Rory Rowan – The Uncertainty Principle: Verticality, War and Disorder in Schmitt, Sloterdijk and Virilio



Event date: 8 December 2010

Bedford Square London

WC1E 6DP

Royal Holloway University of London Department of Geography

Vertical Geographies


Recent geographical scholarship has highlighted the importance of ‘verticality’ – aerial and three dimensional perspectives – in conceptualizations of space, territory, sovereignty and power. Within the subdiscipline of critical geopolitics, this interest has been, in part, provoked by recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan and mobilized though broader discussions of warfare, surveillance, air (and space) power, communications technologies and military hardware.

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Rory Rowan (Royal Holloway, University of London)
The Uncertainty Principle: Verticality, War and Disorder in Schmitt, Sloterdijk and Virilio

An understanding of political order as essentially grounded in space is central to Carl Schmitt’s recently translated late works, The Nomos of the Earth (1950) and The Theory of the Partisan (1963). Schmitt did insist however, upon an elemental distinction between land and sea and the differing forms of political relations each made possible. Air-power had already made this crude distinction seem anachronistic in 1950, something even Schmitt fleetingly acknowledged later. This paper aims to examine how Schmitt’s brief consideration of air-power relates to his wider analysis of geopolitics and the new spatializations of the political emerging in the late Twentieth Century. It will argue that despite his rather rusty and distinctly reactionary geopolitics many of the changes Schmitt feared air-power would effect in the relationship between space and politics has been borne out by recent literature on vertical geopolitics. It will ask however if a productive dialogue exists.

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