Hegel: Philosophy of Right

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Puritanboard Amanuensis
Was Hegel a fascist? If you ask that question you can get anything from angry looks to Antifa flash mobs. Part of the problem is that both Fascists and Marxists can claim aspects of Hegel. I think Hegel is much closer to right-wing thought than to Cultural Marxism. Although this book is difficult, it is nowhere near the nightmare that Phenomenology is.

Without endorsing Hegel’s whole project, much of this is very good.

Hegel gives primacy to constitutional monarchy, but wants a government that allows civic participation. Citizens should participate in government as part of a subset of the whole–not as individuals. Hegel calls these subsets “corporations.” I don’t know to what extent corporations in the mid-19th century resemble corporations today. But we can view it another way by calling them “estates,” which is exactly how medieval man participated in the monarchical order.

Hegel wants a constitutional monarchy, to which I have grave misgivings. I understand why, though. At that time in Europe, the old liturgical tradition had largely been eradicated. Institutions tended to reflect raw power. Hegel likely says monarchies as absolute monarchies and wanted to mute that tendency.

Most interesting, he sees the monarch–properly understood–as the concrete embodiment of a culture’s values. It’s also important to point out that Hegel did not mean by “state” what we mean by it, simply the bureaucratic apparatus that takes away liberty. He meant the combined culture and Volk.

The Foundations of the Modern State

Monarchy as the Representative Individual: consistent with his earlier points, Hegel notes that there must be some way for the individual to retain his subjective right, yet at the same time freely and fully identify with the community (Staat). This happens by way of monarchy. Beneath the monarchy are Estates, who mediate the King to the people. Nowhere does Hegel mean representation according to our usage today. The King does not “represent” the will of the people, but through his kingly majesty allows the people to identify.

The French Revolution: Political Terror

Hegel defines it as “absolute, unlimited freedom.” Complete freedom means that outcome should be decided by me. Of course, since I am in society it is not decided by me alone. Therefore, complete freedom is decided by the strongest individual. This is the conclusion of indivdiualism ala Hobbes.

I think the reason is that if Hegel is right and one should view the Modern Narrative as a continuation of the French Revolution, then the only moral alternative is to reject said narrative. Hegel’s challenge to modernity: the modern ideology of equality and of total participation leads to a homogenization of society. This shakes men loose from their traditional communities but cannot replace them as a focus of identity” .

Translation: all natural societies organically flow from a unified belief system/ethnos (cf. Augustine, City of God, 19.4). Modernity is the negation of this. Without this unified system of belief, men cannot “connect” to one another. Thus, no real community. Thus, no real unity and society is held together by force (ala Hegel on Rome) and terror (ala Hegel on France).

Hegel’s conclusion is a rationalized monarchy. Hegel was a monarchist but he was not a traditionalist, and for that reason he was not a conservative. He agreed with the older conservatives that society must be founded on authority, estates, and a strong monarch; Hegel, however, based these spheres, not on divine right or tradition, but on reason. In this sense Hegel stands firmly in the Enlightenment.

According to Hegel France is utterly lost in terms of a political future. England is better, but she is not far behind in spiritual rot, for England (like America today) is run riot with an excess on particular rights. And in this chaos of individualism, special interest groups backed by powerful elites have taken control (like America today).

“The only force which could cure this would be a strong monarchy like those late medieval kings which forced through the barons the rights of the universal. But the English have crucially weakened their monarchy; it is powerless before Parliament which is the cockpit of private interests."

Charles Taylor (Hegel) continues to the conclusion,

Hence the vehicle by which rational constitution could best be introduced and made real was a powerful modernizing monarchy…Hegel had hopes for the future based on the climate of his times. Germany had been shocked into reform by the Napoleonic conquest. It consisted of societies founded on law in which principles of rational Enlightenment had already gone some way and seemed bound to go further. It had a Protestant political culture and hence could achieve a rational constitution unlike the benighted peoples of Latin Europe, and it was not too far gone in rot like England. It held to the monarchical principle and the monarchs retained some real power unlike England, and yet the societies were law societies (454-455).

Hegel wanted man to participate in civic life, and I think he was able to avoid the two extremes of absolute monarchy and oligarchic Republicanism. While Hegel wanted man to participate in the civitas, he knew that man as an individual among (often wealthier and more powerful) individuals, could not participate in civic life. For example, if all that matters is “individualism,” then the strongest individual wins–and your claims are marginalized. This is more often a problem in Republics than in monarchies, for a monarch can often block and shut down the “rich oligarchs.”

What Hegel opted to do was posit the Guild (he calls it “corporation.” I will not call it that because it connotes and denotes something different today). The Guild (or Guilds), which represents the workers and the individuals, can allow man to face “Big Business” and “Big Capital,” not as a mere individual, but as a group of workers.

This raises the problem of Unions today. Admittedly, I don’t like Unions. 9 times out of 10 they are merely fronts for the Democratic Party, agitators, etc. That is an unfortunate accident of the Guild System; I do not believe it is the essence of the Guild system. (For a perfect analysis of the above sentences, see the Simpsons Episode where Homer is elected “union president” and mistakenly thinks he is an organized crime boss.
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