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Analyse the relationship between state and civil society in Hegel’s Philosophie des Rechts

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  1. Introduction
  2. The methodological framework of Hegel's philosophy des Rechts
  3. The concepts of civil society and state
    1. Civil society
    2. The state
  4. The twofold relationship of civil society and state
    1. Civil society: A transition towards the idea of the state
    2. The integration of civil society into the state
  5. Consequences
    1. A theory of social relations
    2. The impact on religion
  6. Critique
  7. Conclusion
  8. Bibliography

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.[8] 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. [...]


[...] Avineri stresses that for Hegel, is the prime duty of the state to further education and learning?.[19] However, even though the principal relationship of men in the realization of the state becomes a political one, family, civil society and church remain active and are regulated by the state.[20] The Integration of Civil Society into the State According to Hegel, family and civil society are necessary moments of the state and therefore remains included in it once it is established. First, Hegel admits that ?because the state is based ( ) on the common readiness of its citizens to defend themselves collectively, all other spheres of life are left to the free decision and choice.?[21] Family and Civil Society are separate from and independent of the State, State and civil society remain distinct, since the state needs some distance to accomplish the complex synthesis of individual and particular interests. [...]

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