A Kantian Argument for Sovereignty Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Public Reason 6 (1-2):21-34 (2014)
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Abstract

Kant’s non-voluntarist conception of political obligation has led some philosophers to argue that he would reject self-government rights for indigenous peoples. Some recent scholarship suggests, however, that Kant’s critique of colonialism provides an argument in favor of granting self-government rights. Here I argue for a stronger conclusion: Kantian political theory not only can but must include sovereignty for indigenous peoples. Normally these rights are considered redress for historic injustice. On a Kantian view, however, I argue that they are not remedial. Sovereignty rights are a necessary part of establishing perpetual peace. By failing to acknowledge the sovereignty of native groups, states once guilty of imperialism leave open the in principle possibility for future violence, even though no current conflict exists. Only in recognizing self-government rights can states truly commit to the cosmopolitan ideal.

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Krista Thomason
Swarthmore College

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