The Exceptionally Decisive Carl Schmitt: A Jimi Hendrix Epigraph

In a series of blogs about my new book about Carl Schmitt‘s theory of sovereignty, I briefly discuss why an epigraph by a certain music legend was used.

At the start of chapter 1 of my new book The Exceptionally Decisive Carl Schmitt, I use the following epigraph from Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).

Well, I’m standing next to a mountain

And I chop it down with the edge of my hand

Jimi, my favourite guitar player of all time, then disappears from the scene. It would be difficult to integrate more of his discography into a book touching on matters of political and legal import!!

Yet these lyrics from this most wonderful of Jimi’s creations are quite useful in explaining two themes of the book that I have written.

Throughout the book, the themes of ‘names’ and the ‘hand’ are used to illuminate controversial German jurist Carl Schmitt’s theory of sovereignty. I won’t go into this sovereign theory in this blog but the two themes come out in the lyrics to Voodoo Chile.

Jimi says that he chops down a mountain with the edge of his hand, i.e. he performs an action. However, in lyrics that follow up the cited quote, he says that he chops down the mountain because he is a ‘Voodoo Chile.’ In other words, a justification for his chopping down of the mountain is predicated on a name.

And that is why this epigraph was included … before humans undertake actions, they either first name themselves as having authority, just like a sovereign is named as having authority, or they give a name to the thing being acted upon. Other concepts, ideas, and definitions in the book are pursued in fairly much the same manner.

Colm Gilllis is the author of two rockin’ ‘history of ideas’ books; The Exceptionally Decisive Carl Schmitt and Mysteries of State in the Renaissance. His Amazon page is here.

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