Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-mm7gn Total loading time: 0.427 Render date: 2022-08-12T08:37:08.906Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

7 - Why Ethical Life is Fragile: Rights, Markets and States in Hegel's Philosophy of Right

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 March 2017

Hans- Christoph Schmidt Am Busch
Affiliation:
Technische Universität Braunschweig
David James
Affiliation:
University of Warwick
Get access

Summary

In his main work of social and political philosophy, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, it is Hegel's declared intention to show that a form of the state is being established in Europe that realizes what he calls ‘the Concept’ and which is therefore ‘rational’. States exhibiting this type of rationality are, both in their character and in their functioning, not only fully comprehensible but also entities which allow citizens to be ‘at one with themselves’ (bei sich selbst) (PR § 7A; see also § 268) in their everyday and political lives. In Hegel's view, they therefore enable citizens to lead an ethical life (ein sittliches Leben) in which freedom is realized and reconciliation with the social and political world achieved.

More precisely, Hegel explicitly claims that states must have a specific basic structure in order to realize this type of rationality. This structure is comprised of two ethical ‘spheres’ (PR § 261), the ‘family’ and ‘civil society’, wherein people have a legally secured space to cultivate and maintain private relations and to pursue economic activities of their own free will. Hegel likewise understands the political state as an ethical sphere, one which functions to give citizens the possibility of identifying with the polity as a ‘whole’ (PR § 253) and to obtain thereby a ‘consciousness’ (PR § 268) of freedom and reconciliation.

Did Hegel successfully realize the philosophical project outlined above? Was he able to adequately explain how the social and political structures emerging in Europe during his lifetime enabled people to lead an ethical life? This has been repeatedly denied. Numerous critics have charged Hegel with having underestimated the tensions and conflicts which civil societies generate and which endanger ethical life, and with having overestimated the prospects that political states could establish institutions fostering ethical life. This assessment was expressed very early on by Hegel's pupils and the Left-Hegelians, and it promoted the alternative theories of state and society found in Marx, Marxism and contemporary critical theory.

Type
Chapter
Information
Hegel's Elements of the Philosophy of Right
A Critical Guide
, pp. 137 - 159
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.)
2
Cited by

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
×