can still construe the

20Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.54
19Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.54
18Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.79
17Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.79
16Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.79
15Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.78
14Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.78
13Marx, K. “Communist Manifesto”
12Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.26
11Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.67

most inhumane of wars as being essentially peaceful, in that it eliminates future possibilities of the same
war by integrating economically the loser with the victor, thereby preventing the need for a future war to
expand economic power. Moreover, if the political is founded by the existence of the enemy, then a most
inhumane war to the elimination of the enemy can in fact be the last war of humanity, as the political, and
the inhumanity of “existential negation”
that the political implies can be eliminated alongside the enemy

in the war.
To answer our critiques, we may turn to Leo Strauss’ Notes on the Concept of the Political, which has
raised similar questions about the structure, intent, and argument of the Concept of the Political.
To Strauss, the key to understanding Schmitt lies first in understanding the “anthropological
to his polemical affirmation of the political over and against liberalism. The true origin

of the political is “the real possibility of physical killing”
, from which the enemy “receive their real

. As killing and dying belongs to the most fundamental anthropological drive, that of the

“preservation of the life of this individual”
, the political is fundamentally contradistinctive to the

domains of “the moral, aesthetic, and economic”
. This fundamentality also implies that the political is


27 over these other domains. To understand this relationship between politics and culture

(moral, aesthetic, and economic), or “state and society”
, Strauss references Hobbes's status civilis and
status naturalis, and identifies Schmitt’s political with the status naturalis. This approach is validated
through Schmitt’s own reference to Hobbes, who he recognized as one whose “pessimistic conception of
man is the elementary presupposition of a specific system of political thought”
, the same political
thought which is expounded upon in Concept of the Political. Hobbes’ state of nature, his recognition of
the possibility of “war of all against all”
, thus forms Schmitt’s anthropological supposition.

30Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.65
29Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.65
28Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.23
27Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.44
26Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.26
25Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
24Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.33
23Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.33
22Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.64
21Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.33

While Schmitt treats Hobbes as the justification for his affirmation of the political and for his
anti-liberalism, Strauss sees in Hobbes the founding of liberalism through Hobbes’ claim of “natural
in the “securing of life”
that takes “precedence over the state”
. Most explicitly, Schmitt rejects
this claim of natural right by attributing to the state the “right to demand from its own members the
readiness to die”

It is not enough to understand the foundation of Schmitt’s affirmation of the political; since all political
concepts are polemical, one must also understand Schmitt’s criticism of liberalism. The Straussian
interpretation of this criticism can be summarized as follows - human destiny concerns itself with what
“ultimately matters for man”

35 and is ipso facto both quarrelsome and serious. The essence of the
political, dealing with the possibility of both killing and dying, has an integral seriousness, or gravity, that
is not found in culture, aesthetics, economics, etc. The political is thus necessary, if not good, if the
questions of human destiny and the ends of man are still foundational questions for man.
Even if we do subscribe to this Straussian reading of Schmitt, we must still observe that the Concept of
the Political is inadequate. The affirmation of the political for Schmitt only implies the existence of things
that are worth killing and dying for. It does not inform us of what exactly it is that we should kill and die
for. The concept of human destiny implies a concrete ultimate end for man at the end of the quarrel. It is
entirely conceivable that this ultimate end of human destiny is liberalism, and thus, entirely conceivable
that the political only exists for the elimination of the political: the quarrel only exists in so much in that it
can arrive at the truth, and is disposable once the “truth” is found. Since Schmitt explicitly rejects a
“normative ideal”, judging them to only be “abstractions”
, Schmitt has no place to find an exclusionary
critique of liberalism, without criticizing his own polemic, which is founded on the same basis as

36Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.28
35Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
34Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.46
33Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
32Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
31Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”

The question at hand is then to “gain a horizon beyond liberalism”
, from where legitimate critiques and
justifications of liberalism can only take place. The former claim, that legitimate critiques of liberalism
can only come from a horizon beyond liberalism, is apparent. All critiques founded within the
“systematics of liberalism”

38 are unable to replace liberalism, and thus, could not seriously threaten or
challenge liberalism. The latter is implied through Strauss’ reference to Hobbes as the founder of
liberalism. If liberalism is founded by Hobbes, who lived in an unliberal world and “[knew and saw] the
natural evil of man”
, a similar act of refounding, or fortification of liberalism, can only be done within
this similar context. Liberalism can only respond to its challengers when it can defend and justify itself
outside of a liberal framework.
To gain the horizon beyond liberalism, it would be fruitful for us to turn to anthropology, especially the
anthropology of primitive societies and the beginning of culture. We must conduct a “return to the
40 and to the “undamaged, noncorrupt nature”
. The ambitious theories of Rene Girard provide us

with the anthropological basis for the establishment of this horizon.
For Girard, all human culture, cults, politics, institutions, etc, is founded upon the victimage mechanism.
Girard’s state of nature is two folded: the origin of violence through mimetic desire, and the resolution of
that violence through the scapegoat mechanism. For Hobbes and Schmitt, the state of nature originates in
the single property of evilness in man, which is not an inherent moralistic “evil”
, but arises from the fact
that human nature is driven by the bestial impulses of “animality, drives, passions ... - above all love and
. On the other hand, Girard’s state of nature is an entirely innate and self-containing human system
and behavior. These qualities of his state of nature inform the culture that could be founded upon it.
In a similar fashion to the Schmittian and Hobbesian states of nature, the Girardian state of nature is
inherently violent. Mimetic desire means that man takes his “neighbor [as] the model for [his] desires”

44Girard, R. “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning”
43Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.59
42Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
41Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
40Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
39Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
38Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.71
37Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”

which would naturally lead to quarrels over rivalrous goods. Furthermore, as imitation intensifies, the
“rivals ... forget whatever objects are and instead ... become more fascinated with each other”
45 as
mimetic rivalry comes into fruition. Instead of desiring a certain object, we desire whatever belongs to
[our neighbor]. In this circumstance, violence is unavoidable, as our desire is preconditioned on the
existence of the opposition of our neighbor and rival. Our desire is no longer to obtain our object of desire
but to “beat and assimilate”

46 our rival. As mimetic rivalry escalates within the community, the
community enters a mimetic crisis. This mimetic rivalry, and the proverbial “war of all against all”
, is
finally resolved through sacrifice, in which the mimetic rivalry of all members of a community is unified
against a single individual. The unity of the community is then reestablished through communal violence
in the sacrifice of that individual.
However, in contrast with Schmittian and Hobbesian state of nature, the violence in mimetic desire is
not an evolutionary progeny of a beastlike nature, but is uniquely human, or at least, qualitatively
intensified in humans. While mimesis and mimetic desire can be found within animals, imitation applies
to “all attitudes and behaviors of the dominant animals except for acquisitive behaviors”
. Mimetic desire

is intrinsically contained through “stable dominance patterns”
from rising to the level of mimetic rivalry.

Only in humans are mimetic rivalry, and thus, mimetic violence, possible.
Hence, this state of nature of mimetic violence may be more similar to an “original sin”
than the

“innocent evil of beasts”
. One is thus prevented from affirming mimetic violence through an appeal to
animalistic vitality. On the other hand, it also directs us to the question of whether mimetic desire can be
completely suppressed and controlled, and if man can still be man if mimetic desire is completely
suppressed. This question demands a radically different answer than that for the similar question of
whether man retains his humanity if he is “educated”
to overcome his bestial instincts.

52Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
51Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
50Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
49Girard, R. “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” p.90
48Girard, R. “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” p.91
47Girard, R. “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning”
46Girard, R. “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” p.26
45Girard, R. “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” p.26

We must also recognize that the scapegoat mechanism that resolves mimetic conflicts is a “natural
. There does not exist a distinction between mimetic desire and the victimage mechanism in
the way of the distinction between nature and culture, in which culture either nurtures nature or
overcomes nature. Instead, the scapegoat mechanism is just as much a part of nature as mimetic desire.
The emergence of the possibility of violence from mimetic desire is accompanied almost concurrently by
the emergence of the scapegoat mechanism, much as how the development of the “natural weapons”
54 of

animals is accompanied by “instinctual inhibitions”
. The first foundational murder was never an
innovation by a single great lawgiver or a deliberate decision by the community. In fact, the typical
attribution of the invention of the ritual to the Sacred King, the sacrificial victim, the dying God was
expressly refuted by Girard. The divinity of the victim as the great founder comes not through the victim
itself - the specific actions or characteristics of the victim are fundamentally unimportant. Instead, it is
designated posthumously through the “double transference”
- the aggressive transference, where the
victim is blamed for mimetic rivalry, and the reconciliatory transference, where the victim is sacralized as
one who removed violence from the community. Hence, a negation of the Girardian state of nature must
negate both mimetic desire and the victimage mechanism.
We can draw a comparison between the immediate consequence of Schmitt’s and Girard’s states of
nature. In both states, there is the presence of a public enemy, but that public enemy has a different
identity. For Schmitt, the bestial nature implies that the political is founded on the possibility of war
between a “fighting collectivity of people [and] ... a similar collectivity”
. This war must be directed
against an external, public enemy. This public enemy is distinct to the collectivity of man: Schmitt draws
the example of the “Christians [against the] Saracens or Turks”
, and the “Hellenes [against the]

58Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.28
57Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.28
56Girard, R. “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” p.37
55Girard, R. “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” p.87
54Girard, R. “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” p.87
53Girard, R. “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” p.26

. “Conflicts among Hellenes [can only be] discords”

60 and lack the particular political

meaning that makes war war.
On the other hand, for Girard it is the internal public enemy, the scapegoat and sacrificial victim, that
takes precedence. In a sense, the external enemy does not exist in Girard’s state of nature. The first war
in primitive society is exclusively civil war: “primitive warfare takes place among proximate, neighboring
groups, which is to say among men who cannot be distinguished objectively.”

61 Furthermore, far from
being existential, the Girardian war with the external enemy is only meaningful in so much as it can serve
the ritual to preserve internal peace, which always takes precedence. Girard notes that the “original
violence [of external warfare existed] in the form of ritual warfare[, which] always operates more or less
like a system of exchange between groups.”
Instead of the Schmittian understanding of war being
essentially existential, the Girardian anthropological understanding of primitive war is essentially
Finally, while Schmitt believes that the state of nature is something real and inescapable, Girard sees
the possibility and the process in which the state of nature is already being negated. Specifically, Girard
believes that the Judeo-Christian revelation, by proclaiming the innocence of victims, has “revealed the
victim mechanism”
, thereby diminishing the effect of the sacrificial mechanism and the collective
violence that underlines the Girardian state of nature. We can then find two distinct cultures within
Girard, one that is the “nurture of nature”
, religions and institutions developed from the victimage

mechanism and affirms the guilt of the victim, and one that is the “conquest of nature”
that emerges

from the Judeo-Christian revelation to proclaim the innocence of the victim.
Now that we have redefined the foundational concepts of Schmitt’s Concept of the Political through
Girard’s anthropological basis. We may return back to the critiques that we identified at the beginning of

65Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
64Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
63Girard, R. “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning”
62Girard, R. “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” p.79
61Girard, R. “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” p.85
60Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.29 footnotes
59Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.29 footnotes

this essay, that is, of the possibility of a liberal universal society. For Schmitt, liberalism is
depoliticization, “the negation of the political”
into the individualist domains of economics and ethics.
The possibility of the liberal universal state, as illustrated at the beginning of this essay, rests on the
possibility of the success of depoliticization, and whether depoliticization can truly remove the political
from human state of affairs. However, due to the change in the anthropological basis, we have
transformed the foundation of the political from that of the “real possibility of physical killing”
to the
human instinct of mimesis and the scapegoat mechanism. Girardian depoliticization must then refer to the
possibility of the containment of mimetic desire and the removal of the victimage mechanism.
The economic polarity of liberalism, as it relates to its effect on the negation of the state of nature, arises
from a misunderstanding of mimetic desire. Economics, industry, and trade promise, in opposition to the
domain of war, the possibility of securing the goods of life and of satisfying desire by peaceful exchange
instead of violent procurement. A more subtle implication of the economic and technological domains is
the possibility of ending the violence of the political by eliminating the need for conflict over goods
through the conquest of nature and the achievement of post-scarcity. However, from Girard, we know that
desire is not only acquisitive but mimetic. The abundance of goods does not matter when desire can
always be transferred into a fascination with the ontologically unique mimetic rival. Hence, the economic
domain is unable to negate the Girardian political.
On the other hand, the ethical domain can in fact depoliticize through its “concern for victims”
68 which
has its roots in the Judeo-Christian revelation. This concern that underlines modern ethics, which has
already been working through history, has already resulted in “more humane private and public law, penal
legislation, judicial practice, the rights of individuals”
. Applied to Schmitt’s contemporary liberal order,
we see that despite the continued existence of friend-enemy groupings, war is no longer the “existential
70 of the enemy. Despite certain inhumanities in war, those who lose to the liberal order are no

70Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.33
69Girard, R. “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning”
68Girard, R. “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning”
67Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.33
66Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.70

longer subject to annihilation, as it might be in the classical or even early modern era (such as the
religious wars of Europe), but in assimilation, as in the integration of Germany into the League of
Nations. Furthermore, precisely due to the individualistic nature of modern ethics, the “true knowledge of
oppression and persecution”
is no longer limited to the collective: the modern man is capable of

recognizing “the oppression and injustice”
. The universal knowledge of scapegoats subverts the
possibility of a public enemy integral to the political, as all members in the political collectivity are
capable of questioning if the enemy is but a scapegoat.
However, without a true understanding of mimetic desire, depoliticization can easily become another
form of scapegoating and a reenactment of the victimage mechanism. Those who seek to affirm the
political and those who seek to negate the political sees each other as rivals, and thus enact mimetic
rivalry against each other. This is what Schmitt criticizes when he speaks of the emergence of new
groupings and coalitions and the inhumanity of wars fought for the sake of economics.
The mimetic nature of these conflicts is most apparent through the lack of differentiation between these
two groups. Schmitt notes that “the connection of politics with thievery, force, and repression is, ... no
more precise than is the connection of economics with cunning and deception”
. The liberal
depoliticizers see politics as uniquely repressive, when the forces of liberalism in an effort to expel
politics, have imitated the political. Likewise, Strauss also observes the undifferentiated nature of
Schmitt’s polemic against liberalism. To oppose liberalism, Schmitt has transformed himself into a double
of liberalism: “the affirmation of the political as such proves to be a liberalism with the opposite
Girard would thus agree with Schmitt in his criticism of liberalism’s political elimination of its rivals.
However, Girard still recognizes the possibility and existence of a liberal depoliticization of an
“essentially unwarlike”

75 nature through ethics and religion. For Girard, Schmitt’s inadequacy lies in his

75Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.78
74Strauss, L. “Notes on the Concept of the Political”
73Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.77
72Girard, R. “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning”
71Girard, R. “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning”

lack of understanding of the mimetic structure, which prevents him from distinguishing between true
depoliticization and political “depoliticization” and thus, lead to his proclamation of liberal hypocrisy.
Instead, Schmitt’s critique of the hypocrisy of liberalism precisely demonstrates the triumph of
Judeo-Christian depoliticization. His ability to recognize the political, the feudal, the reactionary, and the
police state, or “people [who wish] to withdraw itself from [economic imperialism]”

76 as a scapegoat is a
testament to this revelation. In other words, Schmitt, by revealing the political nature of liberalism,
subverts the political nature of the liberal state by transcending its friend-enemy grouping. In this sense,
he affirms the Hobbesian liberal principle of the claim of natural right over the precedence of the state. He
can and does choose to criticize the liberal state that he is a member of. One could also assume, through
his objection to the liberal war for economic power, that he would refuse to die or kill for the liberal state.
Finally, by situating the questions of mimetic desire and the victimage mechanisms as the foundational
questions of man, the Judeo-Christian revelation against the victimage mechanism must likewise be
foundational as the ultimate ends of man. Liberalism is thus serious not because of the domains of culture,
aesthetics, economics, etc, that it makes autonomous, but precisely in its function to depoliticize.
Schmitt’s Concept of the Political criticizes liberalism and affirms the political. Its basis in the liberal
world further encourages the establishment of a horizon beyond liberalism. By founding this new horizon
upon the anthropological insights of Rene Girard, however, we instead see that the criticisms have
demonstrated the success of depoliticization and reasserted the value of liberalism in overcoming the
scapegoat mechanism.

76Schmitt, C. “Concept of the Political” p.78