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The Trouble with Transcendence: Carl Schmitt’s “Exception” as a Challenge for Religious Studies

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The Weimar- and Nazi-era legal theorist Carl Schmitt was one of the first to recognize that Max Weber’s theory of “disenchantment” encoded Protestant presuppositions. Despite his unsavory politics, I argue that Schmitt’s thesis—namely, that secular liberalism is a disguised and disenchanted “political theology” which depends on an exclusion of charismatic ruptures in the natural and moral orders—must be taken seriously. A genealogy of the prohibition of the miracle by the radical Reformation provides evidence for Schmitt’s contention that an ostensibly secular modernity, no less than its theological opponents, has had its own trouble with transcendence or the “exception.”

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, University of Memphis Memphis, TN 38152 USA, Email:


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