Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-mm7gn Total loading time: 0.336 Render date: 2022-08-13T00:36:53.926Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

6 - ‘The Ethicality in Civil Society’: Bifurcation, Bildung and Hegel's Supersession of the Aporias of Social Modernity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 March 2017

Andrew Buchwalter
Affiliation:
University of North Florida
David James
Affiliation:
University of Warwick
Get access

Summary

One of the more complex features of Hegel's Philosophy of Right pertains to the normative status it assigns to civil society. While situated, along with the family and the state, in the work's section on Ethical Life (Sittlichkeit), civil society – which encompasses Hegel's account of modern market societies – is also presented as the very denial of ethicality. Characterized variously as the sphere of division, separation, fragmentation and bifurcation (Entzweiung), civil society for Hegel is gripped by a host of pathologies that undermine individual autonomy and societal well-being – features championed by advocates of market societies. Among other things, civil society promotes alienating work conditions, conspicuous consumption, the emergence of a societal underclass, colonialism and vast disparities in wealth between rich and poor. In this regard, Hegel's treatment of civil society anticipates the views of later social critics like Marx, Horkheimer, Adorno, Arendt, Foucault and Habermas, who in different ways question the rationality and normative possibilities of modern market societies.

On the other hand, Hegel does not claim that market societies are altogether bereft of possibilities for genuine autonomy or broader notions of community. He would not agree, for instance, with Habermas, for whom market economies denote a ‘norm-free’ self-regulating domain governed by the strategic calculations of individual utility-maximizers. Instead, he maintains that considerations of morality and ethicality remain central to an account of modern civil society. He does so, moreover, in a manner arguably more robust than some of the champions of market societies. Not only does civil society realize the ‘right of subjectivity’ and the ‘principle of subjective freedom’, not only is it the domain for the realization of a notion of morality abstractly formulated earlier in the Philosophy of Right, but also it gives expression – especially in the concluding subsection on corporations – to an account of the relationship of individual and community illustrative of a modern account of ethical life. Indeed, the very designation civil society (bürgerliche Gesellschaft) references individuals not just in their capacity as self-interested utility-maximizers – the bourgeois common to the liberal tradition – but also as citizens (citoyens) who, in the tradition of civil republicanism, attend to their mutual well-being and the welfare of the community itself. In these respects, civil society, no less than family and state, comprises an account of ethical life.

Type
Chapter
Information
Hegel's Elements of the Philosophy of Right
A Critical Guide
, pp. 116 - 136
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2017

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×