Hegel’s Critique of the Enlightenment

Hinchman, Lewis. Hegel’s Critique of the Enlightenment, Gainsville 1984.


… [I]nternal democracy does not have an intrinsic value for Hegel. He portrays it as an arena for caprice and subjective opinion that, in spite of their relative justification as an expression of subjective freedom, are mainly exercised in deciding trivial matters without much significance for the state as a whole:

The administration of corporate affairs by the corporations’ own directors… will frequently be inept… But we can regard this special sphere as having been left to the moment of formal freedom. Here the individual’s own knowledge, decision, and execution as well as his petty passions and conceits have a playground where they can be given free rein. This is particularly so as the state’s more universal interest in the affairs under consideration decreases and there is less and less reason for concern when these affairs are bungled or handled in a less satisfactory or more laborious fashion. And the state can likewise grant much more latitude here, the more laborious or foolish handling of such trivial affairs bears a direct relationship to the satisfaction and self-esteem which is derived from them.

Given these limitations on internal democracy, one has to ask how the citizens could ever think of the state as more than a vast tutelary power. It could not be lost on them that they are being treated like children, allowed to participate in political affairs only when they are trivial and insignificant…