Blair and Kant

In his thoughtful essay on Immanuel Kant and Tony Blair ("Forward, to the union of humanity", 15 October), Jason Cowley slightly bends Kant's own words and implications in order to accommodate Blair, and in so doing gives both Blair and Francis Fukuyama a greater profundity than perhaps either deserves.

Kant saw the processes of war as "artificial . . . painful . . . dubious" (quoted by Cowley), and that with time, through a sense of recognition and joint purpose ("civic commonwealth"), there will eventually be international government. Kant's analysis is one of unitary potential and outcome, whereas both Blair's and Fukuyama's are based on dichotomies, or ever-conflicting pluralities. In his Brighton speech, Blair's mindset was still totally Us and Them - however much he may have conjured the good that We can do for Them (a task of significant failure at home, incidentally, despite huge opportunities since 1997). In describing liberal democracy as the end of history, Fukuyama ignored how liberal democracy is per se antithetical to the homogeneity that Kant's vision of civic commonwealth and international government entails.

This goes to show just how much Blair and Fukuyama are wholly contextualised in a very narrow-banded moment in history (call it late 20th-century post-Thatcherism or whatever), whereas Kant was not. For these reasons, Kant's optimism is likely to serve as a better lodestar for the future than Blair's opportunism or Fukuyama's parochialism.

Ian Flintoff
London SW6

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