Fichte’s The Closed Commercial State is a speculative exercise in the Renaissance tradition of More’s Utopia, a picture of what the world ought to be like if we abandon the political ‘consensus’ imposed by the controllers of trade and money.
It should be no surprise to find that someone as vehemently opposed to Spinoza’s materialist monism as Fichte, should also be opposed equally to Spinoza’s underlying, crypto-political Marrano project.
The nemesis of the free-trading, money trafficking and usurious activity of the Jews throughout the Middle Ages had been the rise of the Renaissance nation state.
As a Marrano Jew in exile, whose family had abandoned the newly-centralised Spanish state, which was determined to wrest economic control from the tripartite beneficiaries of open-border chaos, namely the landed nobility, Jews and Venetian financiers, Spinoza had been driven to develop a philosophy that would serve the interests of his exiled community.
If Paulo Sarpi was the consummate statesman for ‘A Republick of Merchants’1, then Spinoza was his counterpart in philosophy, as banking and mercantile interests moved from Venice to Amsterdam, later to dominate the world through the Anglo-Dutch empire.
Spinoza’s was a counter-Renaissance philosophical system that took its lead politically from Sarpi, as the latter’s ideas spread to Amsterdam along with Venetian banking.
In practically all official accounts, capitalism and the emergence of liberal freedoms went hand in hand as part of the general process of modernisation: feudal restraints were removed domestically, and the expansion of international trade produced economic growth. Marxism is rooted in this same liberal narrative. Marx saw the expansion of the productive forces of society as resulting from an unfettered exchange economy - ‘universal commodity production’ - and he thought the role of the state in capitalism’s development was primarily negative: capitalism succeeded where the state did not hold back the dynamic forces at work in ‘bourgeois society’.
Fichte’s legacy remains a philosophico-historical alternative to the propaganda of the liberal-Marxist-capitalist nexus.
In his philosophical works, Fichte had already turned Spinoza on his head
The great Spinozist presupposition was no longer exterior to the individual i.e. the One, Ein Sof, of which man is merely one mode amongst the multiplicity of modes. Rather, the Absolute I became the presupposition and all else resided there.
Fichte pitted man as creator, doer and producer against Spinozist determinism, necessitarianism and fatalism. Upending Spinoza changed everything. John Dunn and supersession. Renaissance man was reborn. The crown and mitre awarded to Dante’s pilgrim before entering Paradise were assumed again.
Fichte had superseded Spinoza’s secularised kabbalistic Judaism with a secularised capax Dei, God incarnated in man, a reworking of the Filioque.
This was the restoration of humanism in the Renaissance tradition of Dante.
What followed naturally from this was a fresh look at the nation state. Again, not surprisingly, consciously or not, Fichte followed the pattern of Renaissance states.
His main concern was to establish economic autarky within defined and policed borders, not as a matter of principle in its own right, but as a means of wresting control from a resurgent globalising oligarchy. This oligarchy had mutated from the former tripartite oligarchical alliance, to an Anglo-Dutch oligarchy which exhibited many of the attributes that Sarpi had projected two hundred years earlier.
Fichte presented his ideas in The Closed Commercial State (1800) in which he postulated the withdrawal from foreign trade, the introduction of a national currency, the system of price controls, the balancing of production and consumption, and the regulation of the workforce -- as means of securing the industry and the economic independence of all its citizens.
His comprehension of the enduring tensions between commercialised society and political freedom was ahead of its time. It was the philosophical idealism, rooted in his reading of Kant, and opposed to Spinozist materialism, that motivated his recommendations: the desire not simply to subordinate the individual freedom of the Absolute I to the external imperatives and needs of globalised capitalism.
1. The epithet given to the Venetian Republic by its sixteenth century Spanish detractors.
© John Dunn.
Like Marx he believed that we were 'all Jews now' and, by his own inference, feminine, passive, unproductive, unconscious and amoral. Sickened by the world around him, Weininger committed suicide in the house where the archetypal creator Beethoven had died.
Hegel and the enigma of thought
Hegel actually understood as thought something at first glance enigmatic, even mystical, when he spoke of it as taking place outside man and apart from man, independently of his head, and of ‘thought as such’, of ‘pure thought’, and when he considered the object of logic to be precisely that ‘absolute’ superhuman thought.