Neither a Federation Nor a World State: Kant, Du Bois, and Cosmopolitanism in a New Color
Although much has been written on Immanuel Kant’s ambivalence between a world state and a loose federation of states, no account has yet considered the role of Kant’s changing views on race and colonialism in explaining this vacillation. I argue that this transformation in Kant’s thought can be a powerful heuristic to understand his ambivalence between a world state and a loose federation of states. While in Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose (1784) he defends both colonialism and a world state, in Toward Perpetual Peace and the Doctrine of Right (1795 and 1797) he harshly criticizes European colonialism and sides against a world state, suggesting instead the establishment of a loose federation. I contend that the latter shift is due to the contrasting way in which coercion in the international sphere works in a world of empires vis-à-vis a world without colonialism with stark inequalities between Europe and the rest of the world. I argue that the altered institutional architecture proposed by Kant is, however, insufficient to guarantee the progression of the world toward peace. I further this critique through Du Bois’s writings on imperialism, war, and peace. In these writings, Du Bois criticizes the Western Peace movement for their disregard of the issue of race prejudice and colonialism and proposes an alternative utopia that abandons Europe as the focal point of the progression toward world peace.
Keywords: Kant, Du Bois, Loose Federation, World State, Cosmopolitanism