Apt critique : a modern glance at the Hegelian state
Franklund, Erick Roger
May 7, 2019
In his Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Georg Hegel describes an ideal state from the structure of the government down to the lives of the individuals that comprise the state. Hegel argues that the state is "universal” and that individuals are "particular,” and the two share a positive relationship with one another. The state posits laws and norms that individuals are obliged to follow. When individuals act in accordance with these laws and norms, it not only perpetuates the existence of the state but also benefits the individual. Hegel attempts to show that when individuals act in accordance with the state’s norms, the state grants individuals positive rights. Freedom, Hegel argues, does not exist for individuals outside of the universal state. The Hegelian state is patriarchal, and philosophers began taking a second look at the concept of a "Hegelian” state during and after the Second World War. Critics argue that the Hegelian state and the rhetoric Hegel uses to describe it are too eerily similar Hitler’s Germany. Others argue that Hegel himself wrote the book under censorship merely to please the Kaiser. In this thesis, however, I chose to offer a more modern criticism on the Hegelian state, one that offered critique through a literary lens. Through the use of three "aesthetic texts,” I argue that the patriarchal Hegelian state ought be dismissed because of the structure of the government (monarchy) or because of who Hegel was or the time he was writing in. Instead, I argue that the Hegelian state has troublesome implications for the women and children occupying the state. The literary texts I have chosen depict children’s lives shortly before the First World War in the German Empire. Hegel argues that the state must break children of their animal desires and tendencies, however, I argue through the aesthetic texts that the suppression of budding teenage sexuality and of childhood folly does not create "good” citizens and instead forces children to seek out new outlets to relieve their pent-up frustrations. In other words, a state that demands conformity from all, including young children, will not yield perfect citizens but instead violent machines seeking out any opportunity possible to exert power upon others to relieve suppressed desires.
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