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13 - Work, Language, and Community: A Response to Hegel's Critics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 August 2009

Douglas Moggach
Affiliation:
University of Ottawa
Ardis B. Collins
Affiliation:
Associate professor of philosophy, Loyola University, Chicago
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Summary

Steven Smith's book Hegel's Critique of Liberalism begins with a description of contemporary liberalism that bears a striking resemblance to Herbert Marcuse's description of Hegel's state. According to Smith, the new liberal paradigm accepts individual autonomy as a natural datum and expects society to provide a framework of rules protecting the individual's right to pursue an individually chosen life-plan. Social institutions remain neutral to all substantive notions of the human good while providing equal protection of the law to everyone's interests. Herbert Marcuse's interpretation of Hegel reads like a pessimistic version of the same liberal paradigm. According to Marcuse, Hegel acknowledges individual freedom as a value that society must respect, protect, and support. Yet Hegel also recognises the inevitable destructiveness of competing individual interests. Hegel's answer, as Marcuse understands it, is a strong sovereign state imposing restraints on the free play of individuality while upholding and protecting the rights of individual freedom. Marcuse criticises this approach because the unity imposed by the state remains detached from the real life of the people. The restraint that keeps them from damaging the interests of others operates as an external force, not as something intrinsic to their own life.

This encounter between Marcuse and the liberal paradigm raises two questions: Why must the principle that unifies society become intrinsic to the life of its individual citizens; and how can this be accomplished.

Type
Chapter
Information
The New Hegelians
Politics and Philosophy in the Hegelian School
, pp. 275 - 300
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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