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Grant number like: FA-50491-04

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Susan M. Shell
Boston College (Chestnut Hill, MA 02467-3858)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2005 – 12/31/2006

Kant's "True Politics": Democratic Honor and the Liberal State

The book-length study I am proposing grows out of a conviction that Kant has more to say to current students of politics, including many who deem themselves 'realists,' than is generally supposed. The first chapter will critically consider three influential misreadings of Kant's thought, associated with the work of John Rawls, J├╝rgen Habermas and Michel Foucault respectively. The remainder of the study will be devoted to a positive analysis of what Kant calls, in a famous and ringing passage of Perpetual Peace, the 'true politics.' Chapter Two will take up Kant's extraordinarily rich, and largely ignored, considerations of the political uses of the human desire for 'regard' or 'honor.' Chapter Three consider the intimate, if disquieting, relation between the essence of liberal democratic statehood and authority to punish, a relation that bears especially on the peculiar 'honor' of citizens. Chapter Four addresses itself directly to the question of the nature of liberal-democratic citizenship. Kant's surprisingly 'organic' treatment of the state is, as I will argue, helpful, though not altogether successful, in teasing out the requirements and tensions inherent in the liberal-democratic way of life. Chapter Five concerns itself with the 'misuse' of Kantian argument on behalf of an 'internationalism' he would have regarded as at best simplistic and at worst potentially fatal. Kant's nuanced consideration of the appropriate institutional means for promoting peace, and the force of arms on which they ultimately depend, can serve, as I will argue, as a useful antidote to both overweening hopefulness in international affairs and a self-fulfilling, and hence equally imprudent despair.