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Kant and Herder on colonialism, indigenous peoples, and minority nations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 April 2015

Vicki A. Spencer*
Affiliation:
Department of Politics, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Abstract

It is the orthodox view in the cosmopolitan and normative international relations literature that Immanuel Kant is a staunch critic of European colonialism. This paper offers a far more critical stance towards Kant’s position with respect to minority nations and stateless Indigenous peoples through an analysis that draws on the criticisms developed by his contemporary and former student, Johann Gottfried Herder. The paper proceeds in three parts. In the first section, I present the evidence in favour of seeing both Kant and Herder as strident opponents of colonialism. In the second section, I then show the problems that arise in Kant’s position when his views on the state and property rights are taken into consideration. Kant’s coupling of the nation and state in contrast to Herder’s insistence that they are separate entities is highlighted as a crucial distinguishing point in their positions. In the third and final section, I indicate how Herder provides a far deeper critique of colonialism than Kant, also due to his recognition of the problematic nature of ideological pronouncements of progress.

Type
Original Papers
Copyright
© Cambridge University Press 2015 

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