This article positions Peter Sloterdijk’s spheres project against Carl Schmitt’s spatial writings, showing that Sloterdijk’s anthropo-philosophical approach to spatial analysis implies a theoretical strategy for thinking beyond Schmitt’s fatalistic view of the deep contingencies shaping human social existence. Schmitt’s spatial pessimism is particularly noticeable in Land and Sea, in which he recounts the unfolding of world history as a succession of spatial epochs, arguing that the modern era can best be understood as the achievement of a centuries-long path toward a unified global space of nihilistic anarchy—a development that he comes to refer to as englobement. The legacy of Schmitt’s spatial history of modernity can be seen most urgently today by its influence on the emergent right-wing identitarian and neo-Eurasian movements, which seek to transform Schmitt’s pessimistic nostalgia for a prior mode of spatial ordering into an expansionist geopolitics. The author maintains that, against that legacy, Sloterdijk proposes “spherology,” a unique practice of spatial anthropology through which he teases out an art of writing at the service of experience, seeking to understand the phenomenon of human togetherness not in terms of determinate political or territorial forms but as a function of shared spaces (spheres) set up and stretched out through shared living in them. By affirming and potentially informing the ever-renewable possibility of lived extendedness in local-shared enclosures, Sloterdijk’s theorization of the spatial constitutes a compelling countercurrent or immunological defense against the forces of nostalgia and resignation that feed into reactionary spatial thought.
After Englobement: Carl Schmitt, Peter Sloterdijk, and the Rediscovery of the Uncompressible
Ethan Stoneman is assistant professor in rhetoric and media studies at Hillsdale College, with research interests in continental aesthetics, culture and media theory, popular culture, and rhetoric. He is the coauthor of A Feeling of Wrongness: Pessimistic Rhetoric on the Fringes of Popular Culture (2018).
Ethan Stoneman; After Englobement: Carl Schmitt, Peter Sloterdijk, and the Rediscovery of the Uncompressible. Cultural Politics 1 November 2020; 16 (3): 303–321. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-8593508
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