Dr. Michael Hoelzl: The Theological Foundations of Decisionism

After last week’s roundtable Dr. Michael Hoelzl summaries his contribution here in a short abstract:

According to Carl Schmitt, decisionism is exactly the opposite of any deliberative politics. Deliberative politics is based on deliberation, rational discussion and the outcome of such a political discussion. In deliberative democracy it is in parliament, as Habermas says, that the outcome is the result of the soft force of the stronger argument. Although, deliberative politics suffers from at least one key deficit: time. To reach at a conclusion by deliberation, including as many people concerned as possible takes time. And time is a scarce resource in times of a crisis, or in Schmitt’s terminology, in a state of emergency. It is not surprising that decisionist theories prevail in times of a crisis when anxiety dominates the political climate. It is anxiety (Angst) and not fear (Furcht) which crates an atmosphere of insecurity. Angst according to Martin Heidegger is diffuse without an object whereas Furcht is intentional. I know what I fear but in a state of anxiety I cannot name the source of Angst. Decisionism seeks to turn anxiety into fear by political means.

According to Schmitt decisionism comprises four key elements: a)Whenever a state of emergency occurs a deviation from the normal law is required b) it is one person who has to decide whether a state of emergency exists, or not, and if so, the sovereign has to take adequate measure to restore order, public safety and tranquillity and resolve a state of emergency c) the mandate to restore order must be clearly defined by the goal that has to be achieved and d) it must limited by a defined period of time when these extra-legal measure can be used.

In my current research project I attempt to identify the theological foundations of decisionism. At this stage my work revolves around the virtue of ἐπιείκεια translated as reasonableness or aequitas and means the virtue of a rightful deviation or correction of law to encounter a political crisis and the resolve a climate of anxiety.

Michael Hoelzl is a Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at The University of Manchester.

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