Much of the current interest in Carl Schmitt centers on his
contribution to political theory during the Weimar Republic.
However, Schmitt was by training and by inclination a legal
theorist, a fact reflected in his work from this period. Not only
does he focus on issues where politics and law naturally inter-
sect, such as those involving the nature and limits of constitu-
tional government; but his mode of argumentation is also de-
cidedly ‘‘legal’’ even in those essays that do not address legal
questions directly. The legal cast of Schmitt’s political theory,
moreover, is deeply steeped in the Continental, particularly
German, legal tradition, which deviates in important respects
from the Anglo-American one.
Because Schmitt was primarily writing for a German audi-
ence, and one with some knowledge of German law, he could
assume that the reader had a sufficient understanding of the
distinctive features of this tradition as well as of how the Wei-
mar Constitution constituted both a continuation and a de-
parture from it. Also, writing in the midst of a political crisis,
Schmitt could assume that the reader was familiar with major
political, social, and economic developments and with the
main currents of thought, including his own, on how to re-
spond to the pressing problems of the Weimar Republic.
In preparing the translation, however, I assumed that the
intended reader does not have in-depth knowledge in all of
these areas. Compensating for the abstractness of Schmitt’s
presentation, I have included explanatory notes discussing as-
pects of the Weimar context, which provide an unstated back-
ground to the work. My aim in doing so is not to argue for or
against Schmitt’s position, but rather to provide readers with
information that may aid them in understanding and evalu-
ating Schmitt’s argument. The translator’s notes are placed in
brackets to distinguish them from Schmitt’s.
Among the explanatory notes are a number concerning the
translation of particular terms. Given the frequent references
to the institutions of government, both in Schmitt’s text and
Translator’s Preface ix
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