Immanuel Kant’s Political Economy or the Aporia of Equality

Matthias Rothe
University of Minnesota
January 20, 2014
3:30 – 5:00 pm
205 East Pyne

Immanuel Kant is not regarded usually as an economic theorist. In comparing Kant to Adam Smith, for example, H.D. Kittsteiner sees diametrically opposed forms of theorizing at work. Kant, Kittsteiner claims, “remains entirely within the horizon of moral philosophy.” I hold, however, that Kant’s writings on property law, history and the public sphere can be read as responses to an aporia that is economical in nature: the very same socio-economic processes that make equality conceivable, render it also de facto impossible. It is through the continual failure of his strategies to resolve the aporia that Kant is able to offer his analysis of the socio-economic transformations underway. His attempts at doing so thus end up pointing to a politic potentially able to “liberate” the idea of equality from its imminent failure.