Book Review: Land and Sea

Land and Sea is an essay in short story form written in 1942 by Carl Schmitt. Subtitled “A consideration of world history told to my daughter Anna,” this essay recounts and summarizes the geo-historical-legal evolution of our planet since the discovery of the New World. The originality of the work lies in the author’s identification of the Earth-Sea dichotomy as the driving force of human history.

Land and Sea book cover I went into this book knowing very little about the author, Carl Schmitt, and the contents. From the first pages, I considered it a bizarre work, wondering whether a solid basis existed behind some of the assumptions and events narrated. Quoting the back cover of my Italian edition (Adelphi):

In a dazzling interweaving of historical interpretation and political theory, mythography and theology, philosophy and esotericism, the great jurist thus enters a fascinating territory on the borderline between speculation and imagination, where the search for the “elemental” goes “to the threshold of eschatology.” With a few strokes, Schmitt traces millennia of history, unraveling its invisible plot, until he arrives at the decisive event: that “planetary spatial revolution” from which the nomos of modern Europe was born. To then look beyond - and foreshadow, with prophecy, the scenarios of the future world where we will be able to recognize our present.

Land and Sea is an essay written in 1942 by a then-eminent and internationally acclaimed jurist, who convincingly joined the german nazi party in 1933. Historical events in the text are inevitably narrated from an opinionated (and sometimes distorted) point of view. This bizarre work left me unconvinced. I don’t regret reading it, though.

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