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ISBN: 978-0-7456-4648-0
288 pages
December 2013, Polity
Dictatorship (0745646484) cover image


Now available in English for the first time, Dictatorship is Carl Schmitt’s most scholarly book and arguably a paradigm for his entire work.

Written shortly after the Russian Revolution and the First World War, Schmitt analyses the problem of the state of emergency and the power of the Reichspräsident in declaring it. Dictatorship, Schmitt argues, is a necessary legal institution in constitutional law and has been wrongly portrayed as just the arbitrary rule of a so-called dictator.

Dictatorship is an essential book for understanding the work of Carl Schmitt and a major contribution to the modern theory of a democratic, constitutional state. And despite being written in the early part of the twentieth century, it speaks with remarkable prescience to our contemporary political concerns.
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Table of Contents

Translator’s Introduction

Foreword to the fourth edition (1978)

Foreword to the third edition (1964)

Foreword to the second edition (1928)

Preliminary remarks to the first edition (1921)

I Commissary Dictatorship and the theory of the state

II The praxis of royal commissars up to the 18th century

III The transition to sovereign dictatorship in the theory of the state of the 18th century

IV The concept of sovereign dictatorship

V The praxis of the people’s commissars during the French Revolution

VI Dictatorship in the contemporary constitution (the state of besiegement)

Appendix: The Dictatorship of the Reichspräsident according to Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution pp. 211-57

I Common interpretation of Article 48, Paragraph 2 today

II The regulation of Article 48, Paragraph 2 as a provisorium

III General limitation of competence based on Article 48, Paragraph 2

IV The law of implementation [Ausfüngsgesetz] regarding Article 48 RV




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Author Information

Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important and influential political theorists of the twentieth century.
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"At last Carl Schmitt's Dictatorship is available in English. His study and analysis of this concept is key to understanding the varieties of dictatorship."
—George Schwab, National Committee on American Foreign Policy

"Dictatorship is the first book ever entirely devoted to the topic of emergency powers.  Written as Germany's fledgeling Weimar Republic resorted to emergency measures to confront insurrections from both the Left and the Right, Schmitt explored the historical origins and philosophical justifications of extraordinary executive action. Schmitt's Dictatorship is a fascinating historical document and a prescient, insightful resource for contemporary debates in political theory and constitutional law."
—John P. McCormick, University of Chicago
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