Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Annmaria Shimabuku, Schmitt and Foucault on the Question of Sovereignty under Military Occupation, Política común, Volume 5, 2014

1. A Violation or Production of Sovereignty?

This essay examines the geopolitical underpinnings of Carl Schmitt’s well-known definition of the sovereign as “he who decides the exception” (Political Theology 5) mainly through The Nomos of the Earth (1950). It is in this later work, written after Schmitt had borne witness to the liberation movements of Europe’s colonial territories alongside Germany’s defeat in both world wars, that he contextualized the historical formation of sovereignty in terms of the colonization of the New World and occupatio bellica within Europe from the 16th century onward. In reading The Nomos of the Earth, one cannot help but sense nostalgia for days past—a romanticization of the jus publicum Europaeum that grounds his critique of a new global (dis)order characterized by the transnational flow of capital and concomitant espousal of universal human rights moderated respectively by the American dollar and U.S. military as “world police.” His vitriolic critique of “American imperialism” that violates the sovereignty of postwar European and postcolonial states certainly carries political clout for critics of American Empire (“Modern Imperialism in International Law” 31). However, what exactly is this violated sovereignty? Is this a violation of the traditional form of territorial sovereignty, or a violation of a new form of sovereignty that has given way to an order of globalization? If so, what are its contours?

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