Carl Schmitt argues that a country with the objective of maintaining a strong state capacity in a “state of exception” will aim to speed up the processes of democratic politics for decisive actions and that every government capable of doing it “must include a dictatorial element within its constitution” (Carl Schmitt, 2005).

Can I ask what does "state of exception" mean? I did search the wikipedia but not yet got the idea? Is a state of exception is a situation when a government is allowed to temporarily suspend certain laws, to help them better handle the situation?


1 Answer 1


A "state of exception" is a condition a country might enter into when "exceptional" conditions exist. The example that is given is the state that Germany entered into in 1933 with the fire at the Reichstag, which provoked the President of Germany (Hindenberg) to issue a decree that restricted individual rights and the rule of law.

The leader claims special powers, on the basis that a delay would harm the public good. As another example, following the 9/11 attacks, President Bush made it possible for non-citizens to be detained indefinitely if suspected of terrorist activity.

It is argued that these exceptional states, and the urgent powers that leaders assume, are not ended when the conditions return to normal. Countries remain in a permanent state of "High Alert" or "Severe threat", and authoritarian measures become normalised, which leads away from democracy and towards autocracy.

It differs from martial law, or a state of emergency in that the military doesn't take control, nor is the country in a state of war.

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    It could also be an active on-going thing, like COVID-19 or a refugee crisis. (Ha! I bet nobody's going to object to both of those examples)
    – user253751
    Jul 29, 2021 at 16:47
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    "It is argued that these exceptional states and the urgent powers that leaders assume become normalised with countries remaining in a permanent state of "High Alert" or "Severe threat" with authoritarian measures becoming normalized, which leads away from democracy and towards autocracy". I am wondering what does this mean here? I get lost with this complex sentence, could you please separate this sentence to many short sentences that I can understand easier? Thanks in advance Jul 30, 2021 at 12:49
  • @NoviceMindset I've tried to rephrase that part
    – James K
    Aug 2, 2021 at 22:14
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    @NoviceMindset Loosely summarized: "People claim that if an 'exceptional state' goes on too long, people get used to it. Because this was not done through the normal democratic process (passing a law), it's a step away from democracy"
    – Bobson
    Aug 2, 2021 at 22:15
  • Ah, now I see, thanks a heap Bobson and James K Aug 2, 2021 at 22:26

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