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Raymond Plant

Hegel and Political EconomyII

Labour is a central notion in the works of Smith and Ricardo, and it is an


elaboration of the concept of labour which enables Hegel to say something about
human development and human autonomy which goes beyond what is to be
found in conventional political economy. The main lines of his account have
already been intimated in the discussion of Althusser; it merely remains to make
the points more systematically. It is in labour that man is distinguished from the
animal. The animal has needs and gratifies them by the mere consumption of
objects. On the other hand, man who also has an instinctual, biological life
transcends this level of relationship to natural objects. Through labour, he
transforms natural objects to his own projects and intentions. At the same time, in
transforming objects man comes to know more about their character and the laws
governing their being. He then makes use of this knowledge, incorporating it into
labour processes. This again develops the range of transformations he is able to
effect on external reality, and also involves an increase in his theoretical
knowledge of the world within which he lives: Desire has reserved to itself the
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pure negating of the object and thereby unalloyed feeling of self. This
satisfaction, however, just for that reason is itself only a state of
evanescence, for it lacks objectivity and subsistence. Labour, on the other
hand, is desire restrained and checked, evanescence delayed, in other
words labour shapes and fashions the thing . . . the consciousness that
toils and serves accordingly attains by this means the direct apprehension
of that independent being as itself . . . By the fact that the form is
objectified, it does not become something other than the consciousness
moulding the thing through labour; for just that form is his pure selfexistence which therein becomes truly realized.45
Labour, Tools and Integration

Labour is a central category of the system of needs, but it is far more than
that for Hegel. It is central for self-consciousness and for knowledge of
objects in the natural world, yet at the same time these transcending
features of labour have consequences within the system of needs. Needs
become multiplied beyond bare necessity, because of the development of
both self-consciousness and manipulative skill vis--vis the natural
world, and this multiplication of needs is the vehicle for economic
development. Hegel also used labour to help solve the deep philosophical
problem which preoccupied him and which he had inherited from Kant,
Fichte and Schelling, namely the relationship between subject and
object.46 It was labour, with its twin dimensions of developing the
subjects consciousness and manipulating external objects, that helped to
solve this problem for Hegel. It was in labour that the reconciliation
between subject and object was overcome for him.
All of these features of labour, both within political economy and
beyond, stress the extent to which labour is a personally liberating facet of
human activity, but is also much more than this. The development of selfconsciousness through the labour of others helps man to satisfy his own
needs. Within the subjective process of labour there is generated a
complex system of mutual dependence: When men are thus dependent
on one another and reciprocally related to one another in their work and
the satisfaction of their needs, subjective self-seeking turns into a
contribution to the satisfaction of the needs of everyone else. That is to
say, by a dialectical advance, subjective self-seeking turns into the
mediation of the particular through the universal, with the result that
each man in earning, producing and enjoying on his own account is eo ipso
producing and earning for the enjoyment of everyone else.47 This is just
the kind of dialectical reversal which was mentioned earlier as being
characteristic of Hegels account of the social world. Labour, the crucial
concept of classical political economy which had yielded a vision of
society which was radically individualistic, was used by Hegel not just as a
category within political economy, but in a framework of explanation of
broader generality. It was shown to yield a vision of society which does
45

The Phenomenology of Mind, translated by Baillie, London 1964, p. 225. Cf. The Philosophy of
Right, op. cit., para. 194 and addition to para. 190; Jenenser Realphilosophie, op. cit., Vol. 2,
p. 197. [For earlier footnote references, see NLR 103].
46 See The Philosophy of Right, op. cit., para. 189, where labour is described as the middle term
between the subjective and the objective.
47 The Philosophy of Right, op. cit., para. 54.
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full justice to the claims of human autonomy, but at the same time within
the very same account tries to show that complex forms of mutual
interdependence are achieved. This organicism may not be the sinnliche
Harmonie of the Greek polis; but there are patterns of mutual
interdependence in modern society, although they are of a more abstract
form and much more difficult to tease out. However, classical political
economy has itself provided the basis for this account, even though
writers in that tradition did not give sufficient weight to this aspect of
their work. The political economist, in Hegels view, is trying to find
reconciliation here, to discover in the sphere of needs this show of
rationality lying in the thing and effective there.48
The tool is clearly a central part of the transformative and therefore
consciousness-developing aspect of labour. As Hegel said in The Science of
Logic: In his tools, man possesses power over external nature.49
However, there are aspects of tools which go beyond the role which they
play in personal self-development, and these were equally stressed by
Hegel. A tool is a public instrument which is in principle available to all,
and thus allows the mastery over nature secured specifically by it to be
repeated at least in principle, by anyone: In the tool, the subjectivity of
labour has been elevated to something universal; everyone can initiate it
in precisely the same way, thus it is the constant rule of labour.50 Tools
help the routinization of the mastery of nature and make both its
transformation and the self-development which goes along with it
available to all men. Again, there is the same dialectic at work: that which
develops individual self-consciousness has a universal element
simultaneously present within it. At the same time the tool links
generations, in the sense that a new generation inherits from the old
certain techniques of production involving tools. This is another
important social dimension of the use of tools; a tool is inherited in the
traditions while that which desires and that which is desired only subsist
as individuals and individuals pass away.51
Hegel did not see the system of needs as necessarily generating a radically
individualist vision of society; rather, the activities characteristic of the
economic sphere both in production and exchange presuppose very
intricate patterns of mutual interdependence. These forms of
interdependence are not predicated upon peripheral features of human
life. On the contrary, labour and the use of tools are central ways in which
human beings come to self-consciousness; as such, the forms of mutuality
to be found within them are of very great importance. Similar features are
characteristic also of the division of labour within the system of needs. As
needs develop, so productive processes have to meet them. This requires
an increasing division of labour: the subdivision of needs and means
thereby eo ipso subdivides production and brings about the division of
labour.52 Again, this is in a sense a gain in self-consciousness, in that an
individuals specific skills increase; at the same time, this complex
48

Ibid. para. 189.


The Science of Logic, op. cit., p. 747.
50
System der Sittlichkeit in Lasson (ed.), Schriften zur Politik und Rechtsphilosophie, Leipzig
1932, p. 428.
51
Jenenser Realphilosophie, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 221.
52
The Philosophy of Right, op. cit., para. 198.
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division of the productive process leads once again to extremely intricate


forms of mutual dependence and reciprocal relation in the satisfaction of
their other needs.
Correlated with the division of labour are the most important social
groups within the system of needs, namely classes, of which Hegel
distinguished three: the agricultural class; the business class and the civil
service. Hegel did not define classes in terms of relationship to the means
of production, but rather to types of work, the general skills required for
its performance, and the kind of ethos or consciousness which it produces
among those who perform these tasks. His agricultural class, for example,
contained both landowners and farm labourers, and this emphasis upon
ethos or modes of consciousness linked with skills in production was
to permit Hegel to claim, once again, that the system of needs yields social
integration. It did this in two ways: in the first place, an individual is
bound together with members of his society with whom he has certain
things in common, based upon labour and the skills attendant upon it;
secondly, these specific classes yielding different types of consciousness
and ethos stand together, not in opposition but in a system of mutual or
functional interdependence.
At the same time, membership of a class equally relates to the individuals
growth of consciousness as much as it does to social integration. As an
individual in the system of needs, a man seeks to satisfy his own needs or
those of his immediate family; his motivation is entirely selfish, whatever
patterns of social integration emerge from it. However, Hegel regarded.
self-consciousness as marked by universal features and not just by
particularity. Each mans consciousness is formally universal: Every
self-consciousness knows itself as universal. In other words, an
individual man, unlike an animal, is aware that he has desires and is able to
choose which he will pursue. Each individual is aware of his own identity,
despite the changing flux of his desires and interests. At the same time,
this sense of the universality of self-consciousness was purely formal for
Hegel. The universality of the content of mind has to be developed,
otherwise man will be an inwardly bifurcated being: a sense of
universality on the one hand confronting a mass of episodic, particular
desires on the otherthe position into which Kant had been driven in his
moral psychology. It was therefore vital, in order to give a coherent
account of self-consciousness on his own terms, that Hegel could explain
how the claims of universality could be made to equate with the
particularity of desire and need, where Hegel says all is lost to
particularity. His answer to this problem was a developmental one. Man
learns through participation in specific institutions to take into account a
wider and wider perspective of values; membership of a social class is one
way in which this educative or socializing process takes place. By being a
member of a class, a man will come not only to have a sense of solidarity
with others, but also will learn to take into account the claims and desires
of others in forming his own intentions. Membership of a social class is,
therefore, yet another way within the system of needs where there is a
dialectical symbiosis between the growth of self-consciousness on the one
hand and the generation of forms of social integration on the other.
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Partial Communities and Civil Society

Hegels account of how the system of needs can provide a basis for mutual
interdependence and personal autonomy was not, however, exhaustive.
He argued that the very character of the system of needs is such that it has
to be transcended and situated in the context of other institutions.
Certainly, integration and autonomy do exist within the sphere of need,
but at the same time they do so in a somewhat haphazard fashion. The
system of needs and the relationships engendered within it can easily be
disrupted by changes in the methods of production, by the continuing
demand for new commodities, and by external factors such as changes in
the terms of trade between countries. The system of needs, while a
delicate mechanism for combining autonomy and inter-relationship, is
still fragile and easily disturbed. This was used by Hegel to argue for the
need for some form of control over economic relationships, if the
patterns of autonomy and independence secured within the system of
needs are to be rational and secure. At this point we may see again the
influence of Steuart. Although we know that by 1801 Hegel had read
Smith,53 these ideas about the necessary limitations on laissez-faire are not
likely to have come from that source. Steuarts theory of the statesman
was, as we have seen, expressly formulated in his discussion of the
exchange economy, as an instrument for the control and direction of that
economy with the object of preventing harm to any member of the
commonwealth. Rosenkranz argues that, among other things, Steuart
influenced Hegels thinking on the police role of the state. Certainly, the
preoccupations of Hegel, as we have seen them developing, and Steuarts
argument join up at just this point. By Polizei54, Hegel meant the
controlling function of the state over the system of needs; in his social and
political works, we find Hegel developing a theory about the role of
public authority, or the police functions of the state, which would enable
the rather contingent relationships within the system of needs to be made
more secure.
However Hegels actual view of the police functions of the state in
relation to the system of needs was rather different from that of Steuart.
Hegel stressed, in a way which Steuart did not, that the police function of
the state had to be consistent with the modern sense of personal freedom
and self-consciousness, which was precisely secured within the system of
needs. The equilibrium of the economy could only be properly secured if
it was consistent with the social values secured in the economic activities
of society. Rosenkranz says that Hegel struggled with what was dead in
Steuarts system, and this may have been just one of those issues in which
Hegel took exception to Steuarts position. In considering the role of the
state vis--vis the system of needs, Hegel seems to have retained in his
mind the possibly estranged character of the modern state, which he saw
as characteristic of the Roman world.55 As a result of this perception,
Hegel rejected any kind of police function for the state which was
inconsistent with both a sense of personal autonomy and a sense of
identification of the citizen with the controlling function of the Public
Authority.
53

See Jenenser Realphilosophie, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 238.


For a full discussion of Polizei, see Riedel, op. cit., p. 161.
55
Nohl, op. cit., p. 223.
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This point came out very clearly in his early article on The German
Constitution (18001), in which he criticized the Prussian government
for placing too much power in the hands of the Public Authority and not
sufficiently recognizing that the freedom of the individual is inherently
sacrosanct.56 Too little control would lead to the possible breakdown of
the system of needs, or the harming of individuals through an
uncontrolled pace of economic change; too much control would stifle the
very autonomy characteristic of economic activity. The problem of
finding a via media was well put in The Philosophy of Right: Two views
predominate at the present time. One asserts that the superintendence of
everything properly belongs to the public authority; the other that the
public authority has nothing to regulate here because everyone will direct
his efforts to the needs of others.57 The second of these alternatives is
unrealistic, considering the extent to which the system of needs is a
system within which individuals act in a self-directing way; the former
Hegel saw as appropriate only in a society within which a sense of
personal freedom and autonomy had not dawned, and some gigantic
public task had to be accomplishedhere Hegel gives the example of the
building of the pyramids in Egypt. In this kind of society, in which the
consciousness of subjective freedom has yet to develop, such centralized
control of labour is justified.
However, modern society is emphatically not in that position: the public
authority must control only up to a point that is necessary to maintain the
equilibrium to the system of needs. Furthermore, as the external state, i.e.
as imposed upon the particularity of subjective interests in the economic
sphere, it has to be under some kind of representative political control,
otherwise it will appear as an alien institution. The kind of control which
Hegel saw as being legitimately exercised within the sphere of public
authority included fixing the prices of necessities; the arbitration of
disputes between the producers and consumers of commodities; the
dissemination of information relating to the terms of trade and the
general economic situation within which industry operated; and the
overseeing of colonization, which as we shall see was for Hegel closely
connected with the problem of poverty generated within civil society.58
The operation of public authority within these spheres would enable the
system of needs to operate more effectively and with more equilibrium
than it would otherwise do. At the same time the level of control would
have to be such as to protect personal freedom.
In this sense, Hegel went beyond Steuart in his understanding of the role
of public authority. As Rosenkranz says, Hegel was concerned to attack
what was dead in this (Steuarts) system and sought to protect the inner
life of man in the midst of competition, the mechanization of labour and
commerce.59 Public Authority, in regulating the system of needs in such
a way as to preserve as far as possible personal autonomy, is one of the
central ways in which Hegel attempted to secure das Gemut der Menschen
within the modern economy. As such, this ideal relates back to the
56

Lasson, op. cit., p. 289.


The Philosophy of Right, op. cit., para. 236.
58
Ibid. para. 236 ff.
59
Rosenkranz, op. cit., p. 86.
57

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philosophers very earliest preoccupations with the loss of any sense of


wholeness and integrity to the personality. His understanding of this
value and the constraints upon its realization had certainly deepened since
his early essays in Tbingen. The value of personal autonomy was still in
some sense fundamental to him, and was important in the account which
he gave of one of the central structures of modern political economy.
The second way in which Hegel went beyond Steuart, in his concern with
the individual personality within the system of needs, was his
consideration of the enervation of human capacities and powers which
can accompany the productive processes of modern society. The
subjective freedom which was secured in the modern world through
labour and the system of needs had certainly been an important moment
in human liberation, but at the same time it had had its own costs. In
Hegels mind, these costs were broadly speaking two-fold. In the first
place, the pursuit of subjective freedom within the system of needs may
result in civic ties being lessened. Even though, as we have seen, that
system will yield its own forms of economic interdependence, these forms
of interaction are still of a restricted and sectional sort. Secondly, labour
within manufacturing industry may well lead to the enervation of the
human personality, because of the abstract mechanistic nature of the
work involved. In these two ways the inner life was both developed and
at the same time threatened within the system of needs. In the first case,
men were made over entirely to subjective interests, whereas for Hegel
man is responsive to universal as well as to subjective and sectional
interests. In the second case, the division of labour was making labour,
which should be liberating, lifeless and mechanical. Both of these factors
could lead to baneful social consequences: A mass of the population is
condemned to the stupefying, unhealthy and insecure labour of the
factories, manufactures, mines and so on . . . this necessity turns into the
utmost dismemberment of the will, inner rebellion and hatred.60 The
problems posed by commercial society are not just those confined to
social cohesion, but also concern the inner life of man. A political
economy which was going to be philosophically adequate had to be able
to come to terms with these kinds of costs involved in economic activity.
The problem of the loss of civic ties is central within the system of needs,
because within this sphere only subjective and group values are
realized61: subjective values through the pursuit of economic selfinterest in the market; group values by the development within the
system of needs of social classes, and in the wider arena of civil society, of
corporations structured around interests developed within the system of
needs. At the most, class and corporation membership yields only a
partial and sectional sense of community. However, Hegels view was not
that the pursuit of private interests and the development of sectional
interests actually stand in the way of an overall sense of community.
Without the pursuit of private interests, there is no sense of personal
autonomyand any modern community is going to have to be consistent
with this value. Class membership and participation in corporations are
also vital to the development of a sense of overall community, because
60
61

Jenenser Realphilosophie, op. cit., Vol. 1, pp. 2323.


See The Philosophy of Right, op. cit., para. 238 and The German Constitution, op. cit.
109

they act as educative institutions, developing within individuals a


consciousness of claims of others and their interests which transcends the
purely personal level. A sense of overall community has to be mediated
(vermittelt) through specific differentiated supportive institutions. As
G. Kelly argues: . . . the corporation . . . harmonizes man on a small scale
and renders him apt for the fraternity of the state as he is naturally for the
family.62
At the same time, though they transcend the personal level, these
institutions are rooted in specific economic interests. As a result, they do
not embody any sense of personal identification with an overall universal
normative order, a feature which Hegel regarded as central to human life
just because man is self-conscious and thus open to universality. This
universality is provided by the political state proper and the general
cultural life of the community, its art, religion and philosophy. Only
within the state and the culture of the national community can the
universal be realized. In the strictly political sphere, the particular
individual is related to the state via the specificity of his social and class
position within the Assembly of Estates. Although the modern world has
realized most of all, and in many divergent directions, the values of
freedom and moral autonomy, Hegel thought that the French Revolution
and the subsequent terror had demonstrated the undesirability of direct
participatory democracy in the modern world. But at the same time,
despotism, however enlightened, was incompatible with the autonomy
developed within the economic institutions of the modern world. A
representative political system which represented individuals not so
much lost in particularity, but related to one another via classes or
estates, was the most appropriate form of political community in the
modern world.
Through the partial communities of the system of needs, and the
representation of the most basic of thesethe class or estatethrough
the Assembly of Estates in the political sphere, both the enervation of the
individual so characteristic of the system of needs is diminished and, in
addition, civic ties are forged out of interests engendered naturally out of
the economic sphere. As Kelly says: Hegelian politics is a healthy
circulatory system and not an inert pousse-caf .63 Universality is not
imposed from above, but exists in a symbiotic relationship with interests
within the sphere of political economy. Hegel seemed confident that this
is in fact how, when correctly understood, the political arrangement of
the modern state will appear to individual citizens: The principle of the
modern state has prodigious strength and depth, because it allows the
principle of subjectivity to progress to its culmination in the extreme of
self-subsistent particularity (in the system of needs), and yet at the same
time brings it back to the substantive unity and so maintains this unity in
the principle of subjectivity itself.64 This relationship, however remote it
may seem, will help to overcome some of the baneful effects of the system
of needs in terms of its restriction of human powers. The political system
will help in some way to do this, but it is not the only way. There is, in
62

Hegels America, in Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 2, No. 1, p. 236.


Ibid. p. 16.
64
The Philosophy of Right, para. 266.
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addition, participation in the cultural life of the community, in art and


religious activity mainly,65 but also in philosophy which, as a system of
rationality, is at least in principle available to all.
At the same time Hegel argued that the enervation of human powers in
modern industry must also be checked at that level too. In a little-noted
passage in The Philosophy of Right, he made his attitude here very clear:
those goods or rather substantive characteristics which constitute my
private personality and the universal essence of my self-consciousness are
inalienable and my right to them is imprescriptible . . . Single products of
my particular physical and mental skill and of my power to act I can
alienate to someone else and I can give him the use of my abilities for a
restricted period, because on the strength of this restriction, my abilities
acquire an external relation to the totality and universality of my being. By
alienating the whole of my time, as crystallized in my work, and everything I
produced, I would be making into anothers property the substance of my
being, universal activity and actuality, my personality.66 Hegel did not
give any clear indication of how he envisaged this kind of consideration
affecting relationships in industry. But it is obvious that the potential
consequences of this principle are very radical, whether Hegel saw them
or not, and in fact Marx cites the passage with approval in Volume I of
Capital.67
Thus we can see that Hegels early idealsthe restoration of some sense
of wholeness of man, and the restoration of some sense of community
enter very deeply into his account of the political economy of the modern
state. He had to be interested in political economy, because he was forced
to face up to the problems involved in realizing his ideals in the modern
world. At the same time, his views on political economy were always
informed by humanistic values, which were used in crucial places to point
up what Hegel considered to be major problems and lacunae in classical
political economy. It was Hegels thesis that within the economy of the
modern state and its attendant social and political context, his values were
being achievedonce this nexus of relationships was understood. The
realization of the values does not lie on the surface, as it did in Greek
society. Rather, modern man can be bei sich selbst only when he has a
complete philosophical grasp of the forces at work in modern society, the
relationships between them, and how these make for personal wholeness
and community in a fashion appropriate for modern society. It was
Hegels thesis that all of this could be found in modern society, and was
not just some consoling fantasy projected on to the world by deracinated
intellectual Hellenists. His exploration of political economy in all its
detail is one way in which Hegel tried to vindicate this claim.
Poverty and the Contradictions of Civil Society

In The Philosophy of Right, Hegel argues that poverty is an endemic and


ineradicable feature of modern society. In other words, it is a feature not
just of particular societies in a state of decline or disintegration, but
65

See Briefe von und an Hegel, ed. Hoffmeister, Hamburg 19524. Vol. 11, p. 236.
The Philosophy of Right, op. cit., para. 67.
67
London and Moscow 1954, p. 165.
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precisely of society when it is running smoothly, when in Hegels own


words civil society is in a state of unimpeded activity.68 The mechanics
of this process are rather obscure, but the main outline of his argument
seems to be clear enough. When industry produces goods to satisfy the
incessantly increasing pressure of mens wants, it may well find that in a
particular case there are not enough consumers for its products.69 In such
circumstances, the bottom will drop out of the market for a particular
commodity; those who, because of the continuing refinement of the
division of labour within the system of needs, are entirely dependent
upon industry producing that particular product will be thrown into
idleness. The poverty resulting from such an economic slump will have
two distinct sides: the actual level of physical deprivation involved, and
the social attitudes of those who are deprived.
In Hegels view, the level of poverty is not fixed by some neutral or
objective standard based upon a notion of absolute or basic need (pace
Althusser), but rather by some notion of need relative to what is necessary
to be a functioning and integrated member of a particular society, with a
specific standard of living and pattern of consumption: When the
standard of living of a large mass of the people falls below a certain
subsistence levela level regulated automatically as the one necessary for
a member of the society . . . the result is the creation of a rabble of
paupers.70 In a comment on this paragraph Hegel gives a pithy and
practical application of this point of view: In England, even the poorest
believe that they have rights; this is different from what satisfies the poor
in other countries.71 In other words, poverty is relative deprivation. In
this view, of course, Hegel was strikingly modern in his outlook.
It is precisely at this point that poverty as a relative state makes contact
with Hegels other view that there are social attitudes which are
characteristic of poverty. Because of their deprivation, men become cut
off from the various advantages of societythe acquisition of skill,
education, access to justice and even to organized religion72all of which
are mediating activities and institutions which link men to the social
order. Bereft of these mediating links, men become estranged: Poverty
in itself does not make men into a rabble; a rabble is created only when
there is joined to poverty a disposition of mind, an inner indignation
against the rich, against society, against the government, etc.73 When
modern society is functioning normally, therefore, in Hegels view a
group of people are pressed to this internally posited poverty floor, and
within such groups there is generated a profound sense of alienation and
social hostility.
There is ample evidence that Hegel was greatly exercised by this problem.
Rosenkranz reports that Hegel was an avid reader of the English press,
and closely followed debates in Parliament on the Poor Law. His account
of Hegels relationship with Steuart portrays the formers particular
interest in the problem of poverty. However, Hegel found no solution,
and admits as much in The Philosophy of Rightalthough he does not
68

The Philosophy of Right, op. cit., para. 243.


Ibid. para. 245.
70 Ibid. para. 244.
71 Ibid. addition to para. 244.
72 Ibid. para. 241.
73 Ibid. addition to para. 244.
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sufficiently attend to the consequences of his admission for the overall


coherence of his theory of modern society. In paragraph 245, Hegel
discusses several possible solutions to the problem. The first he considers
is that of organized charity, utilizing money raised from taxes levied on
the rich, or money raised from private foundations of various sorts; but
the problem created by the charitable solution is that, while physical
deprivation may be alleviated in this way, it will do nothing to change the
social attitudes which go along with poverty. Poverty and lack of work
undermine self-respect, self-subsistence and self-maintenance; but so
does charity.74 Another possibility is that Public Authority might try to
create work by stimulating the economy. However, this would only make
matters worse in the long run, because the problem has been caused by
over-production in the first place and this cannot be cured by economic
growth. Hegel, writing in 1821, did not entertain the possibility of
creating work which did not issue in consumer goods, and was left to
conclude: It becomes apparent that, despite an excess of wealth, civil
society is not rich enough, i.e. its own resources are insufficient to check
excessive poverty and the creation of a penurious rabble.75
Hegel saw that the modern society of his age generated both poverty
and a sense of alienation. The only solution which he was able to envisage
was colonization, not just for the sake of raw materials, but to secure new
markets for societys overproduced goods and to resettle some of its
poverty-stricken population. For Hegel, as for Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin
and Bukharin, there was an internal connection between capitalist society
and imperialism. The importance of this is that Hegel was forced to
conclude that the modern state could not, from within itself, furnish an
answer to perhaps the most serious of its own self-generated problems;
hence, even when philosophically comprehended, could not provide a
home in the world for certain of its members. At the heart of this claim
there was a deep contradiction, when it is brought into the perspective of
Hegels own account of poverty in the modern state. As one recent
commentator has argued: Does not Hegels manifest inability to find a
solution to the problem of poverty indicate his failure as a social
philosopher in terms of his own philosophy, which has as its purpose the
systematic inclusion of the totality, which would mean the overcoming of
all contradiction and alienation.76
Thus, in a number of ways, political economy was a kind of test bed for
the Hegelian enterprise. The values on which Hegels philosophy was
predicated fit badly, it would surely seem, with the character of the
capitalist economy. At the same time, Hegels account of the way in
which these humanitarian values might be achieved in the modern
society of his age was ingenious, and full of insights at every point into
the character of modern economic activity. Nevertheless, his selfacknowledged failure to explain how the problem of poverty, whose
importance he recognized, could satisfactorily be resolved within the
modern state, demonstrated very clearly the limitations, even on its own
terms, of the Hegelian enterprise in social and political philosophy.
74

Ibid. para. 245.


Ibid. para. 245.
76
R. L. Perkins, Remarks on the Papers of Avineri and Poggler in The Legacy of Hegel, ed.
OMalley, The Hague 1970, p. 220.
75

113