Perpetual Peace – Immanuel Kant


In his essay on the development of peace-groups within international politics, Immanuel Kant advances an institutional approach which features consent and consensus networks among nation-states, as well as republican government as the institutional locus providing the binding glue of lasting peace. The Kantian peace-group is generated bottom-up from republican states – which institutionally extend transnationally via consent and consensus mechanisms.


“The state of peace among men living in close proximity is not the natural state (status naturalis); instead, the natural state is one of war, which does not just consist in open hostilities, but also in the constant and enduring threat of them.

“Without a contract among nations peace can be neither inaugurated nor guaranteed. A league of a special sort must therefore be established, one that we can call a league of peace (foedus pacificum), which will be distinguished from a treaty of peace (pactum pacis) because the latter seeks merely to stop one war, while the former seeks to end all wars forever.

“Now the republican constitution is the only one wholly compatible with the rights of men, but it is also the most difficult to establish and still harder to maintain, so much so that many contend that a republic must be a nation of angels, for men’s self-seeking inclinations make them incapable of adhering to so sublime a form of government.

“That kings should be philosophers, or philosophers kings is neither to be expected nor to be desired, for the possession of power inevitably corrupts reason’s free judgment.

“Both the love of man and the respect for the rights of man are our duty; the former is only conditional, while the latter is a unconditional, absolutely imperative duty, a duty that one must be completely certain of not having transgressed, if one is to be able to enjoy the sweet sense of having done right.

*All excerpts have been taken from Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, Hackett Publishing Company.