On the cover of Thom Brooks's admirable Hegel's Political Philosophy is a picture, taken by the author, of Tynemouth Castle, near where he lives on the northeast coast of England. It is an attractive image, yet it also has significance in relation to the argument of his book —one that only emerges at the end of his narrative.
A basic question that faces all interpreters of The Philosophy of Right is: how far must we understand Hegel's views on politics in the light of his wider philosophical commitments? Behind that question lies a very simple argument:
(1) If we take Hegel at his word, and his political philosophy is indeed integrated within his broader philosophical system; and,
(2) if that philosophical system is a consistent realization of speculative idealism; then
(3) everything will depend on how we evaluate speculative idealism.
Hegel's ambitious metaphysics now finds few defenders, however. So, does his political philosophy fall with it?
To this there are two kinds of reply. The first would make a separation between the political doctrines advanced in Hegel's work and the philosophical framework within which they are embedded. The second, while accepting that Hegel's philosophy is meant to form an integrated whole, disputes the idea that, for that reason, the “dialectical” treatment of particular areas of life and experience depends on our final verdict on the system as a whole. It is possible to enter his system at any point and to continue piecemeal, treating its arguments on their own terms without concern for its final resting point. Against this, Brooks argues that the piecemeal approach fails to do justice to Hegel's text.