The EUC student academic journal (ESAJ) is an academic journal led by students of Erasmus University College in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The journal features papers written by students of the Liberal Arts & Sciences program, to whom it provides the opportunity to make papers written during the academic year available to a wider public.

The first edition of the EUC student academic journal was published in December 2019, and contains contributions from the previous academic year. In this issue there are contributions from the Humanities, Social Sciences and Life Sciences departments.

1st issue, academic year 2018/2019


About this issue

What to expect

Sister Insider: Holding space for Black women’s anger

Interpreting Montesquieu’s views on the separation of state powers in the context of federal plea agreements in the United States

The Evolution of Beauty Standards as Expressed by Miss Universe Contestants

Nazi Aesthetics: Perceptible Affect in the Third Reich

Memorias del Subdesarrollo: A Critical Review

A Critical Reflection: Hegel and the Concept of the Modern State

The Promise of Cosmopolitanism and the Potential for Resistance in the Global Network Society

Sex, Drugs and Dieting:
Deviance in the Modeling Industry

Demythifying cognitive stereotypes on gender: do women really outshine men at multitasking?

The Visual Language of the Rotterdam Techno Scene

Music as Committed Writing: Exploring Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly

website developed by Philipp Spengler 

A Critical Reflection: Hegel and the Concept of the
Modern State 

This paper returns to Hegel’s conception of the organic modern state in order to investigate whether or not this notion of the state still applies today. The opening section discusses Hegel’s metaphysics, indicating that the latter are intrinsically interwoven with, and at the same time critically responding to, the metaphysics of Hobbes and Kant. Unlike the latter two, Hegel’s metaphysics is one of immanence and not of transcendence. This purported immanence is crucial to Hegel’s conception of the state and the dialectical progression thereof. The middle section of the paper traces the dialectical formation of the state; both as the synthesis between actuality and reason, as well as the state as the universal synthesis between family and the civil society. After this formal description of the modern state, a chapter devoted to the critique of Hegel’s state will be presented. Most notably, Schmitt and Arendt contest Hegel’s a-subjective progression of history − through the Geist − and his dismissal of political action, in favor of decisionism. Theodor Adorno criticizes Hegel’s positivism and the very existence of the Absolute. In so doing, Adorno stresses the importance of an unresolved dialectic that is not based on identity, but rather on non-identity. As such, the dialectical progression of the Geist towards the Absolute is never linear. The conclusion synthesizes the arguments implicated by the various chapters, finding that the Hegelian modern state does not exist, but that the significance of Hegel’s work, in light of its critique, should not be dismissed.


Hegel is a notoriously difficult writer and philosopher. Yet, his influence on German idealism and continental philosophy is remarkable. Schopenhauer’s philosophy of the ‘Will’ was a direct reaction to Hegel’s pure rationality, Marx’s materialism a critique of Hegel’s idealism and Adorno’s negative dialectics a reversal of Hegel’s dialectical method. Peter Singer put it aptly “Hegel took history seriously” (Singer, 1983, p.1). Hegel proposed that the human condition could change as history progressed, it was moving somewhere. This progression of history followed a dialectical process, of contradiction and creation, guided by the ‘ideas of men’ (Sprinzak, 1975, p.401). According to Hegel, the state has an essential role to play in the proliferation of the ‘ideas of men’.
    In this paper I will attempt to indicate precisely the role that the modern state serves in Hegel’s philosophy of rights. Furthermore, I wish to investigate whether or not Hegel’s conception of the modern state is still of use today. Is its logic overridden two hundred years after its conception was written down in The Philosophy of Rights? I will start by addressing Hegel’s critical reflection on Hobbes and Kant, which provides the necessary theoretical concepts to discuss Hegel’s metaphysics. Elaborating on Hegel’s metaphysics is crucial, as it is tightly connected to his conceptualization of the modern state. Having discussed the concept of the modern state I draw upon Carl Schmitt, Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno in an attempt to criticize Hegel’s state. Schmitt argues against Hegel’s concept of the state as an organic being. In arguing that an element of decision prior to self-consciousness is elementary, Schmitt distances himself from Hegel’s metaphysics. Arendt, in a similar way to Schmitt, argues that the human creates its own world through action; we are political animals. Theodor Adorno fundamentally criticizes Hegel’s theoretical use of the dialectic as the motor of ‘progress’. Taking into consideration the critical remarks brought forward by Schmitt, Arendt and Adorno, I return to my original question whether or not Hegel’s state is still actual.

The metaphysical foundation

Hegel is, without a shadow of a doubt, a colossal figure in the German idealist tradition that follows from Kant, Fichte and Schopenhauer all the way to Hegel. But his works have had a far wider reach than Germany alone; Hegel was not blind to the world. As such, his work critically responds to, and at the same time draws from a whole selection of philosophers, most notably Hobbes and Kant. In order to come to terms with Hegel’s metaphysics, I must first outline the philosophies of Hobbes and Kant, as well as Hegel’s critique on the two.
    I will argue in a chronological order, which leads me to start with Hobbes and his famous description of the state of nature as a “war of all against all” (Oakeshott, 2000, p.37). This “war” arises from the fact that each man is pursuing his own interest, that of self-preservation, in which the Other is necessarily a competitor (Oakeshott, 2000, p.37). In order to overcome such a chaotic state of nature and secure one’s private end of self-preservation, a state with a sovereign power needs to be created that ensures that the private ends and individual rights of its subjects do not confront one-another. Such a subject would submit himself to an impartial rule through law. In agreeing upon this “contract”, and thereby transmitting one’s natural rights to an outlaw sovereign power – who Hobbes characterized as the mythical figure of the Leviathan − a subject is created submissive to the law of the sovereign (Sedgwick, 2010, p.178). However, following Kant, Hegel contests this notion on the basis of one fundamental problem. Hobbes’ subject, by nature, is only interested in private ends. The contradictory situation will inevitably arise where private ends come into conflict with the state’s ends. Furthermore, the transmission of rights is not based upon free will, but out of necessity. The rights enforced by the sovereign are thus not grounded in consent. Hegel comes to the conclusion that rights cannot be based upon indifference to particularity, since the fundamental aforementioned problem will arise (Sedgwick, 2010, p.178).
    Kant had recognized the problem associated with the Hobbesian indifference to particularity. He therefore stated that to conform oneself to the law, it follows that one should see one’s interest reflected in the latter (Sedgwick, 2010, p.179). Both Kant, and later Hegel, indicate that Hobbes had failed in this regard because he described the nature of man as following only his particular ends. Kant therefore formulated a different conception of the nature of man; that ‘what it [man] wills is impartial law’ (Sedgwick, 2010, p.179). Kant attempted to show that the law is not something purely perceived as an obligation legitimized by the particular needs of men, but in fact the opposite, that through reason the subject himself can forego his private interest in favor of the law (Sedgwick, 2010, p.180).
    Central to this claim is Kant’s insistence on a reasonable subject; ‘sapere aude’. His epistemological theory indicates why. The ‘Ding an Sich’ (Thing-in-itself), which describes the existence of mind-independent objects, is presupposed in Kant´s epistemological theory. However, Kant’s epistemic modesty forces him to crucially assert that we cannot know the ‘a priori’ (Hogan, 2009, p.49). In spite of this, Kant still proposed what he called a ‘synthetic a priori’, on which he expands in the theory of transcendental deduction (Scruton, 2003, p.54). The ‘a priori’ is transcendental and therefore necessarily mind-independent, our experiences of the ‘a priori’ are accordingly always mind-invested (Hogan, 2009, p.49). This fundamental logic is stated in his theory of apperception, which holds that our objective representations, or deductions, of the world are thus necessarily tainted by our subjective position in it (Sedgwick, 2010, p.181; Scruton, 2003, p.46). According to Kant, we need to distance ourselves, as much as possible, from the level of sensations and prescribe logical ‘a priori’ categories (Lloyd, 1915, p.374). Space and time are the a priori intuitions from which we can deduce the categories necessary for an objective deduction (Scruton, 2003, p.47). These categories are imperative to indicate that an objective world does exist. For instance, the theory of causality is formulated to indicate that some continuum of time exists beyond our subjective experience (Westphal, 2006, p. 285). Categories are therefore free of any premises and can be used to deduce the highest possible form of knowledge; ‘the synthetic a priori’. Kant thus suggests that we must presuppose a unity between the categories and the empirical subject in order to use pure practical reason, and thus consider our will as free (Sedgwick, 2010, p.181). In presupposing a transcendent subject we can elevate our particular interest and deduce, by and through experience, the transcendent; the categorical imperative (Scruton, 2003, pp.83-85).The famous Kantian moral principle that any reasonable subject can and should deduce states that one should: “Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” (Singer, 1954, p.577)
    Hegel criticizes Kant on precisely this synthesis and his presupposition of a transcendent subject. Hegel states that the categorical imperative is itself external, just like that of Hobbes. Therefore, there exists an original disunity or dualism between the subject and the categories, which can only be bridged by using transcendental deduction or reason (Sedgwick, 2010, p.182). Hegel reverses the Kantian trap. In his theory of the organic unity, the world itself is comprised of the a priori structures that Kant sought to deduce from a transcendental realm; the synthesis is already presupposed (Brinkmann, 2011, p. 56-58). It follows that subjective appearances and the thing in-itself are coextensive, both being of this world (Stovall, 2007, p. 97). Hegel believes that reason and subjectivity (which I shall from now on refer to as ‘the actual’) are not heterogeneous, but rather reciprocally determined (Sedgwick, 2010, p.182). This is where Hegel’s conception of the state becomes crucial.

Hegel and the modern state

Hegel, as I have indicated, distances himself from the idea that some rights or laws are pregiven, for instance natural rights, or the categorical imperative. The concept of immanence – formulated first by Spinoza in his concept of ‘the univocity of being’ − as opposed to transcendence is crucial in this regard. For Hegel, the content of the world is already rational; rationality is immanent to it; we as subjects of a particular actuality only need to comprehend it in a Spinozistic way (Lee, 2017, p. 206). Hegel thinks about history in terms of an immanent encounter between philosophical reason and the historical given. His famous statement that “What is rational is actual; and what is actual is rational” , acts as a summary of this notion (Hegel, 1991, p. 20; Lee, 2017, p. 206). Given this purported immanence, it follows that rights, laws and freedom are only protected and meaningful concepts in a certain social configuration; in their immanent actuality (Sedgwick, 2007, p. 183). Such an immanent actuality arises out of the dialectical historic encounter between reason and actuality.
    The dialectic remains an elementary concept in Hegel’s philosophy. Both as a theoretical tool – as that which indicates two binary opposites ultimately resolved through a synthesis – as well as the motor of history, how Hegel would come to use it in his Philosophy of History. The dialectic follows a threefold pattern: that of abstraction, dialectic and the speculative. Also sometimes referred to as thesis-antithesis-synthesis, or the ‘identity of identity and non-identity’ (Stone, 2014, p.1122).
    The first stage of dialectics is that of abstraction, which tells us that the categories we use in our thinking and in the objective world necessarily imply an abstraction from whatever created it. Hegel uses the concept of being as such an abstraction − everything that is must be. Dialectics arise when these abstract concepts become unstable (as is for instance the case in revolutions) and turn into opposites, being turns into nothingness, so that everything on which we have structured our entities is based on nothing. This is the first dialectical move, the negation of the concepts. Following, the second move is that of negating the negation, i.e. turning nothingness back into being. Hegel infers from this that the two intermediate stages make being and nothingness distinct and interdependent. These two dialectical stages make up for a new overarching structure; the process of becoming. This is the last stage of the traditional dialectic, the speculative, where a new concept is formed that reconciles − Hegel would prefer “synthesizes” − the conflict between the earlier opposites (Stone, 2014, p.1123). Therefore, the becoming is determined by the unity of oppositions of the preceding dialectical movement (Stone, 2014, p.1124).
    According to Hegel, the state is the actualization of an immanent rationality, and therefore the synthesis of a dialectical process. As such there exist a reciprocal relationship between that which is actual and that which is perceived as rational. Rights and laws are, then, historically situated concepts reflecting an actual state of consciousness and certain type of reason (Sedgwick 2007, p.183-184). This is what Hegel described as the Geist (Spirit). The Geist is an immanent logic and “is the self-sufficient standard generated by a community that is engaged in the process of creating, sustaining, challenging, and transforming its norms and judgments over time.” (Farneth, 2015, p.185). Hegel had shown this in his Philosophy of History, in which he traced the various manifestations of rationality in actuality. For example, the Greek Polis had provided great public freedom, but no civic rights, which the Roman Republic would later establish (Little, 2017, para.2.3). It is important to stress the fact that no blueprint of the rational state as it ‘ought to be’ can exist. Neither the philosopher nor the state can transcend its time (Tunick, 1998, p.516). The weight of Hegel’s famous statement is precisely situated in the latter; what is actual is rational. Hegel maintains that the state itself is always rational, for what is, is reason (Little, 2017, para.2.3).
    Yet, this unity conceptualized in the state between actuality and reason is temporal. The ‘Geist’ is the dialectical motor of history, and will only end in the Absolute in which reason and actuality are one and the same (Day, 1989, p.915). This positive account of dialectics, in the sense that history always moves towards the Absolute, is crucial to Hegel’s state. Namely, in that the state in each phase of the dialectical progression institutionalizes concrete freedom (freedom in the positive sense obtained through the universality of the state’s organic whole) embedded in an organic unity (Geist) that is not yet wholly actualized – it is not yet absolute. The rational and the actual are reciprocally determining the process of History and the conditions of the rational state in each of its individual phases (Sedgwick, 2010, p.185).
    It is therefore no wonder that Hegel claimed that the state is the perfect object of historical analysis. In terms of the modern state, which according to Hegel can be traced to early 19th century Prussia, a dialectical synthesis arose of three distinct moments. The first moment, and as such the cornerstone of every society, is the family. Hegel writes: “The family, as the immediate substantiality of spirit, has as its determination of the spirit’s feeling of its own unity, which is love […].Thus, the disposition is to have self-consciousness of one’s individuality within this unity” (Hegel, 1991, p.199). Through the natural, immanent, love between man and woman, the subject constructs a self-consciousness that surpasses his self-interest. In fact, the family is an immediate ethical relation, for it implies the consciousness of this union as a substantial end in itself (Hegel, 1991, p.202).
    The family, accordingly, is the root of the ethical life, as the construction of self-conscious individuals and the division of labor (man and woman) develops into the self-conscious civil society (Landes, 1981, p.27). In the family a subject is raised to be a self-sufficient particularity. After the death of a parent, or when the children come of age and are recognized as legal persons, the ethical dissolution of the unity of the family into a plurality of families according to the principle of particularity is inevitable (Hegel, 1991, p.219). According to this logic “The expansion of the family, as its transition to another principle, is […] a coming together of scattered family communities under the influence of a dominant power or in a voluntary union prompted by interdependent needs and their reciprocal satisfaction.” (Hegel, 1991, p.219). This new voluntary union, through the stage of difference, marks the second moment of the modern state; civil society.
    Hegel denotes civil society as the sphere of social and economic life that functions according to a logic “of ‘subjectivity’ and ‘individual freedom’ in which the individual acts as an independent agent, responsible for his own beliefs and pursuing his own interests, particularly in the economic sphere of the competitive market” (Sayer, 2007, p. 89). The principle of individual freedom and subjective autonomy are, perhaps for the first time in history, cheered upon. In fact, Hegel, echoing the ‘Invisible Hand’ by Adam Smith, himself does so too: “Subjective selfishness turns into a contribution towards the satisfaction of the needs of everyone else. By a dialectical movement, the particular is mediated by the universal so that each individual, in earning, producing and enjoying on his own account, thereby earns and produces for the enjoyment of others “(Hegel, 1991, p. 233). In addition to the first principle of particularity, a second principle of mediation, although misapprehended by civil society, is presupposed. Hegel argued that the subject can only forward its self-interested ends on the market through others. Particularity, limited by universality, promotes welfare (Hegel, 1991, p.221).
    The third moment of the modern state is in fact the state itself. Hegel writes: “The state is the actuality of the ethical idea – the ethical spirit as substantial will, manifest and clear to itself, which thinks and knows itself and implement what it knows in so far as it knows it. “(Hegel, 1991, p.275). It becomes clear that Hegel is referring to the Geist here − the state as immanently present − which becomes conscious of itself and actualized in a concrete universal ethical whole. As such, Hegel stresses that we must trace the Idea, which is the actualization of the Geist, however transitory, in the organism of the state.
    The ‘Idea’ – as that which indicates the unity of abstract rights and welfare in the state − is the defining concept of concrete freedom (Lee, 2017, p.207). Subjects are bearers of rights that according to the principle of abstract rights cannot be violated, whilst welfare describes that a subjects’ particular ends need to be satisfied to be deemed free. The citizen of such a state, who at the same time is a member of a commonality, i.e. the family, and an individual with his own needs and desire, i.e. civil society, develops what Hegel calls ‘self-consciousness’ (Church, 2012, p.1022). The state actualizes the self-consciousness, or Sittlichkeit (ethical order), that is already immanent to the subject. By doing so, the subject, in the family and civil society, is self-determined to appeal to this universal since they “discover their essential self-consciousness in [economic-social] institutions as that universal aspect of their particular interests which has being in itself, and by obtaining through these institutions an occupation and activity are directed towards an universal end within a corporation” (Church, 2012, p.1036). Hegel states that the modern state achieves its strength only by allowing the fulfilment of personal self-sufficient particularity, in both the family and civil society, while also bringing it back to a universal unity (Hegel, 1991, p.282). It follows that in relation to duties and right, the duties imposed upon the subject, by measure of universality, are in an immediate sense also his rights (Hegel, 1991, p.285). What matters most is that the subject’s particular ends should become identical with the universal, as such: “The will which wills itself is the basis of all right and all obligation, and hence of all laws of right, prescribed duties, and imposed obligations” (Hegel, 1991, p.287; Church, 2012, p.1022). Unlike Rousseau, who held that the will should be general, Hegel, forwards the will in and for itself as universally rational (Hegel, 1991, p.277).
    The Hegelian modern state is thus the dialectical synthesis in actuality between the family (universality) and civil society (particularity), becoming a self-mediated concept of concrete freedom (Day, 1989, p.910). The universality of the will is what is actualized through the organism of the state. It is the modern state that I have just described which, some might argue, Hegel thought to have reached the Absolute.

An alternative narrative of progress

Having identified the driving force behind the dialectical development of the state throughout history, there must exist the possibility of negation. Essential to Hegel’s metaphysics is that this negation itself is purely rational. What this implies, precisely, is that which I stressed in my preceding discussion on the dialectic: the Idea that guides the modern state, the concept of the good as a unity between reason and the actual, is temporal. The Geist, however, is continuous. In this sense the subject is a reasonable object guided by the Geist, through which the self-consciousness of the modern subject guarantees the constant changing Idea of the state as a rational entity (McCarney, 1999, p.135). Both the family and civil society are the building blocks of the modern state that represent particular interest. If the rational Geist of these subjects advances, a negation of the current state exists, since it can no longer serve as the concrete unity (McCarney, 1999, p.135). “The owl of Minerva begins its flight only with the onset of dusk” (Hegel, 1991, p.23).
    From here it is not a far stretch to imagine the critique Hegel would have had on political thinkers like Kelsen and Rawls. These thinkers tend to apply a non-metaphysical Kantian framework to legitimize their claims. Following Hegel’s critique on Kant, it necessarily follows that what Kelsen, with his legal positivism, and Rawls, with his principles of justice, seem to propose is an already existing original set of rights and principles external to the actual (Sedgwick, 2010, p.184). By use of the Kantian metaphysics, these liberal theorists claim to have deduced, in a non-metaphysical manner, a universal set of values to govern the state (i.e. the law). Hegel objects to this notion on two fundamental points. First, as I have stressed earlier, a conception of rights, laws, and freedom only come to be through the actualization of the state, which in its turn depends on the actual (Sedgwick, 2010, p.184). The liberal theorist thus falls into the Kantian trap of placing rights and principles externally from the actual. A second objection, which is perhaps even more important, is that the actual in its turn is a historical product of the Geist. Universality in Hegel is expressed through the state’s contingent configurations of the Idea, which is itself a particularity in history. The principle of justice that Rawls aims to decipher, therefore, is itself a product of given actuality. As such, the state is the temporal embodied universal unity of the actual and the Geist. It remains central to state that the reciprocal, dialectical, relation between the actual and reason produces, immanently, the universal, which therefore can express itself differently throughout history. So that when the Spirit advances, or the organic unity dissolves, a new dialectical synthesis will arise; a new rational state will emerge. Indeed, Hegel states that “This organism is the development of the Idea in its differences and their objective actuality […] through which the universal continually produces itself” (Hegel, 1991, p.290).
    At this moment, it might be useful to discuss the Schmittian view on decisionism that puts the Hegelian organic state in question. The problem that Schmitt points out is the Hegelian appeal to the synthesis revealing itself as the state. According to Hegel, this ‘higher third’ (aufhebung) reveals itself rationally as the, institutionalized, product of a self-conscious dialectical synthesis between the universal and the particular. Yet, the subject, according to the dialectic principle of abstraction, can feel alienated towards his own institutions (Norris, 2007, pp.140-141). This alienation is the basis of the state’s negation, the start of an anew.
    However, Schmitt argues that such an alienation will necessarily imply a form of decision, contesting the very notion of the Geist in Hegel’s metaphysics (Ball & Vollgraff, 2013, p.74). What this implies is not per se that the state itself is irrational, but that the course it takes is not that of an evolving rationality guided by the Geist (Ball & Vollgraff, 2013, pp.76). It is therefore a critique on the organic state as such. Schmitt’s metaphysical reversal is not on that of the level of freedom per se. Both Hegel and Schmitt see freedom as the ultimate goal in their political thinking, yet, their conceptions of historical progress differs. Schmitt, namely, places his ‘metaphysics’ in men, not in mind (Geist) (Ball & Vollgraff, 2013, p.76). Reason, according to Schmitt, is not actualized through the actualization of the Geist into constant new dialectical identities, but rather through the state’s actual will formation through the pouvoir constituant (constituting power) (Ball & Vollgraff, p.76). Reality as such is then grounded in decision and the active dialectical creation of a ‘we’. What Schmitt seems to imply is that a negation and thus the historical process of the rational state always needs an active negation of thought. That is to say, we need to abstract ourselves from certain universal principles in order for a new realization of the state to be constructed. Schmitt’s dialectic is that of assertion-abstraction and realization, where the realization is a decision by the ‘pouvoir constituant’ (Norris, 2007, p.154). Schmitt must then not be seen as a radical departure from Hegel’s organic state, but rather as practically enforcing his system of an organic unity where what is rational is actual through decision.
    One of the most important political thinkers of the 20th century, who pleasantly surprisingly happens to be a woman, Hannah Arendt, strongly supports this critique. Arendt most prominently criticizes the Hegelian concept of Freedom, whereby he sought to retrieve freedom as a rational historical necessity. Furthermore, Arendt is critical of the fact that the historical progression of freedom should somehow reconcile with the actual in the Absolute (Villa, 2007, p. 7). What makes humanity as opposed to nature is precisely its capacity for freedom, not as a (natural) historical necessity, but as it is created through a durable set of laws, institutions and cultures (Villa, 2007, p.7). Arendt’s concept of ‘action’ – which in this instance is not dissimilar from Schmitt’s ‘decisionism’ – is vital in this regard. It is through action that we ourselves constitute a representation of reality by claiming a position in the world; and only as such, do we appear as humans (Breier, 2005, pp.19-22). Arendt upholds an Aristotelean stance when it comes to humanity. Accepting that the world is a human creation implies that one accepts oneself as being a political animal (Breier, 2005, p.23). Freedom can thus only be obtained through the expression of oneself as a political animal, exemplifying action. In contrast, freedom, according to Hegel is constitutive, rather than Arendt’s constituting.
    The ‘pouvoir constituant’, or in other words the ‘we’ that is essential to the politics of both Schmitt and Arendt, implies a certain historical precedent. Considering this, a Schmittean read of Hegel would almost certainly ring communitarian overtones. The dialectical progression of the state is not cosmopolitan, as the unity of the actual and rational is always individualistic and contextual. The state, formulated as such, must therefore correspond to a certain history, a certain historical precedent that is particular to that community, and serves as the construction of the other, the enemy (Burns, 2014, pp.330-331). This also makes sense for Hegel, since its highest good, concrete freedom, is necessarily a reciprocal determinate of what is actual. Both are also the products of the historical development of that community. The ‘Geist’ once fully realized establishes the actualized state where the abstract interest of its community is met through concrete institutions (Mullender, 2013, p.10).
    One of the main challenges faced by Hegel’s organic state is how to construct a singular political community rationally represented by the state, that unifies the particular with the universal (Tsao, 2004, p.108). Or to put it differently, how can Hegel’s organic state with its actualization of concrete freedom account for dissent, poverty, racialism and exploitation? Since “Whatever is to achieve recognition today no longer achieves it by force, and only to a small extent through habit and custom, but mainly through insight and reason” (Tunick, 1998, p.519), the possibility of dissent seems minimal. According to Hegel, the institutions themselves are already rational, thus, it is only in adhering to the state’s laws and institutions that man is free in the positive sense (Tunick, 1998, p.521). Acting according to the state’s laws is rational, for the state itself must be rational. To this end Hegel must justify the existence of, for instance, poverty. The rational state, in its historical dialectical movement necessarily creates internal contradictions: to “become” it must negate what it is not. The progress to Absolute freedom, then, necessarily externalizes others (Whitt, 2013, pp. 268-270). Poverty is essentially unresolved because it allows the state to actualize its sovereignty and externalize other nation states, through colonization, constructing a ‘we’ as a rational organic unity (Whitt, 2013, p.272). Hegel states in one of his lectures on the Philosophy of History: “Freedom is not envious: it allows its various aspect to assume different forms, while the unity remains strong enough to preserve the unity between itself and its particular determinations” (Hegel, 2002, p.115)
    However, the necessary existence of poverty allows for only a ‘partial’ actualization of the organic unity, since welfare is not universal. But did Hegel not argue for the Absolute? Right from the publication of the Phenomenology of Spirit, the ‘End of History’ thesis, which Hegel more or less announced after the battle of Jena, sparked controversy. “History’s progressive movement − to realizing that all are free and to building a social world on that principle − is not linear but more spiral-like, complete with catastrophes and moments of (seemingly total) regression or loss” (Villa, 2007, p.9). Therefore, Hegel’s idea that the movement of history is a linear line to the Absolute seems merely hypothetical. Adorno drives this point home.
    In his ferocious critique of the Enlightenment, Adorno seeks to reassert the primacy of the object over the subject, in his attempt to rid philosophy of its positive inquiry in favor of negativity – critique (Villa, 2007, p. 18). Following Nietzsche, Adorno states that reason equals power (Villa, 2007, p.22). He holds that the Enlightenment reflects the positivist quest to dominate nature through social “mythical fear radicalized” (Villa, 2007, p.18). Reason as such turns instrumental, contradicting in itself the enlightened spirit: “myth is already enlightenment; and enlightenment reverts to mythology” (Held, 1980, p.151). Critical theorists equate this nihilist impulse of the enlightenment to positive philosophy. Identity in the form of systems, whether in the form of Kant’s categorical imperative or the Hegelian state, is imperative to such a philosophy. The logic of identity serves as the oppression of otherness (Villa, 2007, p.18).
    In reawakening philosophy and practical reason, Adorno, juxtaposes identity with non-identity and the positive with the negative. Adorno, arguing against Kant, redirects the primacy of intelligible knowledge from the subject to the object. It is this which forms the basis of the non-identical: “Genuine experience is made possible by that which exceeds the grasp of thought and sensibility” (Zuidervaart, 2015, para.5). The Hegelian Absolute – which is the dialectical mediation of identity and identity – is contested: “Adorno maintains that the Absolute can only be presented negatively and –insofar as the form of system creates the illusion of a finite presentation of the Absolute – anti-systematical” (Stewart, 2006, p.49).
    It is this anti-systematical, which is non-identity, that continuously refuses identity, that escapes the dialectic. Negativity as such preserves the difference of being and becoming that positivism seek to subsume under identity (Zuidervaart, 2015, para.5). The classical dialectic is reversed from ‘identity of identity and non-identity’, or becoming, to Adorno’s ‘non-identity of identity and non-identity’, or difference (Sherman, 2016, p.355). Although Adorno does not deny the existence of Universals as such – the non-identity is always Universal − he contests Hegelianism on the basis of its presupposition of the transcendental subject (as guided by the Geist). Adorno, much like Schmitt, puts an emphasis on the active empirical subject and the history that preceded it (Sherman, 2016, p.360). For Adorno, progress is never linear, the dialectic always leaks and our understanding of reality – as exemplified by the opposition between non-identity and identity – is always infected by subjective conditions (identity). The mediation between reason and actuality – which Adorno would deem the object − that Hegel’s system sought in the Absolute is sublimated by a new style of thought, one that decisively opposes instrumentality, identity and structure. On Hegel’s metaphysical project Adorno remarks: “Having broken its pledge to be as one with reality or at the point of realization, philosophy is obliged to ruthlessly criticize itself” (Sherman, 2016, p.356)


Hegel’s idea of the state – as a dialectical synthesis resulting in an organic unity of reason and the actual necessary in the construction of concrete freedom – is a remarkable view on politics. In fact, one could argue that Hegel disregards the element of the political all together, in that the progress of the state is made through a constant reconfiguring rational unity of the Idea towards its end point, the actualization of the Absolute. Hegel himself, some have argued, thought he witnessed the progression towards the Absolute after the battle of Jena in 1806. However, Hannah Arendt discussed in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism that the organic states of 20th century were far from having achieved this goal. The disastrous regimes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao, despite their supposed unity, are proof of that fact (Tsao, 2004, p.107). The organic unity that these states achieved was not one of law, as Hegel´s conceptualization required, but of the nation, in which the particular interest of civil society had not been overcome (Tsao, 2004, p.112).
    Should we, then, expect a rational organic state to emerge in the 21st century? Are Germany, Finland and Canada Hegel’s modern state? I would highly contest this notion. First, I contest the notion that history is a movement of progress. Adorno’s negative dialectics indicates that the dialectic itself can be contingent, progress is not linear. What becomes crucial is that the transcendent becomes negative too, indicating the importance of a critical reflection of the social order as is. Adorno’s conceptualization of negative transcendence is an acceptance of the limits of our rationality, with the purpose to understand and improve our world, not to transcend to another or belief in the progress of an Absolute (Sachs, 2011, p.284). Furthermore, Carl Schmitt and Hannah Arendt have indicated that negation requires the element of decision. The state, if it is to actualize freedom and progress through history, needs to be legitimized by a pouvoir constituant, a political subject who actively shapes the world. When the dialectical process of history is not necessarily rational, if the dialectic leaks, the only way to construct an organic state between reason and the actual is through the hands of the people, the construction of a ‘we’.
    In our modern day the organic state does not exist. The demands of a plural civil society, the conditions of postmodernity and global issues like the climate crisis make the idea of a truly organic state sound obscure. Yet, the relevance of Hegel’s work cannot simply be dismissed. What Arendt, Smith and Adorno fundamentally have in common is their collective critical stance towards the work of Hegel that, to this day, forwards concepts as state, the political and difference. In the spirit of negative thinking, Hegel’s works will always remain a source of great inspiration, or should we say, critique.


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