This book presents an important new account of Johann Gottlieb Fichte's Closed Commercial State, a major early nineteenth-century development of Rousseau and Kant's political thought. Isaac Nakhimovsky shows how Fichte reformulated Rousseau's constitutional politics and radicalized the economic implications of Kant's social contract theory with his defense of the right to work. Nakhimovsky argues that Fichte's sequel to Rousseau and Kant's writings on perpetual peace represents a pivotal moment in the intellectual history of the pacification of the West. Fichte claimed that Europe could not transform itself into a peaceful federation of constitutional republics unless economic life could be disentangled from the competitive dynamics of relations between states, and he asserted that this disentanglement required transitioning to a planned and largely self-sufficient national economy, made possible by a radical monetary policy. Fichte's ideas have resurfaced with nearly every crisis of globalization from the Napoleonic wars to the present, and his book remains a uniquely systematic and complete discussion of what John Maynard Keynes later termed "national self-sufficiency." Fichte's provocative contribution to the social contract tradition reminds us, Nakhimovsky concludes, that the combination of a liberal theory of the state with an open economy and international system is a much more contingent and precarious outcome than many recent theorists have tended to assume.
Isaac Nakhimovsky is a junior research fellow at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge.
"In this remarkable work, Isaac Nakhimovsky breaks completely with the traditional interpretation of Fichte as a figure of the Counter-Enlightenment concerned with propagating an extreme form of Romantic nationalism. Nakhimovsky focuses instead on Fichte's most elaborate work of political theory, his Closed Commercial State, and shows that it is one of the earliest and still most attractive principled socialist alternatives to liberal capitalist democracy."--Raymond Geuss, author of Philosophy and Real Politics
"Astonishingly, this is the first full study of the ideas of the major political theorist Johann Gottlieb Fichte. It transforms not simply our understanding of Fichte, but of the whole of nineteenth-century German thought--we will all have to read Hegel and Marx in a new way after this book."--Richard Tuck, Harvard University
"Isaac Nakhimovsky brilliantly reveals Fichte's attempt to enlist the welfare state and economic nationalism to resolve gaps in Kant's philosophy of international peace, democratic republicanism, and cosmopolitan commerce. One need not agree that Fichte succeeded in order to appreciate the excellent scholarship and deep contemplation that Nakhimovsky brings to these important issues."--Michael Doyle, Columbia University
"Superbly researched and elegantly written, this is a truly original study of a fascinating aspect of Enlightenment political thought and economy. Nakhimovsky brilliantly illuminates Fichte as a political philosopher and the broader currents of thought--including the writings of Rousseau, Kant, and Sièyes--that shaped him. This is essential reading for all those who care about the modern intellectual history of, and continuing theoretical debates over, international relations, globalization, republicanism, and distributive justice."--Sankar Muthu, University of Chicago
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