The argument in The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum, Carl Schmitt’s work that was first translated into English in 2003, is founded upon the title’s central term, nomos. It is salient that, for a concept that is so fundamental to the project, the German political philosopher struggles to define it, to hold it in theoretical place for very long; he is certainly, despite his best efforts, not able to make it mean only one thing. Nomos reveals itself to be a philosophically palimpsestic term, given to eluding the philosopher even as he seeks to pin it down. Deeply grounded in discourses about national sovereignty, about law—and especially international law insofar as it is European, profoundly concerned with colonial history and the ‘‘land appropriation’’ so endemic to that process, with the development of Britain as a naval power that made the sea a new legal realm—it may be appropriate that the nomos proves such a polyvalent concept. Schmitt’s nomos is, in truth, less a fixed concept than a way to understand the transformation from one historical epoch to another.
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