Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Richard Wolin

Subject Categories

European History | History | Political Science


Catholicism; German; Schmitt; Carl


The scholarship on controversial German constitutional lawyer and political theorist Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) has long accepted what can be called a "standard narrative" as regards his intellectual development. This narrative treats Schmitt as, on the whole, a "Catholic" intellectual and "political theologian" until the mid-1920s when he turns decidedly towards a secular decisionism. Commentators frequently point to Schmitt's non-canonical second marriage in 1926 as the biographically salient factor in dating a turn from an early association with political Catholicism to his later nationalist authoritarianism. This later approach to politics led Schmitt to promote plebiscitary dictatorship in the last years of the Weimar Republic and to then readily accept the National Socialist regime once it came to power.

This dissertation attempts to completely revise the standard narrative, which has functioned as a procrustean force within Schmitt scholarship. Indeed, the assumption of the jurist's Catholicity prior to becoming alienated from the Church amounts to a red herring, in large measure existing due to the efforts expended in shaping Schmitt's image after the Second World War both by the long-lived jurist himself as well as on his behalf by his students and friends. By reading Schmitt's texts within the context of his diaries and letters (most only recently made available) on the one side, and of the general trends in German political Catholicism and intellectual life on the other, a better grounded intellectual biography of Schmitt should emerge.