Las Torres de Lucca. International Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol 6, No 11 (2017)

Hegemonic Sovereignty: Carl Schmitt, Antonio Gramsci and the Constituent Prince

Andreas Kalyvas, Nicole Darat Guerra (Trad.)


This article argues that Schmitt’s concept of sovereignty and Gramsci’s notion of hegemony represent two distinct variations on a single theme, namely the idea of the political as the original instituting moment of society. Both Schmitt and Gramsci focused on the sources, conditions, content, and scope of the originating power of a collective will. While the former located it in the constituent power of the sovereign people, the latter placed it in the popular-national will of the modern hegemon. Both thinkers explored the complex and perplexing relationship between radical founding acts and modern democratic politics in a secular age, that is of democratic legitimacy, where with the entrance of the masses into the political sphere, the references to ultimate foundation s of authority and to an extra-social source of political power had begun to appear more dubious than ever. The last section of the article develops a notion of hegemonic sovereignty defined as an expansive and positing democratic constituent prince, aiming, through founding, total decisions, at the overall, radical, explicit, and lucid institution of society. The article briefly shows how the concept of hegemonic sovereignty can solve some problems pertaining to Schmitt’s notion of sovereignty and to Gramsci’s theory of hegemony. In so doing, the article seeks to establish the mutually reinforcing qualities of the two concepts.