Colonialism in Kant's Political Philosophy

Diametros 39:154-181 (2014)
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Abstract

This article examines the controversy that has arisen concerning the interpretation of Immanuel Kant's account of European colonialism. One the one hand there are those interpreters such as Robert Bernasconi who see Kant's account as all of a piece with his earlier views on race which demonstrate a certain narrow mindedness in relation to black and coloured people and, on the other hand, there are those such as Pauline Kleingeld and Allen Wood who argue that the earlier writings on race are not wholly typical of Kant's approach and suggest that Kant's later discussions of colonialism in Perpetual Peace and the Metaphysics of Morals provide a better indication of Kant's progressive views on the treatment of non-European societies. The article draws attention to the very strong evidence of Kant's dislike for the pattern of European expansion to other parts of the globe and indicates that within Kant's writings there are the seeds of a wholly unconventional critical understanding of western colonialism that have yet to be developed fully. The article suggests that this critical understanding surpasses the unsystematic objections made to colonialism in post - modernist thought and also the critique proffered by the determinist Marxist account

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