Radical Bourgeois Philosophy, Week 4: Immanuel Kant and Benjamin Constant

Immanuel Kant

Benjamin Constant

Last week we covered Adam Smith’s excellent Wealth of Nations, focusing on the way in which Smith can be regarded as “the philosopher par excellence of the manufacturing period of capitalism,” as Marx called him.  We took note of the way that Smith registered the development of the division of labor, relations of exchange, and the nascent possibility of a society in which everyone could work less while still producing more useful goods for consumption.  This week we are reading Kant’s brief essays on “What is Enlightenment?” and his “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View.”  The interpretation that is being presented is that Kant articulates the new, modern subjectivity of bourgeois society, based on the principle of universal freedom.  This parallels the way that Smith articulates the new, modern economic form of bourgeois society as being founded on the principle of universal exchange.  To this end, we are also reading Benjamin Constant’s “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns,” as Constant spells out more explicitly the difference between Kantian freedom and earlier philosophical/theological treatments of free will, as say by Augustine or Leibniz.

One thought on “Radical Bourgeois Philosophy, Week 4: Immanuel Kant and Benjamin Constant

  1. Not avant garde but cool nonetheless.


    I’ve seen on your blog plans for huge apartment complexes but was there a socialist attempt at something like the Futuro? Probably not because the whole idea of this Futuro revolves around the nuclear family. You had a great post a while ago; the architect mentioned that freedom in the home is primarily the freedom to leave the home. I was reminded of those ancient domestic architectures which kept wives tucked safely away from outsiders.
    So maybe there’s something ultimately bourgeois about the Futuro? The shape of the house even looks atomistic! In the end, this kind of plastic home has the unique property of rotting in the sun.

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