When Carl Schmitt wrote about the „emergency“ („Ernstfall“) as being constitutive for the ultimate dualism of friend and foe, he outlined a theory of the state of emergency. Such emergency was repeatedly being invoked during the debate on terrorism in West Germany in the 1970s.
During that decade, the conflict between the Red Army Faction and the West German state proved to be a paradigm for the growing political polarization of communications in German society. It can be said, the terrorism-debate was the struggle over the state of the nation, and so the discoursive, political and moral boundaries were heavily disputed.
Both sides of the confrontation were also engaging in specific performances/performative acts that adressed a wider public – it was all about a demonstration of power. More than that, it showed that Carl Schmitt’s notion of political decisionism comes to bear on the reality of the states’ dealing with terrorism as well as with the terrorists’ “propaganda of the deed”.
Often the reactions from the West German executive authority were called an “undeclared state of emergency”. However, in political discourse of that time “Ausnahmezustand” became a frequently used term that implied a level of wishful thinking and therefore had a mobilizing quality. In recent publications I have called the effects and affects of Moral Panics during the German Autumn a “felt/perceived state of Emergency” (gefühlter Ausnahmezustand).
In my presentation at the Kolloquium at DHIP I therefore want to focus on the discoursive and performative qualities of a state of emergency during the German Autumn of 1977 and how this was referred to on both sides of the confrontation.