Hegel and the History of Communitarianism



oldest of isms, though not in name

several related terms: republicanism, neo-republicanism collectivism, nationalism, provincialism, nativism

as well close associations with organicism, conservatism, cultural relativism,


Fundamental Tenets

 human beings are political animals;

§  one can only be fully human in social relationships

§  identity is socially constituted, inter-subjective meaning

§  individuality, the self-made man, is a hoax because of reality of interdependence

§  morality is a social reality

§  human life is enriched by affective and particularistic human relationships

§  human relationships are properly rooted in history, tradition, custom, habit;

§  they are not wholly rational, contractual, instrumental

§  human groupings presume some special relationships and bonds in which all cannot share;

§  family relations are not friends, or strangers, fellow parishioner, fellow countryman;

§  conception of politics as more than an instrumental or contractual arrangement;

rather a social order sharing a moral consensus, a vision of the good life for the whole, the common good, the public good, the commonwealth; common purposes and common ends

§  human life is enmeshed in numerous relationships, it gives individual life meaning, direction, roles, responsibilities, duties, obligations, all of which may conflict with narrow assessments of self-interest;

§  in the event of such conflicts, the community may warrant priority; ie the community is a relevant unit of moral analysis to which your individual interests may need to be sacrificed

§  individual is a living part of a larger living social whole, hence the common metaphor through much of wpphy of the ‘body politic’

§  rights cannot be placed wholly before the common good



Philosophical v prescriptive communitarianism

intersubjectivity v positive rights


History of Communitarianism







Modern communitarianism

Critical of modernity and liberalism to the extent that both endorse the filtering of all human institutions political and social through the sieve of voluntary individual consent and instrumental calculations of self-interest

May involve a reaction to decay or at least change of basic traditional social institutions, including family, but also traditional hierarchical school, church etc.





Context for Hegel

Enlightenment and French Revolution


 Kant and liberalism

Abstract individual rights, a priori, political autonomy, social contract


 Historical school of jurisprudence

eg Friedrich Karl von Savigny


sought to justify current German law by tracing it back to Roman law

law is organic outgrowth of living community so don't codify or rationalize it




individuality, creativity, genius

intuitive and inspirational

indiv was not self-sufficient, made self-sufficient by immersion in larger social whole


aristocratic and anti-bourgeois


Etching by Johann Michael Voltz, 1823.


 Rise of the Prussian State

The Battle of Jena on October 14, 1806

© Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz
Original: Leipzig, Museum zur Geschichte der Völkerschlacht


after Battle of Jena in which Napoleon defeated Prussia, conservative hold on Prussian institutions was

temporarily broken and more progressive elements began to reform Prussia

an energetic liberal reform movement under Prime minister Baron Karl vom Stein

and others including von Hardenburg, von Humboldt, von Altenstein

they abolished trade barriers between German provinces

broke up guilds

improved roads and canals, and subsequently rail

and advanced a more exclusive notion of private property in law

led by progressive aristocrats and urban middle class against Junkers (the rural landowning aristocracy and feudalism



However, after 1815, the co-called Vormärz period, the German Confederation did not move towards a German national state. Rather, under the conservative Austrian chancellor Clemens von Metternich, it resisted demands for national unity and democratic participation by establishing constitutions that emphasized the monarchical principle.



Hegel's Political Theory

a system of complete interdependence wherein the livelihood, happiness and legal status of one person is interwoven with the livelihood, happiness and rights of all in the given nation-state.



Hegel (1170-1831)




LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01





Others have imposed on Hegel a preoccupation with the ‘Dialectic’ (a’la Fichte and Schelling) though his own understanding of temporal mobility is more fluid:






Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:tumblr_m4iypr5qUt1qcu0j0o1_400.jpg



Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:hegelssystem3aspirit5.jpg




Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:hegel.gif




Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:honneth.gif




Hegel saying Hi

Studying Hegel

Slavoj Zizek on Hegel 1/16