APPLYING THE CONCEPT OF RIGHT: FICHTE AND BABEUF

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Abstract:

The article examines the claim made by earlier interpreters of Fichte's political thought, such as Marianne Weber and Xavier Léon, that it contains a number of striking parallels with some of the main ideas associated with the French revolutionary communist Gracchus Babeuf. It is argued that once we understand what it means for Fichte to 'apply' the concept of right (Recht), and how this application relates in particular to his views on property, there appears to be some substance to Weber's and Léon's claims. This in turn speaks against a more recent tendency to locate Fichte's political thought in the liberal tradition; a tendency which the author shows does not pay sufficient attention to Fichte's ideas concerning the need to apply the concept of right and how this leads him to develop the economic proposals found in The Closed Commercial State, which contain a number of parallels with some of the doctrines attributed to Babeuf. The author does, however, point to some fundamental differences between Fichte's social and political thought and some of the main ideas associated with the revolutionary movement known as Babouvism. Yet these differences again speak against a liberal interpretation of Fichte's social and political thought.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Politics, University of Johannesburg, PO Box 524, Auckland Park, 2006, Republic of South Africa., Email: djames@uj.ac.za

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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