The Closed Commercial State: Perpetual Peace and Commercial Society from Rousseau to Fichte
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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.
matter how roughly, exists in vain for me.” “But I am unacquainted with you, as you are with me!” “Still, just as it is certain that we share a common calling—to be good and to become better and better—it is equally certain that there will come a time (it may take millions or trillions of years—what is time!) when I will draw you into my sphere of influence, a time when I will benefit you too and receive benefit from you, a time when my heart will be joined with yours by the loveliest bond of
time” (“Rezension,” Gothaische gelehrte Zeitungen 2, no. 5 [March 1796], reprinted in Kant, Zum ewigen Frieden, 80). 171 “It is through the law (i.e. through the original will of the populace who give themselves a constitution), that each of these regimes obtains the force of right. All are rightful regimes as long as an ephorate is present; and all can produce and maintain universal right within a state, as long as the ephorate is efficacious and properly organized” (Fichte, Foundations of
whom all foreigners were either enemies or barbarians. By contrast, Western Christendom formed a single nation of Germanic origin, held together by common mores, religion, and form of government. “No wonder,” he observed, “that these populations, united by everything and without state constitutions (which are what especially separates humanity) to separate them, since there 42 “Weit entfernt, daß sie Zweck an sich, daß die Gesetze das eigentliche Bindungsmittel der Nation hätten sein sollen”
the true realization of Fénelon’s mythical model of a reformed France, Salentum.77 Voltaire’s praise for d’Argenson’s treatise was closely linked to his support for a French foreign policy that would actively seek to impose this Fénelonian vision on the rest of Europe. Voltaire was among the French supporters of the Jacobite exiles (the same milieu out of which Law had emerged) who imagined a Stuart restoration in Britain as part of the establishment of a pacified European states system. Voltaire
states system. The Closed Commercial State elaborated Kant’s historical model into an account of the rise of global trade and its impact on state formation. Fichte concluded that the pacification of Europe envisioned by Kant was predicated on a resolution to the conflicts unleashed by heightened economic competition, both between and within states. In making this argument, Fichte developed an account of commerce and international relations that was closely aligned with contemporary pro-French and