Does Liberalism Need a Bit of Despotism?

  • Abstract:

    The aim of this paper is to provide an analysis of the relationship between the political and the economic domains, affirming the primate of the former over the latter as viable solution to the present situation in EU. In seeking the notion of political Modernity, from a juridical and historical point of view, the concept of sovereignty might be taken as a crucial criterion. From a political viewpoint, indeed, the passage from a personal to a territorial idea of sovereignty is considered a watershed between Middle Ages and Modernity. The thesis of Carl Schmitt’s The Nomos of the Earth is that Europe achieves a peaceful balance only after the Peace of Westphalia (1648), when European states recognize each other as sovereigns and equals. Nowadays, the traditional notion of sovereignty seems to be overpassed and partially replaced by over-national economic powers, which are far more extended and influencing than the sovereign states. This type of economic, personalistic power has an ill-fated influence on the inhabitants of the global polis. This latter is a kind of power with equal strength as the political one, but without the distinguishing degree of rationality. The order of the political sphere appears to be replaced by the disorder of an uncontrolled economic concurrence, generating in many citizens impotence and other disturbing feelings (nationalism). These powers, over-national and personalistic, appear completely counterposed to the modern idea of politics itself, conceived as a teleological nomos. In this sense, it is possible to speak of a neo-Medieval Europe. Taken as a whole, this condition of nation states and global capitals could be assumed as despotic, but certainly not as enlightened. A genuine enlightened despotism – however thought as a political sovereignty able to discipline the economic power and to guarantee actual freedom to the people on its territory (Europe?) – could be a fascinating political perspective to probe for.