The question of how to adequately represent the demos in a democracy has always been an issue. Of the many different aspects in the debate between representative and direct democratic approaches, one key point of contention is “the will of the people.” Here, an oft-overlooked question is what takes precedence: “the will” or “the people.” This article addresses the issue by examining Carl Schmitt’s reading (and one-sided slanting) of Rousseau and how it has influenced today’s debate in unacknowledged ways. In scrutinizing Schmitt’s body of work and its particular development of “the will of the people,” I demonstrate that “identitarian” democratic concepts must ultimately remain trapped in a dilemma produced by Schmitt’s reading—one that can only be resolved through representation.
Samuel Salzborn is a Professor of Political Science at the Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen. Among his latest books is The War of Ideas: The History of Political Theory in Context (Nomos, 2. ed. 2017).