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In defence of Kants league of states


  • Kjartan Koch Mikalsen


This paper presents a defence of Kant’s idea of a voluntary league of states. Kant’s proposal that rightful, or just, international relations can be achieved within the framework of such a league is often criticized for being at odds with his overall theory. Given Kant’s view on the institutional preconditions for justice in the domestic sphere, where subjection to a public authority with coercive power is seen as constitutive of rightful interaction between persons, as well as the analogy he draws between an interpersonal and an international state of nature, it is often argued that he should have opted for the idea of a world state. Agreeing with this standard criticism that a voluntary league cannot establish the institutional framework for international justice, others also suggest an alternative stage model interpretation. According to this interpretation, Kant’s true ideal is in fact some sort of world state, whereas the league is merely introduced as a temporary and second best surrogate. In contrast to both the standard criticism and the stage model interpretation, I argue that fundamental normative concerns speak in favour of a voluntary league rather than a world state. I also argue that Kant’s defense of such a league is consistent with his position on the conditions of justice in the domestic case due to crucial differences between the state of nature among individuals and external state relations.

Suggested Citation

  • Kjartan Koch Mikalsen, 2010. "In defence of Kants league of states," RECON Online Working Papers Series 7, RECON.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:reconx:p0065

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    federalism; supranationalism; sovereignty; normative political theory;

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