Peaceful Strife: Dolf Sternberger's Concept of the Political Revisited

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This article revisits Dolf Sternberger’s 1960 theory, which, in explicit opposition to Carl Schmitt’s friend/enemy thesis, found the essence of politics and the political in peace. The essay contextualizes Sternberger’s propositions by relating them to his immediate post-1945 considerations – such as normalizing domestic politics, jettisoning authoritarianism, and laying the conceptual foundations for the nascent political science – and thereby reconstructs the questions his theory of the political sought to answer. The analysis shows in detail how the key elements of Sternberger’s 1960 theory derived from the late-1940s: rather than reflecting an already normalized political situation or proposing naïve pacifism, Sternberger’s text took political conflicts seriously and provided an outline of a desired but only prospective political peace amidst a crisis. Despite substantial polarity, Sternberger’s view is largely compatible with Schmitt’s theory once we remove context-induced polemics and grave misinterpretations – and carries potential for systematic political theorizing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistory of European Ideas
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)374-392
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 5171 Political Science
  • 5201 Political History

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