Ronald Beiner
It should come as no surprise that there are radically conflicting con-
ceptions of what it is to practice political philosophy; and the clash
between these opposed interpretations of the praxis of theorizing is not
only inevitable but also desirable. According to one dominant concep-
tion, of which Rawls's Political Liberalism is an exemplary instance,
we start with an implicit consensus on what we share as members of a
liberal political order, and the job of the philosopher is to articulate the
basis of this consensus and raise it to theoretical explicitness. According
to a different and more radical understanding of political philosophy,
this liberal consensus, if such exists, counts for nothing; rather, the phi-
losopher's responsibility is to theorize political order from the ground
up, even if it ends up calling into fundamental question the opinions
and beliefs that currently sustain social life within a liberal democratic
horizon. From this alternative point of view, political philosophy prac-
ticed in a Rawlsian mode is a form of theoretical cowardice, perhaps
even a betrayal of what properly defines philosophical duty.
There is no question that Carl Schmitt embodies the latter conception
of theory in its most uncompromising version. As David Dyzenhaus ex-
presses with beautiful clarity in his introductory chapter, Schmitt raises
questions about the ultimate grounding of political and legal order that
have dogged modern philosophy and jurisprudence since Hobbes first
came to awareness of the obsolescence of pre-modern justifications of
political authority. In pursuing this radical inquiry, Schmitt challenges,
root-and-branch, all the notions that "we" modern liberals take to be
morally authoritative-the meaning of the rule of law, the legitimacy of
parliamentary government, the superiority of reason and rational delib-
eration over sheer will, the reasonableness of political secularity. None
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