On Unconditional Submission in Kant’s Political Writings – London, 8 May

2nd May 2019

Dariush Doust (Shanxi University)
On Unconditional Submission in Kant’s Political Writings
8 May 2019
Bush House (S)2.01
King’s College London
London WC2R 1ES

The rule of law in the Anglo-Saxon world and the Rechtsstaat in the continental Germanic world are the legal principles of the modern state form. 18th century constitutionalism has played a constitutive role in the formation of these principles. This formal unity of the bourgeois state form has been subject to a radical critique by Marx in his Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State (1843-4). The formation and the collapse of the Soviet republic and its constitution during the last century, the crisis of formal law in this century, and the repeated failures of modern state formations in the so-called periphery of global capitalism since the end of classic colonialism: all these historical experiences underline the urgency of a return to Young Marx’s never completed critique of the moral and philosophical basis of the modern state. In this context, the significance of classical German philosophy is undeniable, as it both reveals the conflicts and inconsistencies of a nascent state form and offers the theoretical constructions that still shape the definition of the political in relation to social reality.

The starting point of my paper will therefore be Kant’s doctrine of right and, more specifically, his thesis on the unconditional submission to the powers that be. The imperative of unconditional submission in the modern state form requires a more serious investigation beyond the concept of “state of exception” and other ad hoc qualifications. This investigation will be presented based on a reading of the specific way Marx establishes the connection between formal rights and the structural transformations of private property in capitalism. To illustrate my major points, I will contrast my main theses to Kojin Karatani’s approach in his influential Transcritique.

London Seminar in Contemporary Marxist Theory


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