The Political Economy of the General Will: From Perpetual Peace to the Closed Commercial State, 1795-1800


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Political Science


This study reconstructs the early German reception of Immanuel Kant's famous 1795 essay, Toward Perpetual Peace. Kant's essay gave rise to far-reaching investigations of a central problem in Rousseau's political theory: the political economy of the general will. How egalitarian did the conception of justice reflected in the property rights and trading arrangements afforded by modern European states have to be, if their inhabitants were to identify with an ethic of citizenship? The most comprehensive investigation of these themes in response to Kant’s essay was undertaken by J.G. Fichte. His Closed Commercial State of 1800 has often been misread as a proto-totalitarian manifesto, but was in fact a profound interpretation of Kant’s Toward Perpetual Peace.