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IsHegelacriticofliberalismoroneofitsbestrepresentatives?

InanefforttoforcethesespeculationsonHegelspoliticalphilosophyintosomesortoforder,Ihavevery brieflyoutlinedthemostimportantpartsofHegelsthoughtandthensorttodiscoverwheretheremightbe correlationwithcommonliberalthemes,andwheretherearecontrasts(ifthevariousstrandsandvariations ofliberalismdiffertosuchadegreethatitisworthfurthercomment,Ihaveobliged).Ithenalludetoother politicalideologiestoseewhetherornotHegelmightinsteadbebetterrelatedtooneofthese.Thenwhile admittingthatIfindHegeltoodemandingtogiveanauthoritativeanswertothesetquestion,andwhileit seemsHegelsstyleandhisobjectivesthemselvessimplywillnotconformtotheleft/rightspectrumI neverthelessconcludethatwecanplaceHegel,albeittentatively,asacommunitarianthinker.

WewillfirstlyconsiderHegelsdiversethoughtsoneconomics.OnaninitialandsuperficialreadingofHegels viewshere,wemightthinkwehaveanuncriticalproponentoftheclassicallyliberalfreemarket;inthissense, perhaps,Hegelwasaproductofhistime.Beinggreatlyimpressedandinfluencedbythosefiguresofthe ScottishEnlightenmentAdamFerguson,JamesSteuartandAdamSmithHegelbelieved,astheydid,that thesystemoffreelabour,unhinderedexchangeofcontractsandopenmarketsforgoodsandservicesledto thepossibilityofprosperityforthemajorityofthepopulationsofthosestateswhichadoptedit.T1Publishedin


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thesameyearastheAmericanDeclarationofIndependence,WealthofNations(1776)elaboratesawayof describinghowtheessentiallyanarchicactivitiesofindividualsinafreeeconomycomestoresemblea constructedsystem(spontaneousorder),andthatbyallowingpeopletofollowmereselfinterestthe preferencesofeveryoneinasocietywillbyandlargebemet,resultinginanindirectaltruism(theideabeing thatfreeexchangemustbenefitbothparties,otherwiseitwouldnottakeplace).Allthisisdonethroughthe metaphoroftheinvisiblehand.Hegelappearstofindthisquiteconvincing:thebeautyofthecommercial economyisthatitallowseveryonetoplacepersonalgainattheforefrontoftheirmindswithoutatthesame timesubmergingthemoral.Thusindirectly,inthecommercialsphere,materialinterestsarerendered virtuous.T2


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HowardWilliams,Hegel:SpiritandStateinFrancisFukuyamaandtheendofhistory,p.31 Ibid.p.32
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BeforewegetontotheothersideofHegelsviewsherehisprofoundcriticismoftheatomisticeffectsof sucheconomicarrangementsitisworthnotingthat,insomerespects,(atleastaccordingtoHerbertMarcuse) HegelisactuallymorefundamentalinhisendorsementofthemarketandprivatepropertythanAdam Smith.ForthiswehavetodelveslightlyintoHegelsIdealism.AccordingtoHegel,wereachahigherlevelof freedomwhenwecometotherealisationthatthereisnoother,i.e.,whenwerealisethatallismind(Geist). Yetwecannotabolishthisother,andsoitisnegated,withoutbeinglost,bybeingsynthesizedintoan evolvingnotionofselfconsciousness.Toputitdifferently,externalexistingobjectsbecomeinthemselves partofourfreewill.IquoteHegelatlength:

Ifitisnottoremainabstract,thefreewillmustfirstgiveitselfanexistence,andtheprimarysensuous constituentsofthisexistencearethings,i.e.externalobjects.Thisfirstmodeoffreedomistheonewhichwe shouldknowasproperty,thesphereofformalandabstractright;propertyinitsmediatedshapeascontract [t]hefreedomwhichwehavehereiswhatwecalltheperson,thatis,thesubjectwhichisfree,andindeedfree foritself,andwhichgivesitselfanexistenceintherealmofthings.T3


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Theresultofthisisthatprivateproperty,andbyextensionthemarketbothrecognisedessentialsinmost variantsofliberalismarenotmerelycontingentswhichbenefitsocietymorethantheyhinderit(andcanbe freelyviolatedwhentheydont,usingforinstanceJohnRawlssmaximinprinciple)butareactuallypartofus. Itmakesuspersons.WhileHegelisfarfrombeingaclassicalliberal,offeringattimesreallyquitescathing denigrationattheeffectsofunregulatedmarkets,heparadoxicallygoesmuchdeeperthanclassicalliberals (JohnLocke,afterPsalm115:16,claimsthatGodgivespropertytomankindincommon;modernlibertarian thinkerslikeLudwigvonMisesandFriedrichvonHayekjustifytheireconomicsonbroadlyutilitariangrounds) byclaimingproperty,contractsandmarketsasmetaphysicallyindispensableforfreedom.Marcusedeclares thatprivatepropertyhasrarelybeensoconsistentlydevelopedfromandfoundedintheisolatedindividuals naturepropertyexistssolelybyvirtueofthefreesubjectspower.Itisderivedfromthefreepersons essence.TheresultofthisisthatHegelremovedtheinstitutionofpropertyfromanycontingentconnection

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PhilosophyofRight,33(Addition)
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andhashypostatizeditasanontologicalrelationpropertyispriortothecontingentneedsofsociety.Itis thefirstembodimentoffreedomandthereforeasubstantialendinitselfT4
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Ijustifygoingonthisslighttangentbecauseitisillustrativeofoneoftheprimarydifficultiesinaddressingany questionlikeIsHegelaliberal?HisAbsoluteIdealismcanbepuzzling,drawingusinopposingdirectionsand arrivingatincompatibleandoftenstarklycontrastingconclusions;hisdialecticalmethodworksbybringing togethertheessentialtruthsofmutuallyexclusivedoctrines,meaningthatanyattempttosayHegelholdsto oneparticulardoctrineoveranotheristopresupposeHegelsquesttoendphilosophyhasbeenunsuccessful Hegelsworksdonotlendthemselvestotraditionalspectrumplacing.Iholdtotheviewthatthereisacertain futilityhereHegelwillbewhateverhisinterpreterswishhimtobebutevenacceptingthiswecancertainly doourbesttoreachthecoreofhispoliticalideasandgivethemsometitleorother.

Sinceallismind,theappropriationofexternalobjectswhicharenotmindmustbeultimatelyunsatisfactory, becausewestillneedsomethingwithwhichtodifferentiateourselves(sinceknowledgeofonethingimpliesa rejectionofanother).Thisisthenewantithesisofourpreviouslysolvedproblem,anditisabolished (synthesizedwithourprevioussolution,whichisthenewthesis)bymakingtheexternalobjecttoself consciousnessitselfselfconsciousness.HereinliesthecrucialsocialaspectofHegelsphilosophy(whichI believemakesHegelacommunitarian)weareonlyrealisedaspersonsifothersarelikewiserealised.

TheanswersthentoHegelsliberalviewsontheeconomyarehisproposalstobringthestateintoalleviate theproblemsresultingincivilsocietyasaresultofunfetteredeconomics.Whileconsideringwhatwevesaid aboutpropertyastherealizationoffreedom,Hegelstillconsiders

privatepropertyrelations[to]militateagainstatrulyfreesocialorder.Theanarchyofselfseekingproperty ownerscouldnotproducefromitsmechanismanintegrated,rational,anduniversalsocialschemeThetask ofmakingthenecessaryintegrationdevolved,therefore,uponaninstitutionthatwouldstandabovethe individualinterestsoftheircompetingrelationships,andyetwouldpreservetheirholdingsandactivitiesT5


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ReasonandRevolution,p.193 Ibid.p.201
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Hegeldoesnotbelievethateconomicexpansioncanoccurwithoutthepossibilityofpovertyforothers; neitherdoesheanticipatethatincomewillbesodistributedtomeettheuniversalisingofwants.Hetellsof howasocietywithanexcessofwealthisstillnotrichenoughT6meaningthatanincreaseintheaveragelevel
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ofwealthneverthelesscannotdealwiththemosthardhitareasofpoverty.Similarly,asspecialisation increasesasmodernsocietyadvances,sometechnicalskillswillcapitaliseonchangesindemandandothers willbecomeredundantleavingotherwisehighlytrainedworkersoutofjobs;leavingexcellenceincertain areastodevelop,butatthedetrimentofgeneralculture.Hegelalsorealisesthatthenatureofeconomyis constantexpansion,andhe(notcompletelycritically)explainswhy,asproductionoutstripsdemand;asociety isledtocolonizeothers.Finally,thefreeeconomyissometimessusceptibletorecession,uponwhichtimely stateinterventioncanhastenrecovery.

Nextweshouldtakealookatcivilsociety.ForHegel,civilsocietyisaprocessormomentintheethicallife, succeedingthefamilyandprecedingthestate.Weshouldaimtoseeitinthislightasthenuclearfamilyis dissolved(themanofthehousehold,thefatherandhusband,quabreadwinner,isintegratedintotheworldof workT7)alargergroupingoffamiliesemerges,thenewimportantsocialrelationsbeingbetweenthepeopleor


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nation.Freedomisadvancedaspersonsareincreasinglyliberatedfromthecausalityofselfinterest,and increasinglyactinaccordancewiththeethicallife,thatistosay,fromtheviewpointofthewhole.Inrealterms, civilsocietyincludescorporations(thedefinitionofwhichalsoincludesimmediateassociationslikechurches, tradeunions,andinterestgroups)andthepolice(definedaspublicinstitutionsIagreewithDudleyKnowlesT8


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insayingthatHegelisinconsistentherewithhisownclaimtohaveseparatedcivilsocietyfromthestate) whichbindsocietytogetherandprotectagainstandremedytheworsteffectsofeconomiclife.Some importantfurtherpointsaboutthis,keepinginmindcivilsocietyasamoment:whilewehaveprogressed beyondthepursuitofmereprivategoals,incivilsocietypersonsarestilllargelyconcernedwithadvancing theirowninterests.Civilsociety,likethefamily,isacrucialdomainfortheexerciseofadistinctivelysocial modeoffreedom,beingamodelforunderstandingthesortoffreedomthatsociabilitygeneratesT9butitstill


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PhilosophyofRight,245 DudleyKnowles,p.56 8 Ibid.,p.297 9 Ibid.,p.259


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remainsonlythesecondhomethroughwhichpersonscanpursuetheirinterests.T10Thetruerealizationof
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freedomcanonlycomeatthenextstage,withthestate.

Hegelunderstandsthestateasplayingasimilarroleincivilsocietythatcivilsocietyplayswithinindividual interests,asitmediatesbetweenthecompetingclaimsofcorporationsandprovidesforthegeneralwelfare wherecivilsocietyprovesinefficient.InHegelsfinaldialectic,thetwomajorandopposingconceptionsof freedomaresynthesized;thefreedomofcontentwithoutform(wherewearefreetofollowourprivate desiresHobbes,LockeandtosomeextentRousseau)iscombinedwiththefreedomofformwithoutcontent (wherefreedomisrationality;wearefreethroughabstractionfromandtranscendenceofourprivatedesires Kant)whichresultsinonerationallychoosingtheproductofalldesirestakencollectively.Sincethewillisfree, thestructurescomprisedofallwillsshouldbeonesoffreedomthesestructuresaretheinstitutionsofthe state.ItiswiththisexplanationthatwenowdirectlyconcernourselveswithhowHegelsideasrelatetothe commonattributesofliberalism.

Followingourdiscussionofeconomics,wecaninrelativesafetyruleoutanydescriptionofHegelasaclassical liberal.Hegelsconceptionoffreedomisnotasonedimensionalasisusuallyfoundinthattradition,bywhichI meanHegeldoesnotseefreedomnegatively,asthesimplerighttobeleftalone(althoughironicallyhe shareslibertarianuneasewiththeconfusionbetweensocietyandstateT11andanxietyoverpolitical


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democracyT12).AgreaterclaimtoHegelcomesfromthemodern,prointerventionliberalschool.The
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similaritiesstartwiththemodernliberalemphasisonfindingabalancebetweenthevaluesoflibertyandthe needforsocietalduties.CertainlyHegelprovideshere,throughhisaccountofcivilsocietyinwhichtheroleof corporationsandimmediateassociationsinholdingsocietytogetheriscoupledwithaconcernforindividuals (Hegelcriticisestheatomisticconceptionofindividuals,buthestillbeginswiththeideaofabstractright,and buildsuponthiswithhishighlyinfluentialideaoftheneedforrecognition.Theinterestsoftheindividualare notabolishedinHegelsideaoftakingtheperspectiveoftheuniversal,theyareactualised;thedesiresof personsarenotthrownawayandforgottenbutpurified).ThereislineageheretoFrancisFukuyama,who takesHegelsnotionofcorporation,providinghimwithanalternative,andinhisviewsuperior,accountof

Williams,p.33 likethelibertariansofourownday,Hegelalsocelebratedtheseparationofcivilsocietyfromthestateand welcomedtheseparationasoneofthegreataccomplishmentsofmodernityStevenSmithp.236 12 TonyBurns,p.147


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liberaldemocracytothatofferedbywriterssuchasJohnLocke,JohnStuartMillandJohnRawlswhichhe regardsaslayingfartoomuchstressontheconceptoftheindividual.T13Hegelsagreementwiththemarket
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andprivateproperty,takenalongsidehisopinionsontheneedforaregulatedeconomy,arealsoinlinewith themodernliberalism.

ThereishoweverasplitbetweenHegelandthismodernwelfaristliberalism.Thisisintheideaofnatural humanrights,andthelargelyconcurrentideaofthesocialcontract.Hegelsideashereareextremelydifficult, butIseetheminthisway:thestateinnotentirelyorganic,yetitisnotaconstructeitheritisthe culminationofwills,andisentirelynecessary.ThereforeHegelishostiletoany(usuallyliberal)notionsofthe prepoliticalcitizen,sinceHegelseesthisargumentascircular;itisonlygovernedbythestate,asourbeingat oneinthestate,thatwehavethefreedomtomakesuchdecisions.Atypicallyliberalsocialcontractsees governmentascontingent,ifonlyintheoryitisessentiallyadeferenceofpower.Hegelseesthestateasthe realisationoffreedom,andputlikethis,thereislittleroomforagreementT14.Themodernliberalschoolisclose


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enoughtoHegelsideaofcivilsociety,ifitistakenartificiallyinsomethingapproachingisolation,butIbelieve Hegelsstateissimplytoogreatofanobstacletonegateforanytheoristwhomaywishtocategoriseherselfas liberal.

(ItistemptingtotakethisrejectionofliberalismandleaptotheoppositeconclusionHegelastotalitarian. TheseareKarlPoppersviewsinTheOpenSocietyanditsEnemies,andwhileheiscertainlycorrectin lambastingstateworship,itisperhapsreasonabletosayhiscriticismsblameHegelunfairlyforthesinsof otherswhohaveappropriatedhisnameinbadfaith)

Hegelis,inmyopinion,bestseenasacommunitarian.ButasTonyBurnssattempttoappropriateHegelfor theconservativecourseshows,(Hegelspoliticalthought,likeBurkes[attempts]tosynthesisethe apparentlycontrastingvaluesoforderandlibertyT15)communitarianhasnoautomaticplaceonthepolitical


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Williams,p.33 Hegelbelievedthatliberalismwasguiltyofcollapsingthestateintocivilsociety[providing]anoverly abstractandlimitedconceptionofthestatewhichresemblesmostofallthenightwatchmanauthority proposedbyLockeandHumeStevenSmith,p.7 15 Burns,p.139


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spectrum.HeisthebourgeoisphilosopherwhoinspiredMarx;simultaneouslyacriticanddefenderof liberalism.

TheambitionandscaleofHegelsprojectisbreathtaking.Assuch,Ifeelthatitwouldbealmostadevaluingof hisideasandimpacttoreduceinterpretationtoanexerciseinpinningdifferentlycolouredrosettesonhis lapel.ThetruemeritofHegelistobefoundinthewayshearguesfromthecommunitarianstandpoint.His famousdoppelsatzT16isatestamenttoHegelsinsistenceofhisownmethodsofreasonedargument,basedon


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freedomthroughsociability,dialectic,andimmanentcritique.Evenifwerefusetocomedownononesideor theother,wecansurelyrecogniseHegelscontributiontotheorisingpoliticsthecentraltenetofHegelian philosophyisthatthinkingisnotsimplyabouttheworlditissomethingthattakesplaceintheworldT17


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WhileRobertSterntriestoargueforaneutralreading,othersargueforradicalandreactionary interpretationsofwhatisrationalisactual;andwhatisactualisrational 17 SteveSmith,p.10


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Bibliography Cited
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BurnsTony,NaturalLawandPoliticalIdeologyinthePhilosophyofHegel,Avebury,1996 HegelG.W.F,ElementsofthePhilosophyofRight,ed.AllenWood,Cambridge,2006 KnowlesDudley,HegelandthePhilosophyofRight,Routledge,2002 MarcuseHerbert,ReasonandRevolution:Hegelandtheriseofsocialtheory,Routledge,1955 SmithSteven,Hegelscritiqueofliberalism,UniversityofChicagoPress,1989 WilliamsHowardetal,FrancisFukuyamaandtheEndofHistory,UniversityofWalesPress,1997 GeneralReference


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PelczynskiZ.A.(ed.),Hegelspoliticalphilosophyproblemsandperspectives,Cambridge,1971 PopperKarl,TheOpenSocietyanditsEnemies:Volume2HegelandMarx,Routledge,1945 RussellBertrand,HistoryofWesternPhilosophy,Routledge,1946 SingerPeter,Hegel,Oxford,2001 RobertStern,HegelsDoppelsatz:ANeutralReadinginJournaloftheHistoryofPhilosophy, http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_the_history_of_philosophy/v044/44.2stern.pdfU


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JonStewarded.,HegelMythsandLegends,Introduction, http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/us/stewart.htmU
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