Spring 2020: Phl 820/850: Contemporary Continental Political Philosophy

Hannah Arendt and Carl Schmitt

General information


Here is more information about Prof. Lotz

Class Meetings

Days: M
Time: 7:00 PM – 9:50 PM
Place: 530 South Kedzie Hall

Office & Office Hours

Phone: 517.355.4490 [dept.])
Place: 518 South Kedzie Hall
Hours: Mondays, from 12:30-2:30pm, and, by appointment, on Mondays and Wednesdays between 9am and 12:30pm. We can also talk before class

Other Contact

E-mail: lotz@msu.edu
Home Phone: please ask
Webpage: http://christianlotz.info


You will find my box in the front office of the philosophy department (SK 503)



Jan 6, Our Contemporary Situation and the Urgency to Think about Democracy and the Essence of the Political
Primary Reading(s):
Crouch, Why Post-Democracy? (D2L)
Brown, Undoing Democracy: Neoliberalism’s Remaking of State and Subject (D2L)
Mouffe, Democracy, Power, and the Political (D2L)
Valentine, The Political (D2L)

Voluntary Reading(s):
Lotz, Post-Marxism. An Overview (D2L)
McLoughlin, Post-Marxism and the Politics of Human Rights: Lefort, Badiou, Agamben, Ranciere (D2L)
Listen to Chantal Mouffe, The Future of Democracy in a Post-Political Age: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoyXN7qBmBc

Political Essentialism I: Sovereignty (Schmitt)

Jan 13, Constituent Power & Critique of Liberal Democracy
Primary Reading(s):
Schmitt, 1926 The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, Preface to the 1926 edition+Introducton+chapters 1-2 (book)
Schmitt, Excerpt from Constitutional Theory (D2L)

Helpful Reading(s):
Frank, The People as Popular manifestation (D2L)
Rasch, Schmitt’s Defense of Democracy (D2L)
Vinx, The Contradictions of Strong Popular Sovereignity (D2L)

Further Reading(s) for Expanding Your Background
Negri, Constituent Power (D2L)
Sartre, Elections: A Trap for Fools (D2L)

Protocol: Kahlia

Jan 20, No Class
MLK Holiday
Prepare Schmitt and Agamben!

Jan 27, Politics as Antagonism (Schmitt)
Primary Reading(s):
Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, the main text, pp. 19-79 (book)
Mouffe, Pluralism and Modern Democracy: Around Carl Schmitt (D2L)

Helpful Reading(s):
Boeckenfoerde, The Concept of the Political as Key to Schmitt’s Constitutional Theory (D2L)
Kelly, Carl Schmitt’s Political Theory of Representation (D2L)

Additional Reading(s) about the Left Appropriation of Schmitt
Balakrishnan, Conclusion, from: The Enemy. An Intellectual Portrait of Carl Schmitt (D2L)
Piccone and others, Ostracizing Carl Schmitt, Letters to The New York Review of Books (D2L)
Mouffe, Carl Schmitt’s warning on the dangers of a unipolar world (D2L)

Protocol: Brockton

Feb 3, Sovereignty/Exception (Schmitt)
Primary Reading(s):
Schmitt, Political Theology, main text, chapter 1-3 (book)
Agamben, excerpt from The Kingdom and the Glory (D2L)

Contemporary Applications of Schmitt:
Schmitt, The US, International Law and Imperialism (1932/33) (D2L)
Scheuermann, Emergency Powers and the Rule of Law After 9/11 (D2L)
Fairhead, Schmitt’s Politics in the Age of Drone Strikes (D2L)
Benoist, The Significance of Carl Schmitt for Today (D2L)

Liberal Responses to Schmitt:
Habermas, The Nation, the Rule of Law, and Democracy (D2L)

Bredekamp, From Walter Benjamin to Carl Schmitt, via Thomas Hobbes (D2L)

Raimondi, From Schmitt to Foucault: inquiring the relationship between exception and democracy (D2L)

Presentation (on Schmitt): Taylor

Echoes of Schmitt

Feb 10, Sovereignty/The State of Exception (Agamben)
Primary Reading(s):
Agamben, The State of Exception, chapters 1-3&6.8-6.11 (book)
Agamben, Homo Sacer, part III.7
Agamben, What is a Camp? (D2L)
Agamben, Sovereign Police (D2L)

Agamben on Biopolitics: https://youtu.be/skJueZ52948

Protocol: Dominick
Presentation (on text 2+3+4): Greg

Feb 17, Sovereignty/The State of Exception (Agamben); ADDITIONAL SESSION
Primary Reading(s):
Agamben, The State of Exception, chapters 1-3&6.8-6.11 (book)
Agamben, Homo Sacer, introduction+I.1-3 (on sovereignty/life)
Agamben, Homo Sacer, part III.7 (extended version of ‘What is a Camp?’)
Agamben, Sovereign Police (D2L)

Feb 24, Necropolitics/Biopolitics (Mbembe/Foucault)
Primary Reading(s):
Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, chapters 1&2 (on power) & 11 (biopower) (D2L)
Foucault, History of Sexuality Vol. 1, part five (biopolitics) (D2L)
Mbembe, Necropolitics (D2L)

Helpful additional Reading(s):
Mbembe in Conversation with D. Goldberg (D2L)
Gaedeke, Mbembe on Race, Democracy, and the African Role in Global Thought (D2L)
Ranciere, Biopolitics or Politics? (Critique of Foucault) (D2L)

Bargu – Sovereignty as Erasure [on “enforced disappearance”] (D2L)
Agamben, Stasis. Civil War as a Political Paradigm (D2L)
Esposito, The Metapolitical Structure of the West (D2L)
Barder, Rethinking war and politics with Schmitt, Arendt and Foucault (D2L)

Presentation (on Mbembe, Necropolitics ): Jeffrey

Mar 2, No Class
Spring Break

Mar 9, Thanatopolitics (Agamben)
Primary Reading(s):
Agamben, Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life, II.1&3&6+III.1-6 (book)

Additional Reading(s):
Ziarek, Bare Life on Strike: Notes on the Biopolitics of Race and Gender (D2L)
Owens, Against Agamben on Refugees (D2L)

Watch NOMOS by Andrea Gadaleta: https://youtu.be/b_xZjgRvVmk

Protocol: Greg
Presentation (on chapters, III.1-6): Kahlia


Mar 16, Agonistic Politics (Mouffe)
Primary Reading(s):
Mouffe, For a Left Populism (book)
Mouffe, What is Agonistic Politics? (D2L)
Mouffe, Carl Schmitt and the Paradox of Liberal Democracy (D2L)

Read again:
Mouffe, Democracy, Power, and the Political (D2L; reading for 1/6)

Listen to Chantal Mouffe, For a Left Populism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Msa5jK_dH4I

Protocol: Jeffrey
Presentation (on Left Populism): Brockton

Political Essentialism II: Non-Sovereignty (Arendt)

Mar 23, The Political (Arendt)
Primary Reading(s):
Arendt, Introduction into Politics, in: The Promise of Politics, 93-153 (book)
Arendt, Labor, Work, Action (D2L)

Additional Reading(s):
Honig, Towards an Agonistic Feminism. Hannah Arendt and the Politics of Identity (D2L)
Benhabib, Feminist Theory and Arendt’s Concept of Public Space (D2L)

Arendt, The Private and the Public Realm, Excerpts from The Human Condition, sections 4-9 (D2L)
Lotz, On Arendt and Luxemburg (sent out via email)

Protocol: Sasha
Presentation (on Introduction to Politics):

Mar 30, Freedom (Arendt)
Primary Reading(s):
Arendt, Freedom and Politics (D2L)
Arendt, What is Freedom? (D2L)
Arendt, The Freedom to be Free. The Meaning of Revolution (D2L)

Additional Reading(s):
Kalyvas, Arendt’s Critique of Schmitt (D2L)
Kalvyas, Arendt’s Response to Schmitt (D2L)
Bates, On Revolutions in the Nuclear Age (on Arendt and Schmitt) (D2L)
Arato/Cohen, Internal and External Sovereignty in Arendt (D2L)

Presentation (on The Freedom to Be Free): Dominick

Apr 6, Human Rights (Arendt)
Primary Reading(s):
Arendt, The End of the Nation-State and the Right to Have Rights (from: Origins of Totalitarianism) (D2L)
Ranciere, Who is the Subject of the Rights of Man? (D2L)
Agamben, Beyond Human Rights (D2L)
Agamben, Homo Sacer, part III.2
Benhabib, Arendt and the Right to Have Rights (D2L)

Additional Reading(s):
Arendt, We Refugees (D2L)
Balibar, Hannah Arendt, The Right to Have Rights, and Civic Disobedience (D2L)
Whyte, Particular Rights and Absolute Wrongs: Giorgio Agamben on Life and Politics (D2L)
Cooks, On Nationalism: Fanon, Luxemburg, Arendt (D2L)
Butler, Guantanamo Limbo: https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/guantanamo-limbo/

Protocol: Taylor
Presentation (on Ranciere, Agamben, Benhabib, Balibar): Sasha

Apr 13, Performative Politics (Butler)
Primary Reading(s):
Butler, Note toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, introduction & chapters 1+2+5

Additional reading(s)
Morrison, Butler and Mouffe on affectivity and the place of ethics (D2L)

Presentation (on chapter, tbd):

Apr 20-Apr 27
Individual Zoom session for a discussion of your final papers

Anarchist Democracy

Apr 20, Wild Democracy (Lefort )
Primary Reading(s):
Lefort, The Permanence of the Theologico-Political? (D2L)
Lefort, On Modern Democracy (D2L)
Abensour, Savage Democracy and the ‘Principle of Anarchy’ (D2L)

Ingram, The Politics of Claude Lefort’s Politics: Between Liberalism and Radical Democracy (D2L).

Apr 27, Politics as Disruption (Ranciere)
Primary Reading(s):
Ranciere, The Hatred of Democracy (book)
Ranciere, Introduction to Disagreement (D2L)
Ranciere, Does Democracy Mean Anything? (D2L)

Ranciere, 10 Theses on Politics (D2L)

Additional Helpful Reading(s):
Ranciere, Politics and Aesthetics, Interview (D2L)
Ranciere, Democracy, Anarchism, and Radical Politics Today (D2L)
Ranciere, Politics, Identification, and Subjectivization (D2L)
Balibar, Historical Dilemmas of Democracy and Their Contemporary Relevance
for Citizenship (D2L)

May 2, Final Paper
Final paper due by noon via email

Course Description

Hannah Arendt

In this seminar we will discuss contemporary European political philosophy. In contrast to mainstream Anglo-American political philosophy, these thinkers are less concerned with normative questions, legalistic conceptions of the political sphere, and questions about justice. Instead, these thinkers tend to think about “the political” in relation to “the social,” given that doing so includes the consideration of anthropological and ontological aspects of what it means to be a political being. Philosophers discussed in class are Schmitt, Arendt, Mouffe, Agamben, Ranciere, Mbembe, Butler, and Lefort, who are circling around the two most discussed political philosophers of the last 50 years, namely, Schmitt and Arendt. I decided to not discuss the following philosophers (though they certainly deserve to be added to the list): Dussell, Badiou, Laclau, Zizek, Spivak, Nancy, Marcuse and Habermas. The philosophers discussed in class belong to the so called “post-Marxist” tradition, which, among other things, proposes a return to political philosophy, leaving Marxist social theory behind. Though I feel discontent about this move, I do agree with most philosophers on our class list that many critical theorists, including the pre-Habermasian Frankfurt School figures, failed to develop a proper understanding of the political realm and of political freedom, and that this might be one reason for the defeats of the left during the 20th Century. Topics will include the difference between the political and the social, the concept of democracy, the enemy/foe distinction, assembly, and anarchist democracy.


In general the entries on Schmitt, Foucault, and Arendt in the Stanford Encyclopedia are very good. Here are a few additional ressources (with YouTube lectures):

Course Goals

This course should make you familiar with selected positions in contemporary European political philosophy, such as

  • Schmitt’s concept of politics and its appropriation on the left
  • Arendt’s non-sovereign concept of the political and political freedom
  • Agamben’s concept of “homo sacer”
  • Mouffe’s concept of agonistic politics and left populism
  • Lefort’s concept of “wild” democracy
  • Key concepts such as
    • the difference between the social and the political,
    • the performative concept of politics,
    • the anarchist idea of democracy,
    • the state of exception


This graduate seminar is not based on a set of fixed knowledge and, as such, is not based on a behavioral idea of education; rather, we will try to learn together and critically examine the material. The material is the absolute center of this class. Free floating discussions about things unrelated to the material are to be avoided.

Achille Mbembe

Required Texts

  • Agamben, The State of Exception
  • Agamben, Homo Sacer
  • Butler, Note of a Performative Theory of Assembly
  • Mouffe, Left Populism
  • Schmitt, The Concept of the Political
  • Schmitt, Political Theology
  • Schmitt, Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy
  • Arendt, The Promise of Politics
  • Ranciere, The Hatred of Democracy

All other texts via pdf on D2L

Course Requirements

  • 1 protocol, write-up, up to 900 words, 20%
  • 1 oral presentation + brief write-up, 25 minutes+leading class discussion, 30%
  • Final paper, conference style, 12-15 pages, 50%
  • Regular participation, you are expected to attend every week, except in case of reasonable excuses


The class protocol should cover our discussion in class. Protocols should have a length of 2-3 pages (no more than 900 words), and they will in and outside of the classroom force us to have an ongoing reflection on our texts that we study for class. They can also include problems or questions that the writers had either with our class discussion or with the texts itself, but above all protocols should cover what we lectured about and what we discussed afterwards. Protocols should clarify and discuss selected issues in question. Protocols have to be sent out to everyone by Sunday morning. Everyone will read the protocol before class. Please avoid late turn ins. The student who wrote the protocol will address questions during the first 15 minutes of the next class meeting.

Presentation & Write-Up

Each student will be responsible for one class and for working out an introductory presentation, which should function as a platform for our discussions. Please focus on selected aspects of the readings; desired length of presentations: around 20-25 minutes. Please distribute a brief write-up/overview of what you will be talking about by Sunday morning. Your write-up should have a length of up to 3 pages. A write-up differs from a handout (used during a presentation); i.e., the write-up should consists of a coherent text that either interprets, reflects on, or explains the primary material. Let’s call it a “miniature-paper” that everyone reads before class. Note: the reading material should be the absolute focus of your presentation. Free floating discussions that are unrelated to the readings are to be avoided by all means.

General Remark

Given that this is a graduate seminar, I expect self-motivation, autonomy, civility, as well as self-responsibility. The attendance requires the willingness to intensively study the texts selected for class.

Final Paper

The class essay should be well researched and should present a substantial reflection on some parts of the material discussed in class. I expect excellent papers in regard to research, form, and content. The paper should be accompanied by an abstract of no more than 150 words. The paper should be “conference style,” i.e., it should have a length of around 12-15 pages and, ideally, could be presented at a conference.


I will refuse giving DFs in this class, unless you find yourself in a real emergency situation (hospitalization, etc.)

Jacques Ranciere

Course Evaluation


1 protocol20 points
oral presentation + handout30 points
final paper50 points
   100 points


4.0 (=A)100 – 93
3.592 – 87
3 (=B)86 – 82
2.581 – 77
2 (=C)76 – 72
1.571 – 65
1.0 (=D)64 – 60
0.0< 60

GENERIC SYLLABUS (might not be applicable to each class)

Laptop/Cell Phone/Tablet Policy

You are not permitted to use laptops or cell phones in class, unless needed for medical reasons. Flat devices, such as tablets, are permitted  if you have purchased the literature required for class electronically. Please do not text under the table. Cell phones should be removed from tables. Failure to follow this policy will lead to unannounced assignments in class or loss of points (at the digression of the instructor).

Class Attendance

As mentioned above, I do not employ in my classes a class attendance policy. Having said this, you should be aware that class attendance is very important. When engaging in a philosophical and humanistic dialogue it is necessary to be an active and present participant in the ongoing discussion. If you miss class please do not email me asking if you missed anything important. Every class is important. You should get a study buddy for the class; a student in class who will inform you of what you missed. If you miss a class you can come to my office hours or make an appointment to discuss the material, providing you have read the material and you simply want to see if your understanding of the material is on target. Time in office hours will not be used to repeat the class lectures.

Grading Criteria + Paper Writing Tips

Check out this page for grading criteria, example of assignments, etc.

Online Research Sources

Unfortunately, some people think that the internet as such is a reliable source of information. If you decide to use online sources for additional information or your paper then do not just use one of the common internet search engines, such as Google; rather, use reliable academic sources, such as Britannica Online, or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Internet Ecyclopedia of Philosophy isn’t very good, but still acceptable. Check out MSU’s library resources! And, as with other sources, you must cite any online sources to which you refer in your essay.

Writing Center Information

MSU’s writing center offers excellent help on all matters regarding writing and learning. Check the website at http://writing.msu.edu for an overview and hours. For more information, please call 517.432.3610 or send an e-mail to writing@msu.edu.

Grief Absence Policy

I follow MSU’s general grief absence policy, which can be found here.

Integrity of Scholarship and Grades (Plagiarism)

The following statement of University policy addresses principles and procedures to be used in instances of academic dishonesty, violations of professional standards, and falsification of academic or admission records, herein after referred to as academic misconduct. [See General Student Regulation 1.00, Protection of Scholarship and Grades.]

Academic Honesty

Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states that “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, the (insert name of unit offering course) adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations. (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site: www.msu.edu) Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are expected to develop original work for this course; therefore, you may not submit course work completed for another course to satisfy the requirements for this course. Students who violate MSU rules may receive a penalty grade, including but not limited to a failing grade on the assignment or in the course. Contact your instructor if you are unsure about the appropriateness of your course work. (See also https://www.msu.edu/~ombud/)

Plagiarism, from the Ombudsman’s page

Plagiarism (from the Latin plagiarius, an abductor, and plagiare, to steal) is defined by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Misconduct in Research (take that!) as “ . . . the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.”

Accidental or Unintentional
One may not even know that they are plagiarizing.  It is the student’s responsibility to make certain that they understand the difference between quoting and paraphrasing, as well as the proper way to cite material.

Here, students are well aware that they are plagiarizing.  Purposefully using someone else’s ideas or work without proper acknowledgment is plagiarism.  This includes turning in borrowed or bought research papers as one’s own.

Turning in the same term paper (or substantially the same paper) for two courses without getting permission from one’s instructor is plagiarism.

The Spartan Code of Honor

Student leaders have recognized the challenging task of discouraging plagiarism from the academic community. The Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) is proud to be launching the Spartan Code of Honor academic pledge, focused on valuing academic integrity and honest work ethics at Michigan State University. The pledge reads as follows:

“As a Spartan, I will strive to uphold values of the highest ethical standard. I will practice honesty in my work, foster honesty in my peers, and take pride in knowing that honor is worth more than grades. I will carry these values beyond my time as a student at Michigan State University, continuing the endeavor to build personal integrity in all that I do.”

The Spartan Code of Honor academic pledge embodies the principles of integrity that every Spartan is required to uphold in their time as a student, and beyond. The academic pledge was crafted with inspiration of existing individual college honor codes, establishing an overarching statement for the entire university. It was formally adopted by ASMSU on March 3, 2016, endorsed by Academic Governance on March 22, 2016, and recognized by the Provost, President, and Board of Trustees on April 15, 2016.

SIRS Evaluations

Michigan State University takes seriously the opinion of students in the evaluation of the effectiveness of instruction and has implemented the Student Instructional Rating System (SIRS) to gather student feedback (https://sirsonline.msu.edu). This course utilizes the online SIRS system, and you will receive an e-mail during the last two weeks of class asking you to fill out the SIRS web form at your convenience. In addition, participation in the online SIRS system involves grade sequestration, which means that the final grade for this course will not be accessible on STUINFO during the week following the submission of grades for this course unless the SIRS online form has been completed. Alternatively, you have the option on the SIRS website to decline to participate in the evaluation of the course. We hope, however, that you will be willing to give us your frank and constructive feedback so that we may instruct students even better in the future. If you access the online SIRS website and complete the online SIRS form or decline to participate, you will receive the final grade in this course as usual once final grades are submitted.

Social Media and Sharing of Course Materials

As members of a learning community, students are expected to respect the intellectual property of course instructors. All course materials presented to students are the copyrighted property of the course instructor and are subject to the following conditions of use:

  • Students may record lectures or any other classroom activities and use the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  • Students may share the recordings with other students enrolled in the class. Sharing is limited to using the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  • Students may post the recordings or other course materials online or distribute them to anyone not enrolled in the class with the advance written permission of the course instructor and, if applicable, any students whose voice or image is included in the recordings.
  • Any student violating the conditions described above may face academic disciplinary sanctions.

Student Support Program (SSP)

Michigan State University is offering all MSU students access to counseling support 24/7/365 through My SSP: Student Support Program. My SSP is free to all MSU students. My SSP is confidential, and can help with:

  • Adapting to new challenges
  • Being successful at school
  • Relationships with friends and family
  • Practical issues with studying
  • Stress, sadness, loneliness, and more

The My SSP professional counselors are available to help anytime, anywhere with:

  • Immediate support by phone and chat
  • Ongoing support by appointment via phone and video
  • In addition, culturally relevant support is available in the language of the caller’s choice.

There are multiple options for connecting with a My SSP counselor:

  • Download the free My SSP app on Google Play or iTunes
  • Chat online at http://us.myissp.com
  • Call 1-866-743-7732
  • From outside North America, call 001.416.380.657

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities should contact the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to establish reasonable accommodations. For an appointment with a counselor, call 353-9642 (voice) or 355-1293 (TTY)

Drops and Adds

The last day to add this course is the end of the first week of classes. The last day to drop this course with a 100 percent refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). The last day to drop this course with no refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). You should immediately make a copy of your amended schedule to verify you have added or dropped this course.

Note on Attendance

Students who fail to attend the first four class sessions or class by the fifth day of the semester, whichever occurs first, may be dropped from the course.