Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

Marx, Karl.  Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, tr. Joseph O’Malley, Cambridge, 1970.


Hegel: The maintenance of the state’s universal interest, and of legality, in this sphere of particular rights, and the work of bringing these rights back to the universal, require to be superintended by holders of the executive power, by (a) the executive civil servants and (b) the higher advisory officials (who are organised into committees). These converge in their supreme heads who are in direct contact with the monarch.

Marx: Hegel has not developed the executive. But given this, he has not demonstrated that it is anything more than a function, a determination of the citizen in general. By viewing the particular interests of civil society as such, as interests which lie outside the absolutely universal interest of the state, he has only deduced the executive as a particular, separate power…

[…] just as civil society is the battlefield where everyone’s individual private interest meets everyone else’s, so here we have the struggle (a) of private interests against particular matters of common concern and (b) of both of these together against the organisation of the state and its higher outlook. At the same time the corporation mind, engendered when the particular spheres gain their title to rights, is now inwardly converted into the mind of the state, since it finds in the state the means of maintaining its particular ends. This is the secret of the patriotism of the citizens in the sense that they know the state as their substance, because it is the state that maintains their particular spheres of interest together with the title, authority, and welfare of these. In the corporation mind the rooting of the particular in the universal is directly entailed, and for this reason it is in that mind that the depth and strength which the state possesses in sentiment is seated.

This is especially worth noting:

1. because of the definition of civil society as the bellum omnium contra omnes;

2. because private egoism is revealed to be the secret of the patriotism of the citizens and the depth and strength which the state possesses in sentiment;

3. because the ‘burgher’, the man of particular interest as opposed to the universal, the member of civil society, is considered to be a fixed individual whereas the state likewise in fixed individuals opposes the ‘burghers’.

One would suppose that Hegel would have to define ‘civil society’ as well as the ‘family’ as a determination of each political individual, and so too the later state qualities as equally a determination of the political individual. But with Hegel it is not one and the same individual who develops a new determination of his social essence. It is the essence of the will, which allegedly develops its determinations out of itself. The subsisting, distinct and separated, empirical existences of the state are conceived to be immediate incarnations of one of these determinations.

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