Since the 18th century, the contrasted views of the state in the Anglo-Saxon world and in France diverge on the notion of public interest. Both movements of thought frequently oppose the vision of an aggregate of the particular interests of citizens to the general interest of the nation.
Hegel, in 1820, already stressed the difference between a social order governed by self-interest -civil society- and the universal political order of the state. However, he did not see these two forms of society as incompatible, but rather as a logical linking in the human social development through history. This complex relationship is described in Hegel's principles of political philosophy Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts. In his view, these two forms of social system are correlated on two occasions: First, they are part of an evolution in human society, from family to the state. Second, once the state becomes the prevalent social order, it includes and therefore regulates civil society.
Analysing this double relationship implies to dissect both concepts, Civil Society and State, before depicting their twofold rapport, as well as their position in Hegel's system of thought. This will finally lead to a critical evaluation of Hegel's view of the universal state.
So as to understand Hegel's scheme of reflection, however, it is first necessary to point out the method he adopts in his work. Published in 1817, the Encyclopaedia of Political Sciences is a concentration of Hegel's theory. The Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, a developed section of this work, presents the result of his reflection-rather than the process to achieve it- in the field of political philosophy.
[...] In Hegel's view, Civil Society was, for example, an eighteenth-century despotism, under which the citizen, unless he were a civil servant, was conscious of the state, if at all, only as something external to him. He was not a participant in public affairs, but the subject of his prince. His private affairs had no concern with politics and political difficulties did not concern him. However, in a process that will be described later on, this interclass opposition leads to the emergence of a new form of social order: the state. [...]
[...] III The twofold Relationship of Civil Society and State Civil Society: A transition towards the idea of the state Hegel confers a particular importance to history in the achievement of the realization of the human consciousness. In reaction to Kant's preconceived categories of mind, Hegel argues that the spirit is only what he does, his history. He therefore leaves Kantian metaphysics, that limit themselves to defining aims and frameworks of society, and rather looks on the practical implementation of men's objectives in history. [...]
[...] The domination of economic interests of the upper class leads to the pauperization of the lower class; frauds against antitrust laws are common matters Instead of seeing the relationship of civil society and state as a hierarchic one, one could describe it as a permanent tension and negotiation, regarding nowadays' political order. Conclusion Hegel's view of civil society and the state is thus a hierarchic one. First, civil society is a transitory phase towards a free and absolute state. Second, it becomes part of state as the latter realizes itself and is subordinated to it. [...]
[...] three circles: The one of Logic, that of Nature and the Philosophie des Objektiven Geistes. The Philosophy of Right is situated in the third circle of Hegel's philosophy and is officially entitled Philosophy of Right, Natural Law and Political Science”. Hegel places spirit above nature: criticizing Kant's rationalism as well as British empiricism, he seeks to combine both methods to achieve a balanced theory of human evolution. He therefore elaborates the view of idealism. In fact, he argues that a change in the idea of a sphere of life has an impact on reality. For him, these changes occur in a dialectic movement. [...]
[...] If one proceeds with Hegel's historical methodology, one should admit that the conception of the universal state has strongly varied since his time, and particularly in the last 100 years. In the view of the two World Wars, the universality of the state has been called into question. Some political theorists rather argue in favour of a form of state confining oneself to what Hegel called Civil Society. This accentuates the so-called and caricatured French v Anglo-Saxon theories of state. [...]
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