Dr Kieran Tranter
It is not widely known that one of Carl Schmitt’s first pieces of published writing was a satirical piece of speculative fiction – Die Buribunken (The Buribunks). In it he writes about the beings that humans will become -the Buirbunkens – beings who compulsory contribute daily diaries to a global archive. In the contemporary infoverse of social media, audit culture and the IoT, such envisioning seems prophetic. For a jurist more infamously known for theorising the exception, the friend/enemy distinction and his compliance, if not cooperation, with the Nazi regime in the 1930s, his biting critique of an information culture out of control is particularly striking.
Until now the Die Buribunken has not been fully translated into English. With assistance from a small grant from the Arts, Education and Law group at Griffith University, we have had it translated.
To build international awareness about the piece and to begin reflecting on what the Die Buribunken might tell us about Schmitt, his later work and the dark side of information culture, the Law Futures Centre sponsored a workshop on 24 November 2017.
Speakers were Wouter Werner (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Mark Antaski (McGill University), Tim Peters (Sunshine Coast University) and Daniel McLoughlin (UNSW). From the Law Futures Centre Charles Lawson, Karen Schultz, Chris Butler, Lachlan Robb, Edwin Bikundo and Kieran Tranter spoke.
What was remarkable was how such a short text (the translation runs to 9600 words) inspired speakers in different ways. For Werner and Schultz the Schmitt of the Die Buribunken relocates and reassess the work and ideas of the older Schmitt. For McLoughlin, Tranter, Peters and Butler the ludicrous figure of a Burikbunk, forever recording the ‘rat seconds’ of their life (recording that they were recording recording….), illuminates the instabilities, complexities and governing structures of contemporary selfhood. For Bikundo Schmitt’s adoption of the ironic was challenging, while for Robb and Lawson the irony was performative; they Buribunken-ised Schmitt – chasing and noting his appearances within the Western intellectual tradition.
The workshop was a fantastic start in thinking about the ‘minor jurisprudence’ of Die Buribunken. The translation and some of the workshop papers will be forthcoming as a symposium in the Griffith Law Review and a more full expanded edited volume in 2019.