Annual Princeton ConLaw Schmooze

The Schmitt Schmooze

Fri, 12/12/2008 to Sat, 12/13/2008
by invitation only
Event Category: 

The Constitutional Law Advanced Workshop will be held at Princeton University on Friday-Saturday 12-13 December 2008, starting at noon on Friday and continuing through dinner on Saturday. This year, we will discuss the new translation of Carl Schmitt’s major work on law, Constitutional Theory (Duke UP, 2008). 

Papers and Participants (password required)
Preliminary Schedule
Campus Map


The Princeton workshop is the traditional second-weekend-in-December version of the Constitutional Law “Schmooze.” Constitutional Law “Schmooze” has been bringing together major scholars in both law schools and political science departments for decades now.The Schmooze has been so successful as an institution that this year there will be three of them.One on the West Coast already took place this fall and another at the University of Maryland Law School will take place in the springThe Second Annual Princeton Schmooze carries on the tradition of bringing constitutional law experts together to discuss a topic of general and pervasive importance in the field.This year, we are trying something new – discussing a major new work of constitutional theory and moving through the different topics it raises rather than taking up a single theme.In its 2008 version, Princeton is hosting the “Schmitt Schmooze.” 

Why Carl Schmitt's Constitutional Theory?

Why Carl Schmitt’s Constitutional Theory?Carl Schmitt has become very visible in the legal literature recently, primarily because of his views on states of emergency.“Sovereign is he who decides on the exception,” Schmitt writes at the opening of his Political Theology and many people opining about the state of the law after 9/11 have seized on this as either the excuse for or the justification of the Bush Administration’s anti-terrorism polices.But there is much more to Schmitt than just this one treatment of the state of exception.Schmitt was one of the leading legal theorists of his day.As it happens, his political theory was translated into English long before his legal theory became available, and as a result, when 9/11 hit, most in the English-speaking constitutional-law world had the political theory to go on to work out what Schmitt thought about constitutions and constitutionalism.In 2008, however, the new translation of Schmitt’s Constitutional Theory by Jeffrey Seitzer hit the bookstores, and now the English-language world has a chance to consider Schmitt’s writings on emergencies against the background of his more general theories of constitutional law. 

Schmitt’s Constitutional Theory is a challenging work, but one that rewards serious attention.To assist us in our discussions, we will have at the Schmooze not only the usual distinguished group of constitutional experts, but also some Schmitt specialists.In particular, we will have Ellen Kennedy from the University of Pennsylvania, one of the first translators of Schmitt’s work into English and the author of Constitutional Failure:Schmitt in Weimar (Duke UP, 2002).Kennedy wrote the forward to the translation of Constitutional Theory. We will also have with us Andreas Kalyvas from the New School, who is the author of the newly published Democracy and the Politics of the Extraordinary:Max Weber, Carl Schmitt and Hannah Arendt (Cambrige UP, 2008).Kalyvas is editing a special issue of the journal Constellations on Schmitt’s Constitutional Theory.In fact, papers growing out of the Schmooze may be considered for this special issue, as Andreas will explain to us when we meet. 

The Sessions

We’re going to take up Schmitt’s Constitutional Theory piece by piece over the course of two days. While we can adjust the topics to whatever the group wishes to discuss, I suggest that we organize our six different sessions over the two days as follows: 

  1. Constitutions and constitutionalism – Part I, Sections 1-5 and 11
  2. The constituent power – Part I, Sections 6-10
  3. The rule of law and rights – Part II, Sections 12-14
  4. Representation and democracy --- Part III, Sections 17- 21
  5. Parliamentarism and the separation of powers – Part II, Sections 15-16; Part III, Sections 24-28
  6. Monarchism and executive power – Part III, Sections 22-23

This proposed schedule leaves out the last big section of the book on federalism, which we can include if enough so wish.Also, if any of these six topics fails to attract a critical mass of interest, we can drop whatever doesn’t appeal. 

The Format

Traditional Schmooze rules apply.Invitations are going out to a distinguished list including both Schmooze regulars (law professors and political scientists working in constitutional law) and new invitees who specialize in Schmitt.Those who accept are asked to provide a “ticket of admission” before the event – which consists of a short “think piece,” or an excerpt of something you’ve written on the topic that reflects what you’d like to offer on this issue.Because this is an unusual Schmooze, with a focus on a single book, “tickets” can be shorter than usual – 5 pages (or 1250 words) will be just fine.We like to be able to distribute these “tickets” to the group about 10 days before the event so that we can then use them as a starting point for discussion.When we meet, there will be no formal presentation of papers, but the organizers will pick a couple of discussion leaders for each session to get the topic launched.After that, discussion will proceed in “Schmooze” format, with each speaker calling on the next speaker who calls on the next speaker and so on.For those of you who have been at these discussions in the past, you know how fruitful it can be to have this sort of wide-ranging and yet thematically focused discussion with a group of peers who are knowledgeable about the topic. 

The workshop itself will begin with lunch on Friday, 12 December and will run through a closing dinner on Saturday, 13 December.As with last year, the lunch on 12 December will also include select Princeton undergrads who are interested in constitutional law.After the lunch, though, only Schmoozers will be around the table. 

On Previous Schmoozes

Past participants have found this event quite stimulating. Previous organizers of the Schmooze have built workshops around “An Eighteenth Century Constitution in a Twenty-First Century World,” “Juristocracy,” “The Canon of Constitutional Law,” “The New First Amendment, “Post-Modern Constitutional Law,” “Comparative Constitutional Law,” “The Hardest Question in Constitutional Law,” The Constitution of Civil Society” and “How Empirical Should Constitutional Theory Be?”Last year, the Princeton Schmooze concentrated on “Executive Power.”Several sets of papers prepared for earlier discussion groups meetings been published.Still, the most valuable aspects of the Schmooze workshops have been the discussions during our sessions, and the community among scholars that has been built.