The Actual and the RationalHegel and Objective Spirit

The Actual and the RationalHegel and Objective Spirit

Jean-Francois Kervegan

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780226023809

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book develops a non-metaphysical reading of Hegel’s work, and results from a lifelong investigation on his theory of the “objective spirit”. It entails four parts. The first part demonstrates that the “abstract (i. e. private) law” plays a strategic role in the inner structure of objective spirit; it allows Hegel to overtake the alternative between natural law and history. The second part is dedicated to the "civil society", that means to the probably most inventive part of Hegel’s theory of the objective spirit. It highlights the aporias of the social space, which constitute a negative justification of the political sphere (the State); nevertheless, the State must not be conceived as a mere extension of the civil society. Starting with an analysis of the implicit discussion among Hegel and Tocqueville about the nature of political modernity, the third part investigates Hegel’s criticism of the democracy and his conception of the representation; Hegel’s “liberal constitutionalism” suggests a reappraisal of the paradigm of liberal democracy. The last part shows that Hegel’s doctrine of the objective spirit raises the issue of subjectivity in non-subjectivist terms; it provides the opportunity to reassess in a positive sense the concept of “morality”, as a normative interface between the subject and the institutionalized universe of the “ethical life” (Sittlichkeit). The book ends with a reflection on the “passion of the concept” that lights up the whole philosophy of Hegel.