The Problem of Political Sovereignty: Hegel and Schmitt


  • Markos Haile Feseha KU Leuven


Hegel, Schmitt, Rousseau, Political Sovereignty, Totalitarianism, Authoritarianism, Constitutional Monarchy


Both G.F.W. Hegel and Carl Schmitt took seriously the problem of political sovereignty entailed by liberal political theories. In Dictatorship (1919) and Political Theology (1922), Schmitt rejects liberal political theories that argue for the immediate unity of democracy and legality i.e., popular sovereignty, because he thinks they cannot secure political sovereignty. In the Philosophy of Right, Hegel denounces popular sovereignty for similar reasons. Yet given Schmitt’s negative assessment of Hegel their positions are seldom related to one another. I argue in this paper that Schmitt’s analysis of liberal political theories is similar to Hegel’s analysis of Rousseau’s liberal ideas. I contend, however, that Schmitt’s solution, which collapses the distinction between the executive and the legislative power in favor of the former, fails to secure political sovereignty. Contrary to Schmitt, Hegel conceives of the liberal predicament as a basic determination of any political state that rests on the division of the legislative and executive power. Hegel argues that the constitutional monarchy is a genuine instantiation of political sovereignty that can maintain not only the division of these powers, but also their unity. In this regard, I argue that Hegel’s conception of the division of powers provides a more convincing theory of the problem afflicting modern states than Schmitt’s and at least deserves to be taken more seriously by critics of Schmitt’s solution such as Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, Jurgen Habermas, Andreas Kalyvas and Chantal Mouffe.


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How to Cite

Feseha, M. H. (2021). The Problem of Political Sovereignty: Hegel and Schmitt. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 17(3), 145–170. Retrieved from