Interdependent Independence: Civil Self-Sufficiency and Productive Community in Kant's Theory of Citizenship

Nicholas Vrousalis*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Kant's theory of citizenship replaces the French revolutionary triptych of liberty, equality and fraternity with freedom (Freiheit), equality (Gleichheit) and civil self-sufficiency (Selbständigkeit). The interpretative question is what the third attribute adds to the first two: what does self-sufficiency add to free consent by juridical equals? This article argues that Selbständigkeit adds the idea of interdependent independence: the independent possession and use of citizens' interdependent rightful powers. Kant thinks of the modern state as an organism whose members are agents possessed of rightful (productive) powers, whose interdependent mode of exercise independently of unilateral permission matters for right. The empirical form of that ideal, according to Kant, is a republic of independent commodity producers. I will show that this reading of Selbständigkeit can consistently explain Kant's disenfranchisement of women, wage labourers and landless farmers; that it offers a robust alternative to influential republican, libertarian and proprietarian interpretations of the Kantian state; and that it can buttress an original account of community as productive interdependence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-460
Number of pages18
JournalKantian Review
Volume27
Issue number3
Early online date16 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2022

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