Carl Schmitt: peasant

“Many of our enemies and most of our friends seem to think that a peasant is a man whose end in life is to raise vegetables. That is the definition of a truck gardener.  A peasant is a man whose end in life is to raise a family, and to do that, it is usually necessary to raise vegetables, or hell, or both.”  —Carl Schmitt, 1932

Carl Schmitt was a family man. He was also an artist.  But first of all Carl Schmitt considered himself a peasant.

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Carl Schmitt raising vegetables, c. 1920

Schmitt readily admitted that the word ‘peasant’ is troublesome—even offensive—to our modern egalitarian sensibilities. “The trouble seems to lie in the word itself,” he writes, “deliberately corrupted by the crowd who wrote our school-books.”

Schmitt’s remedy was to understand this word not primarily in social or economic terms—as a class of men doomed to hopeless slavery to their greedy masters—but in  a different way altogether, as “those whose destiny it is to make.”

In Schmitt’s triune hierarchy, a man is either prince, middle class, or peasant.  The prince concerns himself with ends. His function is to “be wise, judge, decide” (toward what is this society ordered? What is our best good?)  The middle class occupies himself with the means.  He must “understand, exchange, produce” (what things are necessary to accomplish those goals? How do we get from here to there?)  But it is the special province of the peasant to occupy himself with the origins of things.  In Schmitt’s vision, the peasant’s role is ever to “intuitively envision, act, create.”

Along with the “fine-artist” like himself, he counted among peasants “the individual farmer, the mother of children,” the last with the conviction that “only family life can produce people.”  Peasants, then, do not rule or set policy as does the prince,  nor do they manufacture things to trade or sell, or provide services, as do the middle-class.  Peasants cooperate with nature to create something entirely new—a work of art, a field of wheat, a child.

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Carl Schmitt raising children, early 1920s

If, as we have seen, Schmitt saw his calling as an artist to be strictly subordinate to his role as father, at a more fundamental level they were expressions of the same impulse, to “originate,” to cultivate.

Paradoxically, he considered his role as originator to be a “high fatherhood which makes an aristocracy,” where “priority of birth, a long memory and experience of the place” form “the base of culture and religion. It is the point where body and soul become one.”   We will cultivate this thought in our next post.

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Carl Schmitt raising hell, Self-portrait, c. 1965

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7 thoughts on “Carl Schmitt: peasant

  1. Thank you Sam. It was beautiful to see the pics of granddaddy and whomever the baby was. Very precious to see pictures and what read he had to say. Appreciate the blog.

  2. Thanks, Cathy!

    I’ll have to ask about the baby. I believe it’s one of the older ones, either Robert or Austin (they took a lot of pictures of the first, Robert).

    I have many more photos which I will be including in later posts. Thanks again for reading.

  3. Pingback: “Where body and soul become one” | Carl Schmitt: The Vision of Beauty

  4. One of my fondest memories as a child was going into the garden at Mamo and Grandpop’s house. I also remember Mamo’s marigolds. The garden was a happy place but as a child I did not realize all the hard work that went into growing the garden until my Dad started his own gardens in our back yard. I love your stories. I am learning so much more about my family. Thank you Sam

  5. Thanks for your note, Marianne, and I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog.

    I have heard the garden was beautiful – and one of our longer-term goals is to restore them to the way they were when Granddad lived there. But it will take some work – and money.

    And keep reading – I have a lot more stories to tell!

  6. Pingback: On This Day: March 10, 1926 | Carl Schmitt: The Vision of Beauty

  7. Pingback: “Built only for the prince and the peasant”: Carl Schmitt in Korčula | Carl Schmitt: The Vision of Beauty

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