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Hegel's Critique of Liberalism

Steven B. Smith
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 80, No. 1 (Mar., 1986), pp. 121-139
DOI: 10.2307/1957087
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1957087
Page Count: 19
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Hegel's Critique of Liberalism
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Abstract

A recent and perhaps surprising development in political theory has been the revival of neo-Kantian liberalism, with its doctrines of the neutral state and equal concern and respect. Critics of liberalism have suggested, however, that Kantian notions of rights and rationality are too thin a foundation on which to build satisfactory forms of community and political life. In this paper I examine the critique of rights-based liberalism by returning to the philosophy of Hegel. Hegel's position, I suggest, provides us with a much needed middle ground between liberalism and its contemporary critics. Like the modern communitarians he is critical of the individualistic and a historical conceptions of rights underlying the liberal polity, but like many liberals he is skeptical of the claims to recreate a democratic, participatory Gemeinschaft that would leave citizens defenseless before their particular communities. I conclude that like Montesquieu before him and Tocqueville after, Hegel looked to the "corporations" or intermediary associations to skirt the extremes of the market place and civic virtue.

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