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The Closed Commercial StatePerpetual Peace and Commercial Society from Rousseau to Fichte$
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Isaac Nakhimovsky

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691148946

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691148946.001.0001

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Fichte’s Political Economy of the General Will

Fichte’s Political Economy of the General Will

(p.130) Chapter 4 Fichte’s Political Economy of the General Will
The Closed Commercial State

Isaac Nakhimovsky

Princeton University Press

This chapter describes how Fichte's book was perceived as an important challenge by admirers of Adam Smith because its normative evaluation of market society was grounded in a theory of property rights whose foundational principle was the natural liberty of the individual. Fichte denied that the inequalities produced by the expanding division of labor could be justified by appealing to this principle. However, he was also highly critical of those who prioritized equality over autonomy by discerning inherent moral limits on the nature and scope of individual activity. To claim that property relations had to keep pace with the changing nature of this activity in an industrializing society, Fichte extended his mission to eliminate “the last vestiges of hypostasis still clinging to the Kantian system” into an effort to excise any semblance of natural rights from property theory. From this perspective, Fichte's Closed Commercial State emerges as an important contribution to the nineteenth-century critique of the discipline of political economy.

Keywords:   Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Adam Smith, market society, property rights, political economy, Closed Commercial State, individual liberty, division of labor

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