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Property and economic planning in Fichte's contractualism

Abstract My paper reconstructs Fichte's property theory and political economy in Foundations of Natural Right and The Closed Commercial State. Fichte's theory of property requires the rejection of the classical liberal theory of property rights. Fichte's alternative theory of property, in conjunction with his republican account of the state's role in guaranteeing individual rights, further requires the rejection of a market economy in favor of a planned economy. For Fichte's view entails the normative necessity of a political economy in which the production and transfer of goods and services, across large sectors of the economy, are mandated by the state in advance in accordance with an economic plan. As a result, Fichte reconceives his contractualism as necessarily including the negotiation of a state‐enforced plan for economic activity. Thus, Fichte's new theory of property in Foundations of Natural Right has extremely wide‐ranging implications for the rest of his political and economic thought. The negotiation of fair terms of political association characteristic of classical contractualist thought becomes in Fichte's hands the negotiation of an economic plan that defines each individual's socioeconomic rights. I conclude with some brief remarks on the sense in which Fichte's theory serves as a cautionary tale for later socialists.

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