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Conclusion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 January 2010

Warren Breckman
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
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Summary

The political theorist Kirstie McClure noted recently the “complicity between the sovereign subject and the sovereign state in modern political theory.” At one level, the Young Hegelians' struggle against the political theology of Restoration Germany seems to support her claim. After all, that contest in the 1830s and 1840s was ultimately a struggle over the complicity between concepts of the self and of sovereignty. On another level, however, this vital episode in the intellectual history of nineteenth-century Germany demonstrates just how complex that complicitous relationship has been. For the discourse of the “sovereign subject” is usually associated with what McClure describes as “the unitary self-present subject of modernity.” In its political form, this translates into the autonomous self of a modern “liberal” discourse that reached its German apogee in the political theory of Kant. Hence, in both the impersonal modern state and the personal self, “sovereignty” rests on the normative assumption of rational, autonomous, self-determining subjectivity. The political theology of the Restoration, by contrast, pursued the reactionary goal of reinvesting the state with personal power, thereby challenging the modern state's trajectory toward impersonal authority. The Restoration rebelled against the rationalist attempt to subordinate sovereignty to a normative order by insisting instead on the transcendence of a sovereign decision maker over any and all rational constraint.

Anti-modern, anti-liberal, and anti-rationalist as its goals were, however, the German Restoration also based its own construction of sovereignty upon a model of the “sovereign subject.”

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1998

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  • Conclusion
  • Warren Breckman, University of Pennsylvania
  • Book: Marx, the Young Hegelians, and the Origins of Radical Social Theory
  • Online publication: 11 January 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511624704.009
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  • Conclusion
  • Warren Breckman, University of Pennsylvania
  • Book: Marx, the Young Hegelians, and the Origins of Radical Social Theory
  • Online publication: 11 January 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511624704.009
Available formats
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  • Conclusion
  • Warren Breckman, University of Pennsylvania
  • Book: Marx, the Young Hegelians, and the Origins of Radical Social Theory
  • Online publication: 11 January 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511624704.009
Available formats
×