An analysis of Carl Schmitt and The Buribunks

This post has been contributed by Lachlan Robb, former Honours student at Griffith Law School (now PhD Candidate at QUT Law School), Professor Charles Lawson, Professor of Law at Griffith Law School and Law Futures Centre (LFC) member, Professor Catherine Pickering, Professor of Environmental Science at Griffith School of Environment and Dr Edwin Bikundo, Senior Lecturer at Griffith Law School and LFC member.

The Buribunks (Carl Schmitt (2019) ‘The Buribunks: An Essay on the Philosophy of History’ (translated by Laura Petersen and Gert Reifarth) 28 Griffith Law Review 99) lived for their diary and through their diary.

In this analysis we take Schmitt’s satirical parody of academic production and recognition seriously and at face value in order to apply it to Schmitt himself even though – or precisely because – it would presumably be anathema to him.

What would Schmitt, as he lives on in the intellectual archive of the West, look like to a Buribunk?

As a focus we examine scholarly publications stimulated by and generated in the ‘The War on Terror’ epoch, defined as following the 11 September 2001 terror attacks in the United States which cited Schmitt’s work. In this analysis we approach this body of scholarship as a serious, diligent Buribunk would by systematically identifying how Schmitt’s work has been used in the literature.

We then apply a mixed-methods approach combining a quantitative analysis with a qualitative account of the details of the discourse, including non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) ordinations as vectors and tree diagrams and the text analyser Leximancer to visualise the relationship between themes and concepts.

The outcome of applying these methods is to reveal patterns and associations in the uptake of Schmitt’s works (complete with tables, figures and diagrams).

The following figures display relationships and patterns which our analysis revealed in the 67 articles based on similarity in their content.

Vectors display increasing importance of specific types of content, with clusters of vectors close together reflecting clusters of articles with similar content.

Figure A describes the main Schmitt concepts addressed in the articles. Figure B notes the other major theorist which the articles also cited with Schmitt in the 67 articles. Figure C identifies the Schmitt texts (other than the Buribunks) co-cited in the articles.

Our primary conclusion is that Schmitt is no Ferker, dominating the archive, rather his impact is fragmented, spread across disciplines and presented in heterogeneous company.