Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right
Karl Marx, 1843
I. THE CONSTITUTION (on its internal side only)
§ 272. The constitution is rational in so far as the state inwardly differentiates and determines its activity in accordance with the nature of the concept. The result of this is that each of these powers is in itself the totality of the constitution, because each contains the other moments and has them effective in itself, and because the moments, being expressions of the differentiation of the concept, simply abide in their ideality and constitute nothing but a single individual whole.
Thus the constitution is rational in so far as its moments can be reduced to abstract logical moments. The state has to differentiate and determine its activity not in accordance with its specific nature, but in accordance with the nature of the Concept, which is the mystified mobile of abstract thought. The reason of the constitution is thus abstract logic and not the concept of the state. In place of the concept of the constitution we get the constitution of the Concept. Thought is not conformed to the nature of the state, but the state to a ready made system of thought.
§ 273. The state as a political entity is thus (how
'thus'?) cleft into three substantive divisions:
(a) the power to determine and establish the universal - the Legislature;
(b) the power to subsume single cases and the spheres of particularity
(c) the power of subjectivity, as the will with the power of ultimate decision the Crown. In the crown, the different powers are bound into an individual unity which is thus at once the apex and basis of the whole, i.e., of constitutional monarchy.
We will return to this division after examining the particulars
of its explanation.
§ 274. Mind is actual only as that which it knows
itself to be, and the state, as the mind of a nation, is both
the law permeating all relationships within the state and also,
at the same time the manners and consciousness of its citizens.
It follows, therefore, that the constitution of any given nation
depends in general on the character and development of its self-consciousness.
In its self-consciousness its subjective freedom is rooted and
so, therefore, is the actuality of its constitution ... Hence
every nation has the constitution appropriate to it and suitable
The only thing that follows from Hegel's reasoning is that a state n which the character and development of self-consciousness and the constitution contradict one another is no real state. That the constitution which was the product of a bygone self-consciousness can become an oppressive fetter for an advanced self-consciousness, etc., etc., are certainly trivialities. However, what would follow is only the demand for a constitution having within itself the characteristic and principle of advancing in step with consciousness, with actual man, which is possible only when man has become the principle of the constitution. Here Hegel is a sophist.
(a) The Crown
§ 275. The power of the crown contains in itself the
three moments of the whole (see 5 :272) viz. [a] the universality
of the constitution and the laws; [b] counsel, which refers
the particular to the universal; and [c] the moment of
ultimate decision, as the self-determination to which everything
else reverts and from which everything else derives the beginning
of its actuality. This absolute self-determination constitutes
the distinctive principle of the power of the crown as such, and
with this principle our exposition is to begin.
All the first part of this paragraph says is that both the universality
of the constitution and the laws and counsel, or the reference
of the particular to the universal, are the crown. The crown
does not stand outside the universality of the constitution and
the laws once the crown is understood to be the crown of the (constitutional)
What Hegel really wants, however, is nothing other than that the
universality of the constitution and the laws is the crown, the
sovereignty of the state. So it is wrong to make the crown the
subject and, inasmuch as the power of the sovereign can also be
understood by the crown, to make it appear as if the sovereign,
were the master and subject of this moment. Let us first turn
to what Hegel declares to be the distinctive principle of the
power of the crown as such, and we find that it is 'the moment
of ultimate decision, as the self-determination to which everything
else reverts and from which everything else derives the beginning
of its actuality', in other words this 'absolute self-determination'.
Here Hegel is really saying that the actual, i.e., individual
will is the power of the crown.
says it this way:
When ... the will gives itself the form of individuality..., this constitutes the resolution of the will, and it is only in so far as it resolves that the will is an actual will at all.
In so far as this moment of ultimate decision or absolute self-determination
is divorced from the universality of content [i.e., the constitution
and laws,] and the particularity of counsel it is actual will
as arbitrary choice [Willkür]. In other words: arbitrary
choice's the power of the crown, or the power of the crown is
§ 276. The fundamental characteristic of the state
as a political entity is the substantial unity, i.e., the ideality,
of its moments. [a] In this unity, the particular powers and their
activities are dissolved and yet retained. They are retained,
however, only in the sense that their authority is no independent
one but only one of the order and breadth determined by the Idea
of the whole; from its might they originate, and they are its
flexible limbs while it is their single self.
Addition: Much the same thing as this ideality of the moments in the state occurs with life in the physical organism.
It is evident that Hegel speaks only of the idea of the particular
powers and their activities. They are to have authority only
of the order and breadth determined by the idea of the whole;
they are to originate from its might. That it should be so lies
in the idea of the organism. But it would have to be shown how
this is to be achieved. For in the state conscious reason must
prevail; [and] substantial, bare internal and therefore bare external
necessity, the accidental entangling of the powers and activities
cannot be presented as something rational.
§ 277. [b] The particular activities and agencies
of the state are its essential moments and therefore are proper
to it. The individual functionaries and agents are attached
to their office not on the strength of their immediate personality,
but only on the strength of their universal and objective qualities.
Hence it is in an external and contingent way that these offices
are linked with particular persons, and therefore the functions
and powers of the state cannot be private property.
It is self-evident that if particular activities and agencies
are designated as activities and agencies of the state, as state
functions and state powers, then they are not private but state
property. That is a tautology.
The activities and agencies of the state are attached to individuals
(the state is only active through individuals), but not to the
individual as physical but political; they are attached to the
political quality of the individual. Hence it is ridiculous to
say, as Hegel does, that 'it is in an external and contingent
way that these offices are linked with particular persons'. On
the contrary, they are linked with them by a vinculum substantiale,
by reason of an essential quality of particular persons.
These offices are the natural action of this essential quality.
Hence the absurdity of Hegel's conceiving the activities and
agencies of the state in the abstract, and particular individuality
in opposition to it. He forgets that particular individuality
is a human individual, and that the activities and agencies of
the state are human activities. He forgets that the nature of
the particular person is not his beard, his blood, his abstract
Physis, but rather his social quality, and that the activities
of the state, etc., are nothing but the modes of existence and
operation of the social qualities of men. Thus it is evident
that individuals, in so far as they are the bearers of the state's
activities and powers, are to be considered according to their
social and not their private quality.
§ 278. These two points [a] and [b] constitute the
sovereignty of the state. That is to say, sovereignty depends
on the fact that the particular functions and powers of the state
are not self-subsistent or firmly grounded either on their own
account or in the particular will of the individual functionaries,
but have their roots ultimately in the unity of the state as their
Remark to § 278.: Despotism means any state of affairs where law has disappeared and where the particular will as such, whether of a monarch or a mob ... counts as law, or rather takes the place of law; while it is precisely in legal, constitutional government that sovereignty is to be found as the moment of ideality - the ideality of the particular spheres and functions. That is to say, sovereignty brings it about that each of these spheres is not something independent, self-subsistent in its aims and modes of working, something immersed solely in itself, but that instead, even in these aims and modes of working, each is determined by and dependent on the aim of the whole (the aim which has been denominated in general terms by the rather vague expression 'welfare of the state').
This ideality manifests itself in a twofold way:
(i) In times of peace, the particular spheres and functions pursue the path of satisfying their particular aims and minding their own business, and it is in part only by way of the unconscious necessity of the thing that their self-seeking is turned into a contribution to reciprocal support and to the support of the whole ... In part, however, it is by the direct influence of higher authority that they are not only continually brought back to the aims of the whole and restricted accordingly .... but are also constrained to perform direct services for the support of the whole.
(ii) In a situation of exigency, however, whether in home or foreign
affairs, the organism of which these particular spheres are members
fuses into the single concept of sovereignty. The sovereign is
entrusted with the salvation of the state at the sacrifice of
these particular authorities whose powers are valid at other times,
and it is then that that ideality comes into its proper actuality.
Thus this ideality is not developed into a comprehended, rational
system. In times of peace it appears either as merely an external
constraint effected by the ruling power on private life through
direct influence of higher authority, or a blind uncomprehended
result of self-seeking. This ideality has its proper actuality
only in the state's situation of war or exigency, such that here
its essence is expressed as the actual, existent state's situation
of war and exigency, while its 'peaceful' situation is precisely
the war and exigency of self-seeking.
Accordingly, sovereignty, the ideality of the state, exists merely
as internal necessity, as idea. And Hegel is satisfied with that
because it is a question merely of the idea. Sovereignty thus
exists on the one hand only as unconscious, blind substance.
We will become equally well acquainted with its other actuality.
§ 279. Sovereignty, at first simply the universal
thought of this ideality, comes into existence only
as subjectivity sure of itself, as the will's abstract and to
that extent ungrounded self-determination in which finality of
decision is rooted. This is the strictly individual aspect of
the state, and in virtue of this alone is the state one. The
truth of subjectivity, however, is attained only in a subject,
and the truth of personality only in a person; and in a constitution
which has become mature as a realisation of rationality, each
of the three moments of the concept has its explicitly actual
and separate formation. Hence this absolutely decisive moment
of the whole is not individuality in general, but a single individual,
1. Sovereignty, at first simply the universal thought of
this ideality, comes into existence only as subjectivity sure
of itself.. The truth of subjectivity is attained only in a subject,
and the truth of personality only in a person. In a constitution
which has become mature as a realisation of rationality, each
of the three moments of the concept has ... explicitly actual
and separate formation.
2. Sovereignty comes into existence only ... as the will's
abstract and to that extent ungrounded self-determination in which
finality of decision is rooted. This is the strictly individual
aspect of the state, and in virtue of this alone is the state
one ... (and in a constitution which has become mature as a realisation
of rationality, each of the three moments of the concept has its
explicitly actual and separate formation). Hence this absolutely
decisive moment of the whole is not individuality in general,
but a single individual, the monarch.
The first sentence says only that the universal thought of this
ideality, whose sorry existence we have just seen, would have
to be the self-conscious work of subjects and, as such, exist
for and in them.
Had Hegel started with the real subjects as the bases of the state
it would not have been necessary for him to let the state become
subjectified in a mystical way. 'However, the truth of subjectivity',
says Hegel, 'is attained only in a subject, and the truth of personality
only in a person.' This too is a mystification. Subjectivity
is a characteristic of subjects and personality a characteristic
of the person. Instead of considering them to be predicates of
their subjects, Hegel makes the predicates independent and then
lets them be subsequently and mysteriously converted into their
The existence of the predicate is the subject; thus the subject
is the existence of subjectivity, etc. Hegel makes the predicates,
the object independent, but independent as separated from their
real independence, their subject. Subsequently, and because of
this, the real subject appears to be the result; whereas one has
to start from the real subject and examine its objectification.
The mystical substance becomes the real subject and the real
subject appears to be something else, namely a moment of the mystical
substance. Precisely because Hegel starts from the predicates
of universal determination instead of from the real Ens
(hypokimenou, subject), and because there must be a bearer
of this determination, the mystical idea becomes this bearer.
This is the dualism: Hegel does not consider the universal to
be the actual essence of the actual, finite thing, i.e. of the
existing determinate thing, nor the real Ens to be the
true subject of the infinite.
Accordingly, sovereignty, the essence of the state, is here first conceived to be an independent being; it is objectified. Then, of course, this object must again become subject. However the subject then appears to be a self-incarnation of sovereignty, which is nothing but the objectified spirit of the state's subjects.
This basic defect of the development aside, let us consider the first sentence of the paragraph. As it stands it says nothing more than that sovereignty, the ideality of the state as person, as subject, exists evidently as many persons, many subjects, since no single person absorbs in himself the sphere of personality, nor any single subject the sphere of subjectivity. What kind of ideality of the state would it have to be which, instead of being the actual self-consciousness of the citizens and the communal soul of the state, were one person, one subject [?] Nor has Hegel developed any more with this sentence. But consider
now the second sentence which is joined with this one. What is important to Hegel is representing the monarch as the actual, 'God-man', the actual incarnation of the Idea.
§ 279. Sovereignty ... comes into
existence only ... as the will's abstract and
to that extent ungrounded self-determination in which finality
of decision is rooted. This is the strictly individual aspect
of the state, and in virtue of this alone is the state one...
In a constitution which has become mature as a realisation of
rationality, each of the three moments of the concept has its
explicitly actual and separate formation. Hence this absolutely
decisive moment of the whole is not individuality in general,
but a single individual, the monarch.
We previously called attention to this sentence. The moment of
deciding, of arbitrary yet determinate decision is the sovereign
power of will in general. The idea of sovereign power, as Hegel
develops it, is nothing other than the idea of the arbitrary,
of the will's decision.
But even while conceiving of sovereignty as the ideality of the
state, the actual determination of the part through the idea of
the whole, Hegel now makes it 'the will's abstract and to that
extent ungrounded self-determination in which finality of decision
is rooted. This is the strictly individual aspect of the state'.
Before, the discussion was about subjectivity, now it's about
individuality. The state as sovereign must be one, one individual,
it must possess individuality. The state is one not stay in this
individuality; individuality is only the natural moment of its
oneness, the state's determination as nature [Naturbestimmung].
'Hence this absolutely decisive moment of the whole is not individuality
in general, but a single individual, the monarch.' How
so? Because 'each of the three moments of the concept has its
explicitly actual and separate formation'. One moment of the
concept is oneness, or unity; alone this is not yet one individual.
And what kind of constitution would it have to be in which universality,
particularity, and unity each had its explicitly actual and separate
formation? Because it is altogether a question of no abstraction
but of the state, of society, Hegel's classification can be accepted.
What follows from that? The citizen as determining the universal
is lawgiver, and as the one deciding, as actually willing, is
sovereign. Is that supposed to mean that the individuality of
the state's will is one individual, a particular individual distinct
from all others? Universality too, legislation, has an explicitly
actual and separate formation. Could one conclude from that that
legislation is these particular individuals[?]
The Common Man:
2. The monarch has the sovereign power, or sovereignty.
3. Sovereignty does what it wills.
2. The sovereignty of the state is the monarch.
3. Sovereignty is 'the will's abstract and to that extent ungrounded self-determination in which finality of decision is rooted'.
Hegel makes all the attributes of the contemporary European constitutional
monarch into absolute self-determinations of the will. He does
not say the will of the monarch is the final decision, but rather
the final decision of the will is the monarch. The first statement
is empirical, the second twists the empirical fact into a metaphysical
axiom. Hegel joins together the two subjects, sovereignty as
subjectivity sure of itself and sovereignty as ungrounded self-determination
of the will, as the individual Will, in order to construct out
of that the Idea as 'one individual'.
It is evident that self-assured subjectivity also must actually
will, must will as unity, as an individual. But who ever doubted
that the state acts through individuals? If Hegel wanted to develop
the idea that the state must have one individual as representative
of its individual oneness, then he did not establish the monarch
as this individual. The only positive result of this paragraph
is that in the state the monarch is the moment of individual will,
of ungrounded self-determination, of caprice or arbitrariness.
Hegel's Remark to this paragraph is so peculiar that we must examine
Remark to § 279. The immanent development of a science,
the derivation of its entire content from the concept in its simplicity
... exhibits this peculiarity, that one and the
same concept - the will in this instance - which begins by being abstract
(because it is at the beginning), maintains its identity even
while it consolidates its specific determinations, and that too
solely by its own activity, and in this way gains a concrete content.
Hence it is the basic moment of personality, abstract at the
start in immediate rights, which has matured itself through its
various forms of subjectivity, and now - at the stage of absolute
rights, of the state, of the completely concrete objectivity of
the will - has become the personality of the state, its certainty
of itself. This last reabsorbs all particularity into its single
self, cuts short the weighing of pros and cons between which it
lets itself oscillate perpetually now this way and now that, and
by saying 'I will', makes its decision and so inaugurates all
activity and actuality.
To begin with it is not a peculiarity of science that the fundamental
concept of the thing always reappears.
But also no advance has then taken place. Abstract personality
was the subject of abstract right; there has been no progress,
because as personality of the state it remains abstract personality.
Hegel should not have been surprised at the real person - and persons
make the state - reappearing everywhere as his essence. He should
have been surprised at the reverse, and yet still more at the
person as personality of the state reappearing in the same impoverished
abstraction as does the person of private right.
Hegel here defines the monarch as the personality of the state, its certainty of itself. The monarch is personified sovereignty, sovereignty become man, incarnate state - [or political - ] consciousness, whereby all other persons are thus excluded from this sovereignty, from personality, and from state - [or political - ] consciousness. At the same time however Hegel can give this 'Souverainété - Personne' no more content than 'I will', the moment of arbitrariness in the will. The state-reason and state-consciousness is a unique empirical person to the exclusion of all others, but this personified Reason has no content except the abstract on, 'I will'. L'Etat c'est moi.
Further, however, personality like subjectivity in general, as infinitely self-related, has its truth (to be precise, its most elementary, immediate truth) only in a person, in a subject existing 'for' himself, and what exists 'for' itself is just simply a unit.
It is obvious that personality and subjectivity, being only predicates of the person and the subject, exist only as person and subject; and indeed that the person is one. But Hegel needed to go further, for clearly the one has truth only as many one's. The predicate, the essence, never exhausts the spheres of its existence in a single one but in many one's.
Instead of this Hegel concludes: 'The personality of the state
is actual only as one person, the monarch.'
Thus, because subjectivity is actual only as subject, and the
subject actual only as one, the personality of the state is actual
only as one person. A beautiful conclusion. Hegel could just
as well conclude that because the individual man is one the human
species is only a single man.
Personality expresses the concept as such; but at the same time
the person enshrines the actuality of the concept, and only when
the concept is determined as a person is it the Idea or truth.
To be sure, personality is merely an abstraction without the person,
but only in its species-existence as persons is person the actual
idea of personality.
A so-called 'artificial [moralische] person', be it a society,
a community, or a family, however inherently concrete it may be,
contains personality only abstractly, as one moment of itself
In an 'artificial person', personality has not yet achieved its
true mode of existence. The state, however, is precisely this
totality in which the moments of the concept have attained the
actuality correspondent to their degree of truth.
A great confusion prevails here. The artificial person, society,
etc., is called abstract, precisely those species-forms [Gattutigsgestaltungen]
in which the actual person brings his actual content to existence,
objectifies himself, and leaves behind the abstraction of 'person
quand même'. Instead of recognising this actualisation
of the person as the most concrete thing, the state is to have
the priority in order that the moments of the concept, individuality,
attain a mystical existence. Rationality does not consist in
the reason of the actual person achieving actuality, but in the
moments of the abstract concept achieving it.
The concept of the monarch is therefore of all concepts the hardest
for ratiocination, i.e., for the method of reflection employed
by the Understanding. This method refuses to move beyond isolated
categories and hence here again knows only raisonnenient, finite
points of view, and deductive argumentation. Consequently it
exhibits the dignity of the monarch as something deduced, not
only in its form but in its essence. The truth is, however, that
to be something not deduced but purely self-originating is precisely
the concept of monarchy. Akin then to this reasoning (to
be sure!) is the idea of treating the monarch's right
as grounded in the authority of God, since it is in its divinity
that its unconditional character is contained. [Remark to § 279]
In a certain sense every inevitable existent is purely self-originating;
in this respect the monarch's louse as well as the monarch. Hegel,
in saying that, has not said something special about the monarch.
But should something specifically distinct from all other objects
of science and of the philosophy of right be said about the monarch,
then this would be real foolishness, correct only in so far as
the 'one Person-idea' is something derived only from the
imagination and not the intellect.
We may speak of the 'sovereignty of the people' in the sense that
any people whatever is self-subsistent vis-a-vis other
peoples, and constitutes a state of its own, etc. [Remark to § 279]
That is a triviality. If the sovereign is the actual sovereignty
of the state then the sovereign could necessarily be considered vis-a-vis others as a self-subsistent state, even without the people. But he is sovereign in so far as he represents the unity of the people, and thus he is himself merely a representative, a symbol of the sovereignty of the people. The sovereignty of the people is not due to him but on the contrary he is due to it.
We may also speak of sovereignty in home affairs residing in the people, provided that we are speaking generally about the whole state and meaning only what was shown above (see §§ 277-8), namely that it is to the state that sovereignty belongs.
As though the people [das Volk] were not the real state.
The state is an abstraction; the people alone is the concrete.
And it is noteworthy that Hegel, who without hesitation ascribes
living qualities to the abstraction, ascribes a living quality
like that of sovereignty to the concrete [ - i.e. to the people
- ] only with hesitation and conditions.
The usual sense, however, in which men have recently begun to
speak of the sovereignty of the people is that it is something
opposed to the sovereignty existent in the monarch. So opposed
to the sovereignty of the monarch, the sovereignty of the people
is one of the confused notions based on the wild idea of the 'people'.
The confused notions and the wild idea are only here on Hegel's
pages. Certainly if sovereignty exists in the monarch then it
is foolishness to speak of an opposed sovereignty in the people,
for it lies in the concept of sovereignty that it can have no
double and absolutely opposed existence. But:
1. the question is exactly: Is not the sovereignty existent in
the monarch an 1 illusion? Sovereignty of the monarch or sovereignty
of the people, that is the question;
2. a sovereignty of the people in opposition to that existent
in the monarch can also be spoken of. But then it is not a question
of one and the same sovereignty taking form on two sides but rather
of two completely opposed concepts of sovereignty, one such that
it can come to existence in a monarch, the other such that it
can come to existence only in a people. This is like asking,
is God the sovereign or is man? One of the two is a fiction [eine
Unwarheit] even though an existing fiction.
Taken without its monarch and the articulation of the whole which
is the indispensable and direct concomitant of monarchy, the people
is a formless mass and no longer a state. It lacks every one
of those determinate characteristics - sovereignty, government,
judges, magistrates, class-divisions [Stände], etc., - which
are to be found only in a whole which is inwardly organised.
By the very emergence into a people's life of moments of this
kind which have a bearing on an organisation, on political life,
a people ceases to be that indeterminate abstraction which, when
represented in a quite general way, is called the 'people'.
This whole thing is a tautology. If a people has a monarch and
an articulation which is its indispensable and direct concomitant,
i.e., if it is articulated as a monarchy, then extracted from
this articulation it is certainly a formless mass and a quite
If by 'sovereignty of the people' is understood a republican form
of government, or to speak more specifically ...
a democratic form, then... 1 such a notion cannot be further discussed
in face of the Idea of the state in its full development.
That is certainly correct if one has only such a notion and no
developed idea of democracy.
Democracy is the truth of monarchy, monarchy is not the truth
of democracy. Monarchy is necessarily democracy in contradiction
with itself, whereas the monarchial moment is no contradiction
within democracy. Monarchy cannot, while democracy can be understood
in terms of itself In democracy none of the moments obtains a
significance other than what befits it. Each is really only a
moment of the whole Demos. In monarchy one part determines
the character of the whole; the entire constitution must be modified
according to the immutable head. Democracy is the generic constitution;
monarchy is a species, and indeed a poor one. Democracy is content
and form; monarchy should be only form, but it adulterates
In monarchy the whole, the people, is subsumed under one of its
modes of existence,. the political constitution; in democracy
the constitution itself appears only as one determination, and
indeed as the self-determination of the people. In monarchy we
have the people of the constitution, in democracy the constitution
of the people. Democracy is the resolved mystery of all constitutions.
Here the constitution not only in itself, according to essence,
but according to existence and actuality is returned to its real
ground, actual man, the actual people, and established as its
own work. The constitution appears as what it is, the free product
of men. One could say that this also applies in a certain respect
to constitutional monarchy; only the specific difference of democracy
is that here the constitution is in general only one moment of
the people's existence, that is to say the political constitution
does not form the state for itself.
Hegel proceeds from the state and makes man into the subjectified
state; democracy starts with man and makes the state objectified
man. just as it is not religion that creates man but man who creates
religion, so it is not the constitution that creates the people
but the people which creates the constitution. In a certain respect
democracy is to all other forms of the state what Christianity
is to all other religions. Christianity is the religion kat
exohin, the essence of religion, deified man under the form
of a particular religion. In the same way democracy is the essence
of every political constitution, socialised man under the form
of a particular constitution of the state. It stands related
to other constitutions as the genus to its species; only here
the genus itself appears as an existent, and therefore opposed
as a particular species to those existents which do not conform
to the essence. Democracy relates to all other forms of the state
as their Old Testament. Man does not exist because of the law
but rather the law exists for the good of man. Democracy is human
existence, while in the other political forms man has only
legal existence. That is the fundamental difference of
All remaining forms of the state are certain, determined, particular
forms of the state. In democracy the formal principle is simultaneously
the material principle. For that reason it is the first true
unity of the universal and the particular. In monarchy for example,
or in the republic as merely a particular form of the state, political
man has his particular and separate existence beside the unpolitical,
private man. Property, contract, marriage, civil society appear
here (just as Hegel quite rightly develops them for abstract forms
of the state, except that he means to develop the Idea of the
state) as particular modes of existence alongside the political
state; that is, they appear as the content to which the political
state relates as organising form, or really only as the determining,
limiting intelligence which says now 'yes' now 'no' without any
content of its own. In democracy the political state, as placed
alongside this content and differentiated from it, is itself merely
a particular content, like a particular form of existence of the
people. In monarchy, for example, this particular entity, the
political constitution, has the meaning of the universal which
governs and determines all the particulars. In democracy the
state as particular is only particular, and as universal it is
the real universal, i.e., it is nothing definite in distinction
from the other content. The modem French have conceived it thus:
In true democracy the political state disappears [der
politische Staat untergehe]. This is correct inasmuch
as qua political state, qua constitution it is no longer
equivalent to the whole.
In all states distinct from democracy the state, the law, the
constitution is dominant without really governing, that is, materially
permeating the content of the remaining non-political spheres.
In democracy the constitution, the law, the state, so far as
it is political constitution, is itself only a self-determination
of the people, and a determinate content of the people.
Furthermore it is evident that all forms of the state have democracy
for their truth, and for that reason are false to the extent that
they are not democracy.
In the ancient state the political state shaped the content of
the state, with the other spheres being excluded; the modem state
is an accommodation between the political and the non-political
In democracy the abstract state has ceased to be the governing
moment. The struggle between monarchy and republic is itself
still a struggle within the abstract form of the state. The political
republic [ - that is, the republic merely as political constitution - ]
is democracy within the abstract form of the state. Hence the
abstract state-form of democracy is the republic; but here [in
true democracy] it ceases to be mere political constitution.
Property, etc., in brief the entire content of law and the state
is, with small modification, the same in North America as in Prussia.
There, accordingly, the republic is a mere state form just as
the monarchy is here. The content of the state lies outside these
constitutions. Hence Hegel is right when he says that the political
state is the constitution, i.e., that the material state is not
political. Merely an external identity, a mutual determination,
obtains here. It was most difficult to form the political state,
the constitution, out of the various moments of the life of the
people. It was developed as the universal reason in opposition
to the other spheres i.e., as something opposed to them. The
historical task then consisted in their revindication. But the
particular spheres, in doing that, are not conscious of the fact
that their private essence declines in relation to the opposite
essence of the constitution, or political state, and that its
opposite existence is nothing but the affirmation of their own
alienation. The political constitution was until now the religious
sphere, the religion of popular life, the heaven of its universality
in opposition to the earthly existence of its actuality. The
political sphere was the sole sphere of the state within the state,
the sole sphere in which the content, like the form, was species-content,
the true universal, but at the same time in such a way that, because
this sphere opposed the others, its content also became formal
and particular. Political life in the modern sense is the Scholasticism
of popular life. Monarchy is the fullest expression of this alienation.
The republic is the negation of this alienation within its own
sphere. It is obvious that the political constitution as such
is perfected for the first time when the private spheres have
attained independent existence. Where commerce and property in
land are not free, not yet autonomous, there is also not yet the
political constitution. The Middle Ages was the democracy of
The abstraction of the state as such belongs only to modern times
because the abstraction of private life belongs only to modern
times. The abstraction of the political state is a modern product.
In the Middle Ages there was serf, feudal property, trade corporation,
corporation of scholars, etc., that is, in the Middle Ages property,
trade, society, man was political; the material content of the
state was fixed by reason of its form; every private sphere had
a political character or was a political sphere, or again, politics
was also the character of the private spheres. In the Middle
Ages the political constitution was the constitution of private
property, but only because the constitution of private property
was a political one. In the Middle Ages popular life and state
[i.e., political] life were identical. Man was the actual principle
of the state, but he was unfree man. It was therefore the democracy
of unfreedom, accomplished alienation. The abstract, reflected
opposition [between popular life and state-, or political-life]
belong only to modern times. The Middle Ages was the real dualism;
modern times is the abstract dualism.
At the stage at which constitutions are divided, as above mentioned,
into democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy, the point of view taken
is that of a still substantial unity, abiding in itself, without
having yet embarked on its infinite differentiation and the plumbing
of its own depths. At that stage, the moment of the filial, self-determining
decision of the will does not come on the scene explicitly in
its owl) proper actuality as an organic moment immanent in the
state. [Remark to § 279]
In immediate monarchy, democracy, aristocracy there is yet no
political constitution in distinction from the actual material
state or from the remaining content of popular life. The political
state does not yet appear as the form of the material state.
Either, as in Greece, the res publica was the real private
concern, the real content of the citizens and the private man
was slave, that is, the political state as political was the true
and sole content of the citizen's life and will; or, as in Asiatic
despotism, the political state was nothing but the private will
of a single individual, and the political state, like the material
state, was slave. What distinguishes the modern state from these
states in which a substantial unity between people and state obtained
is not that the various moments of the constitution are formed
into particular actuality, as Hegel would have it, but rather
that the constitution itself has been formed into a particular
actuality alongside the real life of the people, the political
state has become the constitution of the rest of the state.
§ 280. This ultimate self in which the will of the
state is concentrated is, when thus taken in abstraction, a single
self and therefore is immediate individuality. Hence its
natural character is implied in its very conception. The monarch,
therefore, is essentially characterised as this individual,
in abstraction from all his other characteristics, and this
individual is raised to the dignity of monarchy in an immediate,
natural fashion, i.e., through his birth in the course of nature.
We have already heard that subjectivity is subject and that the
subject is necessarily an empirical individual, a one. Now
we are told that the concept of naturality, of corporeality, is
implied in the concept of immediate individuality. Hegel has
proven nothing but what is self-evident, namely, that subjectivity
exists only as a corporeal individual, and what is obvious, namely,
that natural birth appertains to the corporeal individual.
Hegel thinks he has proven that the subjectivity of the state,
sovereignty, the monarch, is 'essentially characterised as this
individual, in abstraction from all his other characteristics,
and this individual is raised to the dignity of monarch in an
immediate, natural fashion, i.e., through his birth in the course
of nature'. Sovereignty, monarchial dignity, would thus be born.
The body of the monarch determines his dignity. Thus
at the highest point of the state bare Physis rather than
reason would be the determining factor. Birth would determine
the quality of the monarch as it determines the quality of cattle.
Hegel has demonstrated that the monarch must be born, which no
one questions, but not that birth makes one a monarch.
That man becomes monarch by birth can as little be made into a
metaphysical truth as can the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
The latter notion, a fact of consciousness, just as well as the
empirical fact of the birth of man to the monarchy, can be understood
as rooted in human illusion and conditions.
In the Remark, which we examine more closely, Hegel takes pleasure
in having demonstrated the irrational to be absolutely rational.
This transition of the concept of pure self-determination into
the immediacy of' being and so into the realm of nature is of
a purely speculative character, and apprehension of it therefore
belongs to logic.
Indeed it is purely speculative. But what is purely speculative
is not the transition from pure self-determination, from an abstraction,
to pure naturality (to the contingency of birth), to the other
extreme, car les extrêmes se touchent. What
is speculative is that this is called a 'transition of the concept',
and that absolute contradiction is presented as identity, and
ultimate inconsistency presented as consistency.
This can be considered as Hegel's positive acknowledgment: with
the hereditary monarch in the place of self-determining reason,
abstract natural determinacy appears not as what it is, not as
natural determinacy, but as the highest determination of the state;
this is the positive point at which the monarchy can no longer
preserve the appearance of being the organisation of the rational
Moreover, this transition is on the whole the same (?)
as that familiar to us in the nature of willing in general, and
there the process is to translate something from subjectivity
(i.e., some purpose held before the mind) into existence.
... But the proper form of the Idea and of the transition
here under consideration is the immediate conversion of the pure
self-determination of the will (i.e., of the simple concept itself)
into a single and natural existent without the mediation of a
particular content (like a purpose in the case of action). [Remark to § 280]
Hegel says that the conversion of the sovereignty of the state
(of a self-determination of the will) into the body of the born
monarch (into existence) is on the whole the transition
of the content in general, which the will makes in order to actualise
an end which is thought of, that is, to translate it into an existent.
But Hegel says 'on the whole'. And the proper difference which
he specifies [ - namely, immediate conversion of the pure self-determination
of the will into a single and natural existent without the mediation
of a particular content - ] is so proper that it eliminates all
analogy and puts magic in the place of the 'nature of willing
First of all, the conversion of the purpose held before the mind
into the existent is here immediate, magical. Second, the subject
here is the pure self-determination of the will, the simple concept
itself; it is the essence of will which, as a mystical subject,
decides. It is no real, individual, conscious will; it is the
abstraction of the will which changes into a natural existent;
it is the pure Idea which embodies itself as one individual.
Third, since the actualisation of the volition in a natural existent
takes place immediately, i.e., without a medium - which the will
requires as a rule in order to objectify itself - then even a particular,
determinate end is lacking; no mediation of a particular content,
like a purpose in the case of action, takes place, which is evident
because no actin g subject is present, and the abstraction, the
pure idea of will, in order to act must act mystically. Now an
end which is not particular is no end, and an act without an end
is an endless, senseless act. Thus this whole parallel with the
teleological act of the will shows itself finally to be a mystification,
an empty action of the Idea. In fact, the medium here is the absolute
will and the word of the philosopher; the particular end is the
end of the philosophising subject, namely, constructing the hereditary
monarch out of the pure Idea; and the actualisation of the end
is Hegel's simple affirmation.
In the so-called 'ontological' proof of the existence of God,
we have the same conversion of the absolute concept into existence
(the same mystification),' which conversion has constituted the
depth of the Idea in the modem world, although recently (and
rightly), it has been declared inconceivable.
But since the idea of the monarch is regarded as being quite familiar
to ordinary (i.e., understanding), consciousness, the Understanding
clings here all the more tenaciously to its separation and the
conclusions which its astute ratiocination deduces therefrom.
As a result, it denies that the moment of ultimate decision in
the state is linked implicitly and actually (i.e. in the
rational concept) with the immediate birthright of the monarch.
[Remark to § 280]
It is denied that ultimate decision is a birthright, and Hegel
asserts that the monarch is the ultimate decision through birth.
But who has ever doubted that the ultimate decision in the state
is joined to a real bodily individual and is linked with the immediate
§ 281. Both moments in their undivided unity - (a)
the will's ultimate ungrounded self, and (b) therefore its similarly
ungrounded objective existence (existence being the category which
is at home in nature) - constitute the Idea of something against
which caprice is powerless, the 'majesty' of the monarch. In
this unity lies the actual unity of the state, and it is only
through this, its inward and outward immediacy, that the unity
of the state is saved from the risk of being drawn down into the
sphere of particularity and its caprices, ends and opinions, and
saved too from the war of factions round the throne and from the
enfeeblement and overthrow of the power of the state.
The two moments are [a] the contingency of the will, caprice,
and [b] the contingency of nature, birth; thus, His Majesty: Contingency.
Contingency is thus the actual unity of the state.
The way in which, according to Hegel, an inward and outward immediacy
[of the state] is to be saved from collision, [due to caprice,
factions,] etc., is incredible, since collision is precisely what
it makes possible.
What Hegel asserts of the elective monarch applies even more to
the hereditary monarchy:
In an elective monarchy ... the nature of the relation between
king and people implies that the ultimate decision is left with
the particular will, and hence the constitution becomes a Compact
of Election, i.e., a surrender of the power of the state at the
discretion of the particular will. The result of this is that
the particular offices of state turn into private property, etc.
[Remark to § 281]
§ 282. The right to pardon criminals arises from the
sovereignty of the monarch, since it is this alone which is empowered
to actualise mind's power of making undone what has been done
and wiping out a crime by forgiving and forgetting it.
The right to pardon is the right to exercise clemency, the ultimate
expression of contingent and arbitrary choice. Significantly
this is what Hegel makes the essential attribute of the monarch.
In the Addition to this very paragraph he defines the source
of pardon as 'self-determined [or .groundless] decision' [die
§ 283. The second moment in the power of the crown
is the moment of particularity, or the moment of a determinate
content and its subsumption under the universal. When this acquires
a special objective existence, it becomes the supreme council
and the individuals who compose it. They bring before the monarch
for his decision the content of current affairs of state or the
legal provision required to meet existing needs, together with
their objective aspects, i.e., the grounds on which decision is
to be based, the relative laws, circumstances, etc. The individuals
who discharge these duties are in direct contact with the person
of the monarch and therefore the choice and dismissal alike of
these individuals rest with his unrestricted caprice.
§ 284. It is only for the objective side of
decision, i.e., for knowledge of the problem and the attendant
circumstances, and for the legal and other reasons which determine
its solution, that men are answerable; in other words, it is these
alone which are capable of objective proof. It is for this reason
that these may fall within the province of a council which is
distinct from the personal will of the monarch as such. Hence
it is only councils or their individual members that are made
answerable. The personal majesty of the monarch, on the other
hand, as the final subjectivity of decision, is above all
answerability for acts of government.
Here Hegel describes in a wholly empirical way the ministerial
power as it is usually defined in constitutional states. The
only thing philosophy does with this empirical fact is to make
it the existence and the predicate of the moment of particularity
in the power of the crown.
(The ministers represent the rational objective side of the sovereign
will. Hence also the honor of being answerable falls to
them, while the monarch is compensated with the imaginary coin
of 'Majesty'.) Thus the speculative moment is quite poor. But
then the development is based particularly on wholly empirical
grounds, and indeed very abstract and bad empirical grounds.
Thus, for example, the choice of ministers is placed in the unrestricted
caprice of the monarch because they are in direct contact with
the person of the monarch, i.e., because they are ministers.
In the same way the unrestricted choice of the monarch's personal
servants can be developed out of the absolute Idea.
The basis for the answerability of the ministers is certainly
better: 'It is only for the objective side of decision, i.e.,
for knowledge of the problem and the attendant circumstances,
and for the legal and other reasons which determine its solution,
that men are answerable: in other words, it is these alone which
are capable of objective proof' Evidently 'the final subjectivity
of decision', pure subjectivity, pure caprice, is not objective,
hence also capable of no objective proof nor therefore of responsibility,
once an individual is the blessed, sanctioned existence of caprice.
Hegel's proof is conclusive if the constitutional provisions
are taken as the point of departure; but these provisions themselves
are not proven simply by analysing them, and this is all Hegel
The whole uncritical character of Hegel's philosophy of right
is rooted in this confusion.
§ 285. The third moment in the power of the crown
concerns the absolute universality which subsists subjectively
in the conscience of the monarch and objectively in the whole
of the constitution and the laws. Hence the power of the crown
presupposes the other moments in the state just as it is presupposed
by each of them.
§ 286. The objective guarantee of the power
of the crown, of the hereditary right of succession to the throne,
and so forth, consists in the fact that just as monarchy has its
own actuality in distinction from that of the other rationally
determined moments in the state, so these others explicitly possess
the rights and duties appropriate to their own character. In
the rational organism of the state, each member, by maintaining
itself in its own position, eo ipso maintains the others
Hegel does not see that with this third moment, the 'absolute
universality', he obliterates the first two, or vice versa. 'The
power of the crown presupposes the other moments in the state
just as it is presupposed by each of them.' If this supposition
is taken as real and not mystical, then the crown is established
not through birth but through the other moments, and accordingly
is not hereditary but fluid, i.e., determined by the state and
assigned by turns to individuals of the state in accordance with
the organisation of the other moments. In a rational organism
the head cannot be iron and the body flesh. In order to preserve
themselves the members must be equally of one flesh and blood.
But the hereditary monarch is not equal, he is of other stuff.
Here the prosaic character of the rationalistic will of the other
members of the state faces the magic of nature. Moreover, members
can mutually maintain themselves only in so far as the whole organism
is fluid and each of them is taken up [aufgehoben] in this
fluidity, in so far as no one of them, as in this case the head
of the state, is unmoved and inalterable. Thus by means of this
determination Hegel abolishes sovereignty by birth.
A second point has to do with the question of irresponsibility.
if the prince violates the whole of the constitution, and the
laws, his irresponsibility ceases because his constitutional existence
ceases. But precisely these laws and this constitution make him
irresponsible. Thus they contradict themselves, and this one
stipulation abolishes law and constitution. The constitution
of constitutional monarchy is irresponsibility.
Hegel, however, is content with saying that just as monarchy has
its own actuality in distinction from that of the other rationally
determined moments in the state, so these others explicitly possess
the rights and duties appropriate to their own character. Therefore
he must call the constitution of the Middle Ages an organisation.
Thus Hegel has only a mass of particular spheres united in a
relation of external necessity, and indeed an individual monarch
belongs only to this situation. In a state wherein each determination
exists explicitly, the sovereignty of the state must also be established
as a particular individual.
Résumé of Hegel's development of the Crown
or the Idea of State Sovereignty
The Remark to § 279 says:
We may speak of the sovereignty of the people in the sense that
any people whatever is self-subsistent vis-a-vis other
peoples, and constitutes a state of its own, like the British
people for instance. But the peoples of England, Scotland, or
Ireland, or the peoples of Venice, Genoa, Ceylon, etc. are not
sovereign peoples at all now that they have ceased to have rulers
or supreme governments of their own.
Thus here sovereignty of the people is nationality, and the sovereignty
of the prince is nationality; or in other words the principle
of principality is nationality, which explicitly and exclusively
forms the sovereignty of a people. A people whose sovereignty
consists only in nationality has a monarch. The different
nationality of peoples cannot be better established and expressed
than by means of different monarchs. The cleft between one .absolute
individual and another is the cleft between these nationalities.
The Greeks (and Romans) were national because and in so far as
they were the sovereign people. The Germans are sovereign because
and in so far as they are national. (Vid. p. xxxiv.)
(ad xii) A so-called 'artificial person', the same Remark says
further, be it a society, a community, or a family, however inherently
concrete it may be, contains personality only abstractly, as one
moment of itself In an artificial person', personality has not
achieved its true mode of existence. The state, however, is precisely
this totality in which the moments of the concept have attained
the actuality correspondent to their degree of truth.
This artificial person, society, family, etc., has personality
within it only abstractly; against that, in the monarch, the person
has the state in him.
In fact, the abstract person brings his personality to its real
existence only in the artificial person, society, family, etc.
But Hegel conceives of society, family, etc., the artificial
person in general, not as the realisation of the actual, empirical
person but as the real person which, however, has the moment
of personality in it only abstractly. Whence also comes his notion
that it is not actual persons who come to be a state but the state
which must first come to be an actual person. instead of the state
being brought forth, therefore, as the ultimate reality of the
person, as the ultimate social reality of man, a single empirical
man, an empirical person, is brought forth as the ultimate actuality
of the state. This inversion of subject into object and object
into subject is a consequence of Hegel's wanting to write the
biography of the abstract Substance, of the Idea, with human activity,
etc., having consequently to appear as the activity and result
of something other than man; it is a consequence of Hegel's wanting
to allow the essence of man to act for itself as an imaginary
individual instead of acting in its actual, human existence, and
it necessarily has as its result that an empirical existent is
taken in an uncritical manner to be the real truth of the Idea,
because it is not a question of bringing empirical existence to
its truth but of bringing the truth to empirical existence, and
thereupon the obvious is developed as a real moment of the idea.
(More later concerning this inevitable change of the empirical
into speculation and of speculation into the empirical.)
In this way the impression of something mystical and profound
is also created. That man has been born is quite vulgar, so too
that this existence established through physical birth comes to
be social man, etc., and citizen; man becomes everything that
he becomes through his birth. But it is very profound and striking
that the idea of the state is directly born, that it has brought
itself forth into empirical existence in the birth of the sovereign.
In this way no content is gained, only the form of the old content
altered. It has received a philosophical form, a philosophical
Another consequence of this mystical speculation is that a particular
empirical existent, a single empirical existent in distinction
from the others is conceived to be the existence of the Idea.
It makes once again a deep mystical impression to see a particular
empirical existent established by the Idea, and hence to encounter
at all levels an incarnation of God.
If the modes of man's social existence, as found for example in
the development of family, civil society, state, etc., are regarded
as the actualisation and objectification of man's essence, then
family, civil society, etc., appear as qualities inhering in subjects.
Man then remains what is essential within these realities, while
these then appear as his actualised universality, and hence also
as something common to all men. But if, on the contrary, family,
civil society, state, etc., are determinations of the idea, of
Substance as subject, then they must receive an empirical actuality,
and the mass of men in which the idea of civil society is developed
takes on the identity of citizen of civil society, and that in
which the idea of the state is developed takes on that of citizen
of the state. In this case the sole concern is with allegory,
i.e., with ascribing to any empirical existent the meaning of
actualised Idea; and thus it is evident that these receptacles
have fulfilled their destiny once they have become a determinate
incarnation of a life-moment of the Idea. Consequently the universal
appears everywhere as a determinate particular thing, while the
individual nowhere arrives at his true universality.
At the most profound and speculative level it therefore appears
necessary when the most abstract determinations which in no way
really ripen to true social actuality, the natural bases of the
state like birth (in the case of the prince) or private property
(as in primogeniture), appear to be the highest, immediate Idea-become-man.
It is evident that the true method is turned upside down. What
is most simple is made most complex and vice versa. What should
be the point of departure becomes the mystical result, and what
should be the rational result becomes the mystical point of departure.
If however the prince is the abstract person who has the state in him, then this can only mean that the essence of the state is the abstract private person. It utters its secret only when
at the peak of its development. He is the lone private person in whom the relation of the private person in general to the state is actualised.
The prince's hereditary character results from his concept. He is to be the person who is specified from the entire race of men, who is distinguished from all other persons. But then what is the ultimate fixed difference of one person from all others? The body. And the highest function of the body is sexual activity. Hence the highest constitutional act of the king is his sexual activity, because through this he makes a king and carries on his body. The body of his son is the reproduction of his own body, the creation of a royal body.