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Kant on Civil Self-Sufficiency

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Kant distinguishes between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ citizens and holds that only the former are civilly self-sufficient and possess rights of political participation. Such rights are important, since for Kant state institutions are a necessary condition for individual freedom. Thus, only active citizens are entitled to contribute to a necessary condition for the freedom of each. I argue that Kant attributes civil self-sufficiency to those who are not under the authority of any private individual for their survival. This reading is more textually grounded than the dominant reading, which understands civil self-sufficiency in terms of economic relations alone. I further argue that Kant was interested in relations of authority because he was concerned to eliminate certain forms of corruption. This indicates that Kant’s contested distinction between active and passive citizens was a response to a key problem of any account of public lawgiving.

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Published Online: 2021-05-27

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