The Planetary Tension Between Orient and Occident and the Opposition Between Land and Sea

Carl Schmitt
(originally published in revista de estudios políticos 81 (1955), 3-28)

Volume 5, 2014


Approaching the tension between Orient and Occident that so unsettles us today, we encounter an indiscriminate mix of different kinds of conflicts, along with their respective claims of evidence: economic interests, sociological differences among elites, and spiritual hostilities. Each arena reinforces and aggravates the other(s). But this union of economic, sociological, and spiritual tensions has always manifested itself in all the great wars over humanity. The particularity of the present conflict consists in this tension having become global, encompassing the entire Planet. It is thus all the more urgent for us to understand in strict terms the true historical structure of this tension.

We speak of a conflict between East and West. We are evidently referring here not to geographic opposition per se. Later in the course of our conversation we will take up the difference between a (global) tension expressed in bipolar terms versus historical dialectical ones. Yet the conflict between Orient and Occident is not a (bi)polar one. Earth has a North and South Pole, but not an East and West one. Geographically speaking, in our terraqueous globe the East / West opposition is fluid and indeterminate; it merely represents “the ebb and flow of a little night and a little day”.[1] In geographical relation to America, for example, China and Russia are the Occident. In relation to China and Russia, Europe represents in its turn the Occident. From a purely geographical point of view, there is no such thing as a polar tension, much less a reasonable explanation for world conflict expressed in global terms, which renders moot the possibility of understanding its particular structure.

One may undertake a historical, cultural, and moral inventory of the Orient and Occident today, and thereby arrive at a series of antitheses that would doubtless be of great importance. I would introduce at this point the concept of “regional iconography,” by the geographer Jean Gottmann in his brilliant work, La politique des États et leur Géographie [The Politics of States With Regard to their Geography].[2] [For Gottmann,] The different images and representations of the world, which arise from distinct traditions of the historical past and its forms of social organization, bring order to their own spaces or environments. In this respect, while images and plastic works belong to the iconography of a given space, so too do all the visible forms of public and private life. In his book El rapto de Europa [The Rape of Europe], Luis Díaz del Corral has shown us the essential importance of art. This book may well be considered the encyclopedia of European iconography.[3]

(The different concepts of form, particularly the forms of domination and the forms of the State, is a subject that has been clarified by Carlos Ollero.)[4]

Setting aside the varied forms of public life, [such an inventory might] include [Sp. englobar] all other typical forms in which human existence manifests itself through regional iconography: every signature and sign of thought and feeling, as these emerge within a determined space to characterize it. Images of historical memories, myths, sagas, and legends would also receive due attention, along with all symbols and taboos that are localized topographically within a determinate space: only by localization do they acquire their historical reality. One may say the same thing about all techno-morphic or socio-morphic transformations.[5] Gotmann discusses this idea of iconographies in circulation. So, along with the celebrated theory of [Vilfredo] Pareto regarding the circulation of elites, we have a no less important theory regarding the circulation of iconographies.[6]

Indeed, the word iconography strikes me as a more complete, and for our present needs more adequate word than the overused term ideology. Iconography in word and concept is, in our opinion, particularly useful and fruitful because it compels us to identify the opposition between Orient and Occident at its core as consisting in the Orient’s hostility to plastic representation, on the one hand, and (on the other) the Occident as a bulwark to the cult of (plastic) form. When one speaks about iconoclasm, the educated European reader will immediately call to mind those events of Byzantine history: the dispute over images under Emperor Leon (717-741), and the juxtaposed recognition of the cult of images under Charlemagne. But we may also recall the prohibition of images in the Old Testament and in Islam. Some researchers have gone so far as to recognize here an ancient conflict between word and image, one that comes down to a general conflict between hearing and sight, the acoustic and the visual, to the point of ascribing word and sound to the Orient; and image and sight to the Occident.

A word like iconography, understood as we have described it (i.e., in the widest sense possible), allows us to avoid such simplifications. There is no concrete historical localization without a corresponding form of visibility. Thus there are icons everywhere and iconography everywhere, and as a consequence there exists (also everywhere) the possibility of iconoclasm or iconoplasty. Such reactions are not limited in any way to the Byzantine Empire or Islam. The Occident has also experienced various and very intense expressions and forms of aversion to images, iconoclasms. Wycliffites or Lollards and Hussites, Baptists and Puritans, sects, religious reformers, and rationalist reductionists everywhere have behaved in an iconoclastic manner in the West / Occident. A great world struggle that exploded in the epoch of discoveries and conquest of the New World—the first global controversy in world history—can be explained as a dispute among confessional dogmas: a struggle between Roman Catholicism and Nordic Protestantism, (between) Jesuitism and Calvinism. The iconographical aspect of this conflict leads us to insights into history that are deeper than anything we might briefly indicate with a few words here. The fact that the Reconquest of Spain was a conquest fought on behalf of the cults of the Virgin is not difficult to understand. But my own observation – that the discoverers and conquerors of the New World brought with them the sacred image of their historical deeds through the image of the Immaculate Virgin and mother of God Mary – does not seem to have been understood.[7] In any case, a German, Catholic author, has not refrained from characterizing [my argument] as overstressing “every class of Christian ornament…that might deceive many readers”.[8] But for me, the image of Mary is not some “class of Christian ornament”; and my earlier explanation concerning the word and concept of iconography will perhaps help to frame better my argument about the historical importance of the Marian image. I would go so far as to further assert that the civil wars around confessional dogmas in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including the Thirty Years War (the war of intervention over German soil between 1618-1648) were in reality struggles for or against the image of the Virgin Mary. Can one, for example, examine the hostility of the British Puritans towards images as an “Eastern” attitude when compared with the cults of images among Bavarian Catholics, the Spaniards, or the Polish? The dispute over images in Byzantium was first and foremost theological, addressed to the Christian dogma of the Trinity: in spiritual terms, to the profound iconographical difference between an indivisible unity and the divine Trinity. One cannot say that the dogma of the Trinity was an essentially Western question and abstract monotheism an essentially Eastern one, however it might immediately seem that way in specific historical moments. The French monks imposed on the West’s Christian creed a formula according to which the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father but also the Son; the resistance of the Greek patriarchs in Constantinople to this filioque led to the Great Schism between the Eastern (Oriental) and Western (Occidental) Churches.[9] The immediate result was having the filioque doctrine serve as a banner for setting the Occident against the Orient. But in response to this matter the Syrian church advocated for the doctrines of the Trinity and Immaculate Conception: such a response renders the East / West dichotomy inadequate. Conversely, it was precisely the Germanic, Aryan peoples, who rejected absolutely the divinity of Christ. In both cases the thesis advanced regarding the doctrine of the Trinity, surprising in so many aspects, also corresponds to an iconographic differentiation between Orient and Occident. One cannot deny that industrial technification has led to serious alterations in traditional iconography. Modern psychoanalysis, too, can be conceived as an iconoclastic rupture. We all owe thanks to the teacher of psychosomatic science Juan José López Ibor, for having continued his magnificent investigations on the theme of psychoanalysis from the point of view of iconography as we have used it here.[10] Finally, modern painting, be it completely abstract or still manifesting some remnants of realism, also implies the destruction of an Old World tradition of images, along with the search for a new creation. These three ruptures—industrial technification, psychoanalysis, and modern painting—are evidently connected.[11] This connection would be a sensational topic of investigation in light of the present world duality between East and West. Yet it does not seem to me possible to distinguish between attitudes for and against images in an abstract way, to the point of regionally identifying one [attitude] with the East and the other with the West. We must, then, begin with another hypothesis to understand the structural nucleus of this conflict.


Setting aside the many peculiarities that arise when one posits a confrontation between East and West in the current of world history, today a simple and elementary distinction becomes visible: the conflict between land and sea. That which we call today the Orient, is a contiguous mass of land-based countries: Russia, China, India, the most powerful islands of the earth, and Earth’s mountain range, as the great British geographer Sir Halford Mackinder has called them.[12] And what we call the Occident today is the hemisphere surrounded by the great oceans; the Atlantic and Pacific. The opposition between a continental world and the maritime world is the global reality that confronts us and serves as a point of departure for methodically pursuing this issue regarding the dualistic structure of world tension(s) in the present. For the readers of the Revista de Estudios Políticos this drastic contraction of East-West tension to the opposition between land and sea is well known. To take but one example, the widely reputed Spanish international law jurist Camilo Barcia Trelles has maintained this thesis in a number of presentations and two extensive works.[13] In addition, one may cite the famous British geographer Sir Halford Mackinder.[14] In Germany, I have spoken on this subject in various publications.[15]

The young German international law jurist Serge Maiwald (who prematurely passed away in 1952) attempted in a magnificent project a study on the opposition between the two orders of life, states and society.[16] My critical reservation to Mackinder’ pure maritime image of the world, on the one hand, and Serge Maiwald’s optimist interpretation, on the other, can be deduced from what follows.

Rising above the peaks of world history we witness the disputes of great powers struggling against one another in a war of the elements, land and sea. At least that is how historians of the wars between Sparta and Athens or between Rome and Carthage saw it. However, they only had before their eyes the thalassic world of the Mediterranean; not the vast world of the great oceans and global conflict, which is an essentially different matter. Of course, one may find historical parallels [between the past and our present context] everywhere. For example, in this last year, 1952, we often heard references in public discourse to the First Philippic of Demosthenes [351-350 BCE, specifically pars. 38-41].[17] This is not to say that I agree with its usage here, any more than I would with Plato’s spiteful warning (one well known among his contemporaries) that the Greeks were dwelling like frogs on the banks of the Mediterranean.[18] In any case, we must recognize an essential difference between [the Greeks’] mere existence on a coast or interior sea and oceanic, maritime or sea-based way of life[19] The present world dualism as the opposition between land and sea has no structural parallels in history. Only since man has understood his planet in a global sense has he arrived at world historical tension, the crucial dimension that determines our present.

A global dimension of the struggle between land and sea appears for the first time in the wars between England and Revolutionary France and with Napoleon. Certainly the division between land and sea, between East and West, was not as clear then as it is today. In the end, Napoleon was not defeated by England [a sea power], but rather by the territorial powers: Russia, Austria, and Prussia. The Nomos of the Earth still consisted in an equilibrium between land and sea; by itself, the latter could not by itself force any decisive change[20] In the year 1812, when the British-French conflict reached its highest point, the United States would not declare war on Napoleon, but rather England. Afterwards, a rapprochement between America and Russia allowed both powers to imagine distancing themselves as much from Napoleon as from England. France and England at this point become seen as “the two rabid forces of land and sea”[21] Still, the opposition between land and sea, between East and West, had not yet crystallized in the clear opposition of elements as demonstrated by the 1949 Atlantic Treaty.

In any case, already by the time of Napoleon, there existed the global horizon, which awakened the consciousness of a truly world-situation: one [moreover] determined by the opposition of the elements. One had to decide between land and sea. In July 1812, as Napoleon advanced upon Moscow, Goethe addressed the Empress Marie Louise in a panegyric poem, in reality a hymn to her husband, the French Emperor: “What once confounded the multitude was revolved by one / That upon which centuries had meditated in darkness”. Under the global aspect of land and sea, the poet continues:

He encompassed it in the diaphanous light of the spirit
Emptying out all that was extraneous
Only land and sea have here solidity.

Goethe was on the side of Napoleon. For him, this meant siding with the order of territory, of Land. But Napoleon also represented the West [Occidente]. At this point, the West still referred to the order of Land and not Sea. The German poet hoped that the West would continue meaning the order of Land and that Napoleon, like a new Alexander, would advance as far as the coast. Thus would emerge “Terra firme, with all its rights”.

In this way, Goethe — a typical representative of the West during the summer of 1812, advocated for the order of Land and against that of the Sea. In conformity with his spiritual position, he conceive the opposition between land and sea in terms of a polarity and not as a dialectical tension brought about by an irreversible historical process. The difference between a polar tension and a dialectical one is, at least for us today, decisive.


Goethe thought in terms of polarities. But the tension between polarities is different from the tension conceived along the lines of dialectical tension. Tension between polarities implies an atemporal structure, in which polar oppositions continue existing as such, simultaneous and equal in structure; and that they ceaselessly reappear as forms that are at once always new and always the same — a kind of eternal return[22] By contrast, historical speculation pursues a series of concrete questions and concerns, which call for concrete answers. This question-answer process actualizes the dialectic of history in concrete terms; it determines the structure of historical situations and epochs. This historical dialectic need not follow the logic of Hegelian concepts; it can be understood as the general legislation of nature in its temporal unfolding.

What matters here is an understanding of the structure of the present world-dualism, not a general theory of history. Historical reflection is the reflection of unique situations, and hence unique truths. All historical analogies serve no other purpose besides that of comprehending most clearly that [event’s] unique character; any other conclusion irremediably lapses into a reflection on the principles of general laws in history, which do not exist. Hence one sees the absurdity of imagining unreal conditions whose existence would have changed history (as some go so far as to ask themselves); what would have happened if, for example, the Saracens had won the battle in Tours and Poitiers, or if Napoleon hadn’t lost the battle at Waterloo, or if the winter of 1941-42 hadn’t been as cold as it was? These absurdities, which one finds in even among the most celebrated historians, are absurd for this reason, that they ignore the unique and irrevocable character of the historical event. The veracity of polar oppositions is an eternal truth, eternal in the sense of an eternal return. A historical truth, on the other hand, is true only once. And how many times could it possibly be true, since its repetition would contradict its historical uniqueness? The unique character of all historical truth(s) is the arcane forbear of all ontology, as Walter Warnach has called it[23] The dialectical structure of history as a question-answer realized in concrete terms, which we have spent some time discussing here in order to clarify our approach to history, neither compromises or negates the uniqueness of the historical event; rather, it increases its uniqueness, insofar as a historical event is only conceived as such when we have conceived it as a unique, concrete response, to the call for such a response by a unique and concrete situation.

Now, if land and sea in its present world duality were solely understood as polar opposites that existed on equal terms destined to recur in history as an eternal return, we would consider both as a mere fact of nature. As mere nature, elements separate and recombine, mix together and dissolve. They become displaced and transformed in an incessant circular movement of metamorphosis, which always leads to new forms and manifestations arranged in a polar tension that nevertheless remains always the same. The present opposition between East and West, seen in this light, would resemble the (re)incarnation of an eternal circulation of elites, problems, and iconographies. The spectacle of eternal change and eternal return is thus alien to any specific truth that corresponds to a unique situation and historical moment. Polar opposition lacks the dimension of historical unrepeatability. Throughout universal history, peoples and groups endowed with the power of action and historical agency have appeared in determined epochs. In periods of friendship or enmity, these groups have seized land, divided it, lived in peace, and engaged in commerce within the area belonging to them. From this emerges the earth’s Nomos[24]is nomos would be deprived of its here and now if we were content to characterize the elements of land and sea as part of nature, existing in natural tension.

As mere nature, these elements could not be considered as they are, living beings that exist in tension in the sense of historical enmity[25]Land dwellers are not natural enemies with the inhabitants of the sea and vice-versa. It may be that terrestrial animals feed on fish and that a fish may devour land animals, but it would be childish to speak of enmity here. Fish also devour each other, particularly, as we know, the big fish eating the little fish; land animals do the same. Neither, then, can we say, really, that some natural hostility exists between land and sea. It would be better to say that land and sea are alien to one another, that they have no relation to one another, to the point that considering their relationship or possible enmity would be absurd. It naturally occurs that each living being remains in her or his element, or environment. Bears don’t declare war on whales and whales do not try to make war on bears. Even wild animals belonging to the same element know how to distinguish the scope and extent of their territory. Bears don’t follow lions or tigers into their den; even these great hunters of the animal world know their jurisdiction and they avoid unnecessary encounters. Whoever considers the relationship between dogs and cats as an example of natural enmity must also admit that “enmity” among animals is different from enmity between men. When dogs bark at cats, or cats spit on dogs, these animals do not behave as men do: men who are capable of denying their enemy the quality of being human. Dogs never place in doubt the nature of cats, and vice-versa, spiritually or morally.

On the other hand, it is quite exact to say that animal fables illustrate and clarify political situations and political relations between men in a specific manner. The issue of animal fables is an interesting theme unto itself. By transposing [human relations] onto the animal plane, we discover political situations and modes of conduct that can be detached from their ideological veil, precisely because we consider the conduct of animals to be essentially distinct from that of humans. A particularly effective artistic technique, fables consist in the elucidation of human conduct by its obscuration: by making men speak like animals and animals like men. The animal disguise appears strange, but this method of estrangement renders human conduct all the more obvious. This is the root of political meanings to be found in animal fables, something we won’t discuss in greater detail here.[26]

Translated into human terms, the essential separation between land and sea would imply that maritime wars would only transpire between maritime peoples; and terrestrial wars taking place only among terrestrial powers. Curiously, however, when tensions of a world-historical nature arrive at a certain threshold of intensity, the opposite occurs. Not animals but men, only men, make war with one another across both land and sea. As always, when the state of enmity among great powers has reached a high point, the conflict of war develops in both domains equally; and war becomes at once terrestrial and maritime for the warring parties.

Each power finds itself forced to pursue the adversary across the elemental domains. If we add air as a third dimension to the land and sea war, war becomes aerial. Thus it seems sensible to me to continue speaking of the elements of land and sea when any great conflict on a world-historical scale reaches its highest point, and all material, life, and spiritual forces are drawn into this conflict on both sides to an extreme degree. The struggle thus extends to the entire range of participating forces. The elemental conflict between land and sea is also drawn into the debate. War thus appears as a war between land and sea and vice-versa; in other words, as a war among the very elements.

In contrast to animals, enmity among men implies a tension that transcends the natural world. In the hearts of men beats the will to transcendence or the transcendental. One may call this supplement “spiritual”, or surplus. One may find its illustration in this phrase of Rimbaud’s: “Le combat spirituel est aussi brutal que la bataille d’hommes.” [Spiritual combat is more brutal than battles among men]. In any case enmity among men is capable of degrees and varies in intensity. It reaches its point of explosion in civil wars with the invocation of juridical-moral and ideological principles; which is to say, an indictment of the adversary as criminal and existing “outside the law” (“hors la loi”). This is not nature here, this provocation to tension and enmity that escalates natural polarities, converting them into a concrete historical dialectic: [these principles], which transcend nature, are specifically human. By “dialectic,” I mean something different from the form of differentiation along the lines of polar opposites. The word dialectic expresses a question-answer structure in all historical situations and occurrences. Any historical situation is incomprehensible as long as one does not comprehend it as a call made by men, as well as man’s response to this call. The historical action of every man represents an answer to a question posed by history. Every human word is an answer; every answer acquires its significance from the question to which it responds; and all that which does not directly address this question is meaningless. The meaning of the question, in turn, arises from the concrete situation in which it was (first) posed.

All this recalls R. G. Collingwood’s “Question-Answer logic,” and has much to do with it. With this question-answer schema Collingwood sought to arrive at what is properly historical. He formulated it with rigor: for him, this schema was the path he had to tread in order to go beyond his [intellectual] formation rooted in the a-historicism of naturalist positivism[27] His intuition was sound: but our British philosopher remained too much within the concept of 19th century science to successfully go beyond a psychological, individualist interpretation to the question-answer problematic. Nothing else explains the morbid, anti-Germanist leaning attacks that marred his last work, The New Leviathan. But the great merit of his Question-Answer Logic is undeniable. One need only see that one man, or even group of men, cannot alone posit a Question; nor can some historian approach the past with just any Question ex post facto, because history itself consists in concrete Questions and Answers. The historical event is the question itself, from which other historical events develop as man’s concrete response. When men perceive the question and call of history; and attempt an answer through their conduct and their deeds, they hazard the great test of historical sufficiency and they are stamped by history’s tribunal. In other words, they pass from the state of nature to the state of historicity.

Arnold Toynbee has elevated the Question-Answer Logic to a Challenge-Response structure in the history of culture. The Question becomes an act of defiance, a Challenge [English in original – trans.], with an accompanying Response. This is an important advance in capturing the historical sense; it allows one to recognize dialectical tension, beyond polarities, thereby leaving behind the psychologico-centered, individualist a-historicism of naturalist thought. From this Toynbee derives his higher cultures or civilizations, more than twenty in all, which are defined by a concrete, historical challenge [desafío], by the call of history and the equally concrete response or reply given by the men of the time. In the case of Egyptian culture, for example, the position of the Nile Valley and that culture’s dependence on it, along with the permanent threat of outside enemies, signify the challenge. The regulation and organization of the Nile Valley, its defense against foreign, barbarian invasions, and the Egyptian civilization that emerged from these measures — its divine cults, dynasties, pyramids, and art — represent the concrete response to that challenge.

What is gained through this way of approaching things is extraordinary, because it touches on the dialectical structure of every historical situation. But even Toynbee can’t escape the typical danger that immediately threatens his specifically historical mode of thinking. By placing in succession his twenty-odd higher cultures or civilizations, one after the other, he erases the core uniqueness of the historical event; and with it goes the proper structure of the historical. General laws of world history are of no importance. In the end, this amounts to the submission of history to laws or statistical probabilities in a functionalist vein. What matters to us is the unique and concrete situation, which is to say, our own present epoch in which a world dualism between Orient and Occident, one that is global in character, has arisen. If we speak here of a dialectical tension it is not to say that we seek a general law or statistical probability, much less the general logic of a dialectical resolution among concepts in some systematic way.

Our insistence on this point bears repeating. Today, anyone who speaks of the dialectic exposes himself / herself to the danger of being classified and invalidated as a Hegelian in a summary and automatic fashion. Of course, Hegel’s dialectic of history encompasses enough possibilities to arrive at the authentic uniqueness of the historical event. One may infer as much from his contention that the incarnation of God in the Son is the axis of universal world history. One may also deduce from this that historical knowledge for Hegel is not simply a judgment [of the past] but also and simultaneously an act of progress[28] But in its systematic character [the dialectic] easily loses its grip on the uniqueness and the historical happening becomes transformed into a pure rational process. One would do well to keep in mind this danger of using this word “dialectic” in our presentation, lest our use of the word lapse into a kind of automatism, resulting in the consideration of our technologized present as a scientific achievement[29]Even beyond avoiding the Hegelian mistake of positing a general dialectic of concepts we must guard ourselves against the legalist illusion of the nineteenth century, to which the greatest sociologists and existing historians of the West have fallen prey (with the exception of Alexis de Tocqueville).

The necessity of making every historical test the basis of a general law of history’s ebb and flow has even wrapped the best and wisest minds of the nineteenth century in a dense fog of generalizations. The inflation of the historical event to a general law of humanity pays homage to a century guilty of naturalist positivism, incapable of understanding and evaluating any truth except as a foreseeable and to a certain degree calculable general matter of course. Thus did Auguste Comte, a brilliantly intuitive historian of his time, capture his era by demonstrating the three levels of development within it: from theology, to metaphysics, to scientific positivism. This was an exceedingly precise observation, which affected the unique, proven passage of history in the three moments given to us by European thought from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century. But the scientist and positivist Auguste Comte would not have believed in his historical philosophy, in itself correct, had he not posed these moments on an abstract level, transforming them into a general law of the three stages of humanity in their conjunction. The forecasts of the situation in central and Western Europe, which were partially right, came together in concentrated form and on a level of general, world-historical importance, in [the work of] Karl Marx during the second stage of the Industrial Revolution (towards the middle of the nineteenth century), to become portrayed as the last, elemental class struggle for all humanity. In reality, what transpired was merely a concrete and determinate phase of the techno-industrial revolution, including the railroad, the telegraph, and the steam engine. Yet again in the twentieth century, Oswald Spengler and his all-encompassing doctrine of cultural cycles throughout human history has neutralized—and thereby killed the properly historical nerve of—a correct conception, one that may be expressed in the great historical parallel that exists between our present, on the one hand, and the epoch of [Roman] civil wars and Caesarism, on the other.


Technologization [La tecnificación] and industrialization constitute the destiny of our earth today. Let us then seek out the unique historical question, the great “Challenge” (English in original) and concrete response out of all that the technological revolution has engendered during the last few centuries. Let us renounce the facile possibilities proffered to us by the projected outcomes of hypothetical conditions. Dialectical tension, which we have set in opposition to polarity, must not lead us to generalizations of a Hegelian character, nor to natural scientific or even normativist ones. Neither should Toynbee’s “Challenge-Response” formula serve as more than a handle for correctly grasping the question of a singular and present reality of the current world dualism between Orient and Occident. A 1953 work of Arnold Toynbee’s immediately comes to mind here: it bears the provocative title, The World and the West[30] This work has stirred a violent critique and polemic against its author, one in which we have refrained from participating because we are more interested in our subject, the land / sea opposition. Toynbee talks about our present epoch and offers up a concrete forecast. He speaks consciously and with foresight about the “Occident”, juxtaposing it with the rest of the world. For him, the Occident is the aggressor, equipped with industrial technologies that have caught the Orient unawares, beginning four and a half centuries prior and unfolding in the West’s four encounters with the outside: Russia, Islam, India, and Eastern Asia. The essential thing for Toynbee is that the Occident has launched its aggressive ambitions with the aid of a technology liberated from Christianity. For Toynbee, the Orient’s appropriation of this technology is linked to an attitude of defense against the secular character of this aggression. In contrast, the seventeenth-century Jesuits attempted to preach the Christian religion to Indians and Chinese, not as an Occidental religion, but rather a universal world religion that affects all humanity in the same way. For Toynbee the evangelical project was doomed because it unfortunately produced a dogmatic dispute among the Catholic missionary orders, which led to the failure of the grandiose Jesuit mission. In Toynbee’s mind, however, the communist revolution taking place in the Orient today consists in the Orient’s appropriation of European technology [técnica], but stripped of Christianity. Toynbee calls this technology a “splinter, which had been flaked off from the religious core of our civilization towards the end of the seventeenth century”[31] This is an important and decisive formulation that deserves emphasis. Following the Question-Answer Logic, we might ask ourselves at this point, what historical-concrete “Challenge” and equally concrete “Response” it is that our present, technico-industrial age explains and allows us to recognize. What accounts for the industrial revolution? To what is it a response? What is its origin and birthplace, its founding principle and impulse? It arose from the British isle and specifically England in the seventeenth century. The many, frequently cited dates, which are all generally known—the coke oven in 1735, the invention of steel in 1740, steam engine in 1768, the first modern factory in Nottingham, 1769, mechanical spindle in 1770, mechanical loom in 1786, steam train in 1825—need not be repeated. This great revolution arose from the British isle, which became the first industrial nation in the world during the nineteenth century. We must not lose sight of this historical phenomenon, which the first German sociologist Lorenz von Stein addressed in 1842 with the following words:

«Así nacieron de repente en Inglaterra y, es curioso, por la misma época que las ideas de libertad e igualdad ocupaban Francia, las primeras máquinas. Con ellas comienza para la vida de los bienes en el mundo entero, para la producción, el consumo y el tráfico, una época totalmente nueva. Ellas son la verdadera fuerza revolucionaria en este mundo material y desde éste, al que dominan, alcanzan profundamente a todos los puntos del mundo espiritual.»

[Hence and suddenly, in the same epoch during which the ideas of liberty and equality absorbed France, there were born in England the first machines. With them, a totally new era dawns for the life of commodities across the world, for production, consumption, and traffic. Machines are the true revolutionary force in this material world; and through the domination of that world, they extend deep into the furthest reaches of the spiritual world.][32]

It was in England, suddenly and precisely in England! One can see the young German’s astonishment when the consciousness of his historical situation fills him with understanding, and he realizes, while living in Paris during the reign of the bourgeoisie under Louis Philippe, that the political revolution taking place on the European continent since 1789 only signifies an ideological epiphenomenon compared to the industrial revolution coming from the British isle, which is the true revolutionary impulse. Thus did he write those memorable lines we cited above, which we find precisely in a chapter titled: “The Proletariat”. With this we see for the first time in European circles and on a level of scientific awareness, the problem of separation between the forces of labor and property.

The industrial revolution also emerges on the British isle from the eighteenth century: what, then, was its unique historical situation? England was an island that had been separated from the European continent since the sixteenth century, which had led it down the path toward a purely maritime existence. This is essential, from the perspective of history. Everything else is superstructure. Whatever one considers to be the visible, outer event that one may take as the date or ephemeris that marks the decisive moment or step toward a maritime existence—Cromwell’s occupation of Jamaica in 1655, or the definitive expulsion of the Stuarts in 1688, or the European peace at Utrecht, 1713—the essential matter is that a European people began to consider the island that it inhabited not as some “splinter, flaked [off]” from the European continent, as it had until then, but rather as the base of a purely maritime existence, upon which an oceanic dominion would be built. From the sixteenth century, England had immersed itself in the great discoveries and conquests of the Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Dutch. In this enterprise it surpassed all of its rivals: not by virtue of some, more elevated moral or physical quality, but uniquely and exclusively because it succeeded in transitioning from the land-based continent to the free sea with all its consequences; and linked the great conquest of land with a conquest of the sea[33]

This was the singular and unrepeatable response to the historical challenge [desafío]: it was equally singular and unrepeatable with respect to the great call made by an age defined by the European discoveries. For the first time in the history of humanity as we know it, a challenge arose that was not specific to this or that river, coast, or sea. For the first time the challenge was global. The majority of European nations understood this call in a land-based way. The Spanish founded a great ultramarine empire; but it nevertheless remained essentially tied to land and they exhausted themselves in the great territorial conquest [of the Americas]. The Russians burst out of Moscow and conquered a gigantic territory: Siberia. The Portuguese, despite the prodigious extent of their navigations, did not reach the level of a purely maritime existence. The saga of their discoveries, Camoens’s Os Lusiadas, speaks of the Indian Ocean in essentially the same manner as Virgil’s Aeneid would of the Mediterranean. The Dutch launched themselves into the oceanic venture and at the beginning took the lead; but the base of their enterprise turned out to be too weak, their entanglement in the politics of the land-based powers too strong, and after the 1713 Peace of Utrecht they too became a land-based territory. The French ventured into a two-hundred year war with the British and lost in the end. England was “the least hampered by the continent” [English in original]—and thus completed a transition to maritime existence. With this came the basis of the industrial Revolution.

A European island had separated itself from the image of the traditional world as purely terrestrial, and turned to contemplate the world from the succeeding view of the free sea. The continent, the natural inhabitable space of humanity, became a mere coast with its hinterland or “backland” [English in original]. As late as the sixteenth century, during the times of the Duchess of Orleans, British knights would obtain their great spoils from France, just like the knights of every other land. Until the sixteenth century the English were a nation of shepherds, who would sell their wool in Flanders, where textiles were manufactured. It was this nation [the British] that would transform itself into one of impassioned sailors, responsible for an oceanic (and not merely “Thalassic”) empire. The island ceased to be a splinter flaked off of the continent and became a ship anchored before it[34] In place of the old, purely terrestrial Nomos of the Earth, there appears a new Nomos, which welcomes the oceans into its order, even as it distinguishes the world of the free sea from that of Terra Firma, balancing one against the other in order to control (by means of this equilibrium) the continent from the sea.

Thus, it is not that some “technological splinter” flaked off Europe towards the end of the seventeenth century, as Arnold Toynbee thought: rather it was a European island that freed itself from the European continent; and a new maritime world, with the island as its base, positioned itself before the continental one. It created a counterweight to the terrestrial world, holding in its hands the equilibrium of the world and with it world peace in the balance. Such was the result of a concrete response to the call posed by the open sea(s). Upon this island of England, which had answered the call and had accomplished the passage to a maritime existence, there emerged in that instant the first machines.


The ship or sea vessel lies at the center of man’s maritime existence, in the same way that the house lays at the center of terrestrial existence. Ship and house are not antithetical in the sense of a polar tension, but different responses to the singular call made by history. Both are built by technological means; but in contrast to the house, the ship is at once a technical vehicle and necessary instrument for man’s domination over nature. After all, the ocean signifies nature in a different sense than the continent. The sea is more unfamiliar and hostile. According to the story of Biblical creation, after land and sea were separated from one another man was assigned to land as a viable space. The ocean remained seen as something dangerous and bad. We may refer here to Karl Barth’s commentary on the first chapter of Genesis (in book 3, chapter 1 of Church Dogmatics), and content ourselves with showing how it would require an extraordinary impulse for human beings to overcome their ancient religious fear of the sea[35] The technological impulse that overcame this fear was different from any other technological impulse. The man willing to risk his life on the open sea — and the word “pirate” refers specifically to one who takes on this risk or peril — had, as the poet says: “aes triplex circa pectus”, thrice-reinforced bronze in his breast. The retreat of nature as an obstacle to man’s progress, which he achieves by means of his labor in culture and civilization, proceeds differently when man works on and through ships rather than by cultivating the earth and creating pasturelands. The house remains the nucleus and center of terrestrial life, together with all its concrete orders: house and property, matrimony, family, and inheritance. All these concrete orders are born and grow upon the soil and under the stamp of terrestrial life, specifically agricultural life. The fundamental institution of law, dominium or property, receives its name from domus, house. That is obvious. But even legal jurists do not realize that the German word for laborer, “Bauer,” does not refer to the cultivation of the soil, but rather the act of buildingBau, Gebau. Labor thus designates in the first instance, the man who builds a house. Terrestrial life revolves around the house. In contrast, maritime life revolves around the ship, which one must navigate. The house is rest: the ship, movement. The space in which the ship moves is distinct from that of the house. As a consequence, the ship belongs to another environment with a different horizon[36]On the ship, men engage in a different kind of social relation(ship) amongst themselves as well as with the outer world. They also have a fundamentally different relation to nature, above all with respect to animals. The man of the earth tames and domesticates animals—the elephant, the camel, horse, dog, cat, ox, mule—and makes them domestic animals. Fish, on the other hand, can never be domesticated. Never: they are fished and eaten because the house is foreign to the sea.

We bring these simple historical-cultural examples to mind here, in order to recall the profound difference between terrestrial and maritime existence, land and sea life. We are looking for an answer to the question of why the industrial Revolution, with its unfettered technology, remains tied to maritime existence. A land-based order, with the house at its center, necessarily has a fundamentally different relation to technology than an order of life that revolves around the ship. The absolutization of technology and technological progress, the conflation of technical progress to mean progress in general, everything that one might understand under the catch-phrase “unfettered technology” [técnica desencadenada] develops only when fed by the nutritious subsoil and climate of maritime existence. By following the call of the open seas, by actualizing the passage to sea life, the British isle gave a magnificent historical response to the historical call of the age of discoveries. With this it created the foundations of the industrial Revolution and the beginning of an era whose problematic we are experiencing today.

We have spoken concretely of the industrial Revolution, which is our present destiny. To reiterate, it could not have originated in any other country but England in the eighteenth century. An industrial Revolution signifies the freeing of technological progress: this liberation is solely comprehensible from within maritime existence; here it appears logical, up to a certain point. Technological inventions have been made everywhere throughout the ages. The British contribution to technology is no greater than that of other nations. It always comes down to knowing what becomes of the technological invention, and this depends on the context, the concrete order, in which the invention turns up. Within the context of maritime existence, technological inventions develop unfettered and free, as opposed to when they emerge from the fixed organs of terrestrial life and remain surrounded and integrated to these. The Chinese had discovered gunpowder: they were in no way behind the Europeans, who had discovered it as well. But in the fixed framework of a purely terrestrial order that was China during that period, the discovery of gunpowder merely led to its use as a form of amusement and for fireworks. In Europe its discovery led to other discoveries by Alfred Nobel and his followers. The British, who in the eighteenth century were responsible for all the discoveries that led to the industrial Revolution (the coke oven, etc.) were in no way more brilliant than the men of other times and other countries that, while remaining tied to the land, had in an equal manner brought to realization many of the same eighteenth-century inventions. Technological inventions are not discoveries revealed by some mysterious, higher power. They fall within their time. They develop or decay according to the corresponding and concrete order of human life in which they have emerged. So, this is to say that the inventions that inaugurate the industrial Revolution only become its foundation where the passage to maritime existence, sea life, has taken place.

The passage to a purely maritime existence has as its result and in its most far reaching and intimate consequences, the freeing of technology as an autonomous force. Notwithstanding all that had been developed before the arrival of technology in the context of essentially terrestrial life and existence, technology in an absolute sense had never arisen. It bears repeating here the observation that thalassic culture—limited to the coasts and interior seas—does not even signify a definitive step toward maritime existence. Only upon the ocean can the ship become the counter-image of the house. Faith in absolute progress is a sign of having accomplished this passage toward maritime existence. The reactions caught up in a continuous and limitless process of invention are born in the historical, social and morally infinite space of sea life. We are not referring here to the difference between sedentary and nomad peoples, but rather the opposition between land and sea as the possibilities of living in one of two elementally distinct forms of life. It is for this reason mistaken to speak of naval nomads, in comparison to nomads on horse, camel, or other nomads belonging to Terra firma. This is only one of the many incorrect homologies between land and sea. The space in which historical human existence localizes itself is fundamentally different between earth and sea, both in terms of their horizon of possibility as in terms of their very foundations; and essentially different forces lay behind human culture, on the one hand, and human civilization, on the other. These affect the one who views the sea from the land differently than the one who views the land from the sea, insofar as culture is determined more by the terrestrial (land-based order) and civilization by the maritime; and the maritime image of the world is first and foremost technomorphic before being sociomorphic.[37]

This understanding of the maritime relation, from the phenomenological point of view, casts a new light upon two important phenomena of the nineteenth century: classical economy, which emerged towards the end of the eighteenth century and continued well into the nineteenth; and Marxism. The emergence of the industrial Revolution led to ever more numerous and rapid advances in a limitless realm, which led to the freeing of technology. The call formulated by classical economy is the idealized superstructure for the first phase of industrial Revolution. Marxism builds its foundations entirely upon classical economy. [But] Marxism also channeled and transformed it into a superstructure for the second stage of the industrial Revolution: Marxism was able to supply a sufficient catalogue of ideas to an intellectual elite, composed of professional Russian revolutionaries that had managed to take power over the Russian empire during the October Revolution of 1917; and transfer the framework of that double superstructure to an agrarian country. Historically, this transposition involved something very different from the realization of a pure doctrine or fulfillment of laws that obeyed some notion of historical destiny; it involved equipping an industrially backwards agrarian empire, in order to seize control of industrial technology, without which it would have been easy prey to any industrially armed conqueror. Marxism was transformed from an ideological superstructure for the second phase of the industrial Revolution into a practical instrument for overcoming Russia’s defenseless technico-industrial phase and dissolving an old elite that no longer bore a mandate for its historical mission. But doing away with classical economy was only one aspect of Marxist doctrine. Its root continued to be Hegelian. In a passage of Hegel’s Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (Foundations for the Philosophy of Right), one finds the seed of Marxism beginning with §243. This is a celebrated passage: in it, the dialectic develops from a bourgeois society that freely extends itself and conceives its destiny “engaged in expanding internally in population and industry”. Such a bourgeois society, Hegel claims, “despite an excess of wealth civil society is not rich enough, i.e. its own resources are insufficient to check excessive poverty and the creation of a penurious rabble”[38] He expressly refers to the England of that period as a suitable example. And he continues, later, in §246:

This inner dialectic of civil [bourgeois] society thus drives it – or at any rate drives a specific civil society – to push beyond its own limits and seek markets, and so its necessary means of subsistence, in other lands which are either deficient in the goods it has over-produced, or else generally backward in industry &c.

Such are Hegel’s justifiably celebrated passages (§§243-246) from the Philosophy of Right, which have unfolded and developed in Marxism. But I do not know whether the paragraph immediately following this explanation has been sufficiently recognized in scope. It raises precisely the contrast between land and sea, and its interpretation could not be any less rich and fruitful for Marxist thought than that of the preceding passages. The passage concerns the subordination of industrial revolution to maritime existence. It contains the decisive sentence: “The principle of family life is dependence on the soil, on land, terra firma. Similarly, the natural element for industry, animating its outward movement, is the sea”.

I pause here and ask the attentive reader to recognize in this analysis the principle of intent to develop the implications of this passage from Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, in an analogous way to the development of the preceding passages in Marxist thought.

At the same time, with this interpretation there immediately arises a new question and with this question a new danger. The question is: “what is the present ‘Challenge’ [English in original – tr.] of History today?” The danger would be to react to the new call of the present by offering an old response, one that showed itself to be certain and effective for an earlier epoch. Men hold onto all that once proved to be certain and effective. They have no desire to learn that any given response to a new historical “Challenge” as seen or perceived from man’s perspective, may turn out to be merely a prefatory one [pre-mandato, lit. “pre-mandate” – tr.], if not (as it oftentimes occurs, as in Columbus’s departure) a blindly prefatory one. Man has an almost irresistible need to perpetuate his understanding of history based on his experience. When the Germans entered France in 1914, we thought that our latest victory was a repetition of the events of 1870-1871. When the embattled French launched an attack from Paris that winter of 1870-1871, they thought they were repeating the events of the victorious 1792 Revolution. When US Secretary of State Stimson proclaimed his famous Stimson doctrine in 1932, he believed the (historical) situation to be the same, for the most part, as that of 1861, which was the beginning of the US Civil War.

Our historical sense may preserve us from such repetitions. Paradoxically, in those same nations where the force of technology is most unobstructed we find the prevailing opinion that a new era is dawning, one defined by our incursion into the new infinite spaces of the cosmos, thanks to the assistance of new technological means. Compared to this incursion into the cosmos, the one that took place with the age of discovery five hundred years ago would seem as nothing. Men today plan explorations in the stratosphere and trips to the Moon. The Earth itself, our planet, will be transformed into a space-ship [barco-espacio] bursting into the cosmos.

And yet, this interpolation merely rehearses an old response, a desperate insistence on the continuity of an earlier historical response to the “Challenge” of the open sea(s). Men today imagine the present “Challenge” as merely an inflated version of the discovery of the Americas. We have already said that such a response is entirely comprehensible, from a psychological point of view. Back then, Earth’s new continents and oceans of the Earth were just emerging on the horizon. But I do not see some new cosmos opening up in the same way; nor do I hear a cosmic call or “Challenge.” Let us set aside, for now, the questioned existence of flying saucers. However violently this unfettered technology has imposed itself upon the cosmos, it neither constitutes a historical “Challenge” nor even a historical response to it. Certainly, unfettered technology produces an immense potential for desires and the surplus of these desires. But desire and call do not mean the same thing. It is also true that modern technology always engenders new artificial needs. But this merely means that, in the end, one could produce a response to a “Challenge” that is itself artificially produced, and in an artificial way.

The apparent continuation of the old Response under a more modern guise leads us to regard history in ahistorical and anachronistic terms. It is completely natural for the conqueror of a past era to fail to accommodate history’s later call. After all, how can the conqueror understand that even his victory was to be a victory made only once? And who would teach this lesson to him? I believe that we gain something by not responding to new questions with the replication of old responses. We achieve much by not constructing the new world according to the blueprint of yesterday’s New World. Personally, I assume the new call to be addressing our world, not the stratosphere. I observe that unfettered technology, which earlier served to enclose humanity, now opens new spaces for us. Modern technology is advantageous and necessary. But it is still a far cry from being the response to the call of the present. Technology satisfies ever-new necessities, which it in fact engenders. In other matters its destiny is obscure and for this reason cannot constitute a response. Everyone says that modern technology has made our Earth ridiculously small. For this reason, we ought to seek out those new spaces that emerge from the new call on our earth and not outside it, in the cosmos. The one who succeeds in corralling unfettered technology in order to dominate and insert it into a concrete order, is the one who offers a true response to the present call, not the one who attempts to land on the Moon or Mars with the resources given to him by that unfettered technology. Taming unfettered technology would be, for example, the work of a new Hercules. It is from this direction that I await the new call, the “Challenge” of our present.


01. Schmitt, Der Nomos 260-61.

02. Gottmann 220.

03. Díez del Corral, see especially chapter 7, “La enajenación del arte,” 205-42.

04. Ollero, see especially “La forma política,” 61-86. 

05. On the importance of techno-morphic or socio-morphic representations, see note 37 below. 

06. See Vilfredo Pareto, The Mind and Society, v. III, pars. 2026-2059 and v. IV, pars. 2233-2236.

07. See Schmitt, Der Nomos 75. See also the Spanish translation by Antonio Truyol y Serra (Schmitt, “La justificación” 20).

08. This is Professor Dr. Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte. See Heydte 192. 

09. Translator’s note: For a good introduction to this debate, see A. Edward Siecienski, The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy.

10. See López Ibor, Estilos de vivir y modos de enfermar. His great work, La angustia vital: patología general psicosomática, contains material on the problem of iconography in a general, cultural, and historical sense.

11. Translator’s note: The German version of the essay contains an oblique allegorical reference to these three ruptures in relation to Alexander the Great’s legendary solution to the riddle of the Gordian knot [“Die drei Einbrüche – industrielle Technisierung, Psychoanalyse und modern Malerei – kann man sich hier verschieden vorstellen: die Technisierung als der Schwert, das die Knaüel alter Bilder und Tabus durchschneidet, die Psychoanalyse als Lösung des Riemens und die modern Malerei als eine Ablösung durch Überholung” (Schmitt, “Des geschictliche Struktur des Gegensatzes von Ost und West,” 526). This allegory, in turn, refers to the title of an essay by Ernst Jünger, “Der Gordische Knoten,” in which Jünger takes up the “world conflict” between East and West (ibid., 523).

12. Translator’s note: Schmitt is probably referring here to the Asian Himalayas, which traverse the frontier between the Indian subcontinent and the rest of Asia.

13. See Barcia Trelles, El Pacto del Atlántico: la tierra y el mar frente a frente and El mar como factor de protagonismo en la política internacional. See also his regular contributions, titled “El ayer, el hoy y el mañana internacionales,” to the Revista de Estudios Políticos.

14. See Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality.

15. See Schmitt, Tierra y mar: consideraciones sobre la historia universal, translated by Rafael Fernández Quintanilla.

16. See Serge Maiwald’s articles in the journal Universitas, which was edited by him in Tübingen from 1949 to 1951; see especially his article “Das Atlantische System im permanentem Ausnahmezustand.” See also his contribution to the Zeitschrift für Geopolitik (Hamburg), December 1951.

17. Translator’s note: [39] “[I]f we fail to learn the lesson that to manage a war properly you must not follow the trend of events but must forestall them, and that just as an army looks to its general for guidance, so statesmen must guide circumstances, if they are to carry out their policy and not be forced to follow at the heels of chance. [40] But you, Athenians, possessing unsurpassed resources—fleet, infantry, cavalry, revenues—have never to this very day employed them aright, and yet you carry on war with Philip exactly as a barbarian boxes. The barbarian, when struck, always clutches the place; hit him on the other side and there go his hands. He neither knows nor cares how to parry a blow or how to watch his adversary. [41] So you, if you hear of Philip in the Chersonese, vote an expedition there; if at Thermopylae, you vote one there; if somewhere else, you still keep pace with him to and fro. You take your marching orders from him; you have never framed any plan of campaign for yourselves, never foreseen any event, until you learn that something has happened or is happening. All this was once perhaps possible; now things have come to a crisis, so that it is no longer in your power.” See Demosthenes.

18. Translator’s note: Schmitt refers first to Socrates’ remark in Plato’s Phaedo: “we (Greeks) live around a sea like frogs around a pond”. Schmitt seems to be implying his disagreement with the historical parallels presumably made by some Western politicians between the Athenians in Demosthenes’s speech (and / or the Greeks in Plato’s speech), and the West’s overly passive reaction to the rise of the Soviet Union.

19. Translator’s note: Schmitt repeats the phrase existencia marítima throughout the essay, which may be translated literally as “maritime” or “sea-based existence” or more colloquially as “sea life” or “sea-based way of life”.

20. Translator’s note: By “the itself,” Schmitt is personifying (or allegorizing) the industrial powers, particularly Britain and the US, whose military and economic strength depended on a combination of technology and transoceanic commerce.

21. Hölzle 69.

22. Translator’s note: The concept of eternal return, or eternal recurrence, has its origins in many ancient religions, although Friedrich Nietzsche and Sören Kierkegaard reintroduced it as a central aspect of modern philosophy during the nineteenth century.

23. See Warnach, Abstrakte Kunst als Zeitausdruck, which is a lecture he delivered at the Salzburger Hochschulwochen in 1953.

24. [Note by Schmitt: Nota Bene. The German words “Landsnahme” and “Seanahme” are based on the substantive noun “Nahme.” “Nahme” is the nomen actionis of the German verb “nehmen.” The Greek word “Nomos” is a nomen actionis of the Greek verb “nemein,” which means: firstly, “nehmen” (to appropriate or seize); secondly, “teilen” (to distribute); and thirdly, “weiden” in the sense of “administrate,” “use,” “produce,” and “consume.” This explains the title of my article: “Nehmen–Teilen–Weiden.” I believe it is necessary to reexamine closely, from the perspective of Philosophy of Law, these three fundamental ideas underlying all human rights, especially because all the great thinkers—including Saint Thomas Aquinas—distinguish between post-divisionem and ante-divisionem law. Cf. Schmitt, “Nehmen–Teilen–Weiden.”[The translation of the word “Nahme” into Spanish and other Romance languages comes up against great difficulties, because many legal terms are based on this originary threefold process, even when one generally takes for granted that all legal orderings rest on Nehmen–Teilen–Weiden. Alvaro d’Ors uses the term tomar (‘to take’) and its counterpart distribución originaria (‘original distribution’) (Ors, “De la guerra” 183). José Camaño Martínez uses the term ocupación de la tierra (‘occupation of the land’) (Schmitt, “El ‘nomos’ ”). José Luis Estévez follows suit in his use of ocupación (‘occupation’) (Schmitt, “El Derecho”). Antonio Truyol y Serra uses the terms Apropiación, Partición, Apacentamiento (‘Appropriation, Distribution, Grazing’). But words such as “ocupación,” “instalación,” and “apropiación” linguistically deviate from the originary nature of the threefold process, that is, law as derived from the originary seizure or possession of the land and the sea.]

25. Translator’s note: The idea of “historical enmity” as a distinctively human trait revisits Schmitt’s early “concept of the political,” which defines “the political” as an autonomous sphere of human activity governed solely by the differentiation of one’s friends and enemies. See Concept of the Political; also the introduction to this volume.

26. Translator’s note: Obviously, Schmitt is referencing his reflections on the leviathan metaphor, particularly in the work of Thomas Hobbes.

27. See Collingwood, An autobiography 29ff. Collingwood’s other book, which is cited below, is The New Leviathan, or Man, Society, Civilization and Barbarism.

28. Translator’s note: In the German version of the essay, Schmitt uses the word Mitfortschreiten in italics to refer to “progress,” although a more literal translation would be “progress-together (or along)-with x” (Mit + Fortschritt). For the use of this word in the introduction to Hegel’s Logic, see Stephen Houlgate, 41.

29. Translator’s note: While the literal translation of técnica (Ger. Teknik) and its participle tecnificado/a is “technics” (and technified), in many cases for Schmitt the word is synonymous with “technology,” whose modern cognate in Spanish is tecnología. Of course, the Greek word-concept tekne encompasses the ensemble of technology, engineering, and the arts in a given society. For purposes of simplicity, we have translated the word as “technology.”

30. Toynbee’s The World and the West has been translated into German by Dr. Heinrich Joachim Alexander under the title Die Welt und der Westen.

31. Translator’s note: See Alfred Toynbee, “Reith Lectures 1952: The World and The West,” Last accessed February 15, 2014.

32. Translator’s note: the original passage comes from Lorenz von Stein, Geschichte der sozialen Bewegung in Frankreich von 1789 bis auf unsre Tage, v. II, pp. 66ff.

33. Translator’s note: The “free sea” [mar libre] refers to a well-known work of early international jurisprudence, Hugo Grotius’s Mare Liberum (1609), in which the author asserts the impossibility of establishing legal title over the seas, which implies its free use by all sovereign powers.

34. Translator’s note: Probably a reference to Turner’s famous painting, “The Fighting Temeraire Tugged to Her Last Berth To Be Broken Up” (1838), which critics have read as an allegory of industrial revolution and the “Old World” that it tows.

35. Translator’s note: See bibliography.

36. Enrique Tierno Galván (“Benito Cereno”) has highlighted the specific spatial relations of the ship. The designation of the ship as a “floating territory,” or territoire flottant, by jurists is nothing but a convenient fiction that originates in the terrestrial world and is one of countless other fictions that are transposed from the land to the sea.

37. On the difference between images of the world and images of empire, as both are determined by originary images of a technical (for example, the potter as demiurge) or a social nature (for example, the father as universal lord), see Topitsch 19ff. 

38. Translator’s note: Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, trans T.M. Knox. See Last accessed 2/28/14.

Works Cited

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  • Houlgate, Stephen. The Opening of Hegel’s Logic: From Being to Infinity. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2006.
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