Freedom, Property and Markets

Presented by Lucy Allais

Tuesday, 23 March, 2021 - 16:00

Kant’s political philosophy is based on freedom; chapter 1 of part 1 of the text concerns private property rights. What is the relation between these? My aim in this paper is to investigate the relation between freedom, property and economic justice in Kant’s political philosophy by thinking about the relation between what Kant calls external freedom, his account of property and so-called free markets. Kant is usually taken to have a broadly liberal political philosophy and liberalism is associated with so-called free markets, but what conception of free markets follows from a Kantian account? What is it for markets to be free? Working from Charles Mills’ critique of ideal theory and of the liberal tradition, as well as his idea of ‘occupying liberalism’, this paper is part of a project of rethinking some of the foundations of a political philosophy based on freedom. As such, it is part of rethinking how we should understand liberalism. I argue that neither the competitive markets of economic theory nor the idea of markets in which there is no role for the state gives us a fundamental of what it is for markets to be free in Kant’s framework; rather, this would be a matter of having markets that are embedded in conditions of civic equality.


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