Jesse's Reviews > Elements of the Philosophy of Right
Elements of the Philosophy of Right
by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Allen W. Wood , Raymond Geuss
by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Allen W. Wood , Raymond Geuss
Jul 18, 2011
Read from June 25 to July 17, 2011
Possibly the most morally repugnant treatise on political theory this side of Leviathan, Hegel's Philosophy of Right is ostensibly an account of the modern state, but it is in fact a collection of cheerleading anthems for power by an evil pedant desirous of the destruction of our species. There are three agonizing sections. The first is about how, as a particular human being, you are contradictory and therefore untrue; in contrast, the state, being the embodiment of contradictionless Reason, is true; hence, you have rights insofar as it pleases the state, and there's a hefty price to pay - you have to conform to society! Hegel here takes up the classic right-wing position of how you have to earn your way into civil society, the following "dialectical stage", by conforming to one of its institutions, e.g. the military, which he thinks should consist of a standing army, and he says only analytical, i.e. freedom-loving, thinkers will argue against the evil of a standing army (which happens to be the entire Enlightenment tradition! see, e.g., James Madison Federalist No. 42), or the corporation, which, Hegel thinks, should be the only vehicle for rights. What should be striking you by now, and what immediately struck me, was how much closer this treatise is to present day U.S. political norms (how we, in effect, have a standing army: how we, in fact, get our rights from the "dialectical" mediation of corporate insurance companies, etc.) than those outlined in Locke's Second Treatise, i.e., the treatise that the U.S. is actually supposed to be in support of as a culture, but with the simple fact that Turner owns a third of the nation, we are obviously sitting upon Hegel's lap (who also mentions how the "infinite will", as far as property, i.e., things, goes, cannot be infringed upon). To highlight the contrast, observe: Locke said, representing the liberal and Enlightenment tradition, that the state exists for its citizens as a means. Hegel says here that "the state is an end in itself" and that it exists for itself, nevermind those ghostly particulars, i.e., citizens. Enlightenment said, individuals are ends in themselves. According to the over-generous (every kind interpretation of Hegel is over-generous) interpretation of Allen Wood, Hegel thinks that the citizen is neither an end nor a means, but a member of "the organic unity". What Hegel means by organic unity is a state where no individual rights are asserted. Hegel is against social contract theory, such as Locke's, simply to the extent that it proclaims the rights of individuals. For Hegel, there are no rights for individuals, except what they can find by conforming to the institutions provided by the state (again, note the unbelievable likeness to U.S. neoliberalism here). The next section is simply Hegel’s denunciation of Kantian secular ethics insofar as they are secular and rational, and suggests that there is nothing ethical here because, here, there are only individuals thinking for themselves! What brazen stupidity! So, with a real big hint, Hegel titles the next section, Ethical Life. This is the largest section, and there are again three sections, because there were two things that made Hegel orgasm – the state and threes (proof enough that the man’s books should be distrusted). The first section is on the Family, with a long sub-section on how women are inferior to men. And so the man must run away from the feminine element of the family (which in the Phenomenology is called the realm of the living dead – Hegel’s poetic take on the female spirit) and be robbed and exploited in the marketplace. This section is Civil Society, and it contains the theoretical foundation for much of what Friedman and Rand were to satanically spew on to the public in the twentieth century, specifically corporate externalities: “[P]rivate actions become a contingent matter that passes out of my control and which can wrong or harm other people or actually does so.” Hegel with Rand, in paragraph 299, says that the means for organizing society can be mediated by one of two things: money or the slave whip. He also advocates ethical egoism, calling anything else, like Kantian ethics, merely “formal”, i.e., non-objective. Why do Rand and Hegel think this? Hegel speaks for everyone on the bourgeois Right when he says: “[S]ubjective selfishness turns into a contribution towards the satisfaction of the needs of everyone else.” Imagine if BP used this quote in their defense, though it takes an even greater stretch of the imagination to think BP would ever be tried for their criminal negligence because of Hegel’s defense of externalities, previously cited. Hegel’s dialectical totality is, in fact, simply the totality of bourgeois hatred for humanity and excuses for their crimes. The last section is about the State proper. Hegel talks about how the rabble must be controlled, or at least organized, and that means lots of testing (standardized testing! Actually, not only can you find Bush’s No Child Left Behind in these pages, but also the Bush Doctrine itself – see paragraph 335!). Hegel’s intellectual attraction stems from his ability to “dialectically unfold” the hidden relations between everything; the book’s merit is, in fact, how successful that declared philosophical goal is – one can see where all the thoughts and opinions of the Right come from. But it is morally worse than Leviathan for the simple reason that, at the very least, Hobbes’ gives the citizen the right of self-defense, even before her monarch – Hegel agrees with Rousseau in that death-row inmates should be celebrating their freedom. One cannot help thinking of how GULAG inmates, with Hegelian futility, wrote birthday cards to Stalin. The Enlightenment was well aware how much more dangerous the modern state with its corporations would be compared with the absolutism of the divine-right monarchy; Jefferson warned us, but, it seems, we have heeded the likes of Rand, a true Hegelian, instead.
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