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Hegel Marx & the English State

Hegel Marx & the English State

David MacGregor
Copyright Date: 1996
  • Book Info
    Hegel Marx & the English State
    Book Description:

    This work, now brought back into print, is a radically revised intellectual portrait of Hegel and Marx that challenges standard interpretations of their political theory and places their political thought directly into social and historical context. David MacGregor reveals the revolutionary content of Hegel?s social theory and the Hegelian themes that underlie Marx?s analysis of the English state in Capital, and shows how the transformation of the Victorian state in the nineteenth century influenced the mature Marx to reclaim Hegelian arguments he had earlier abandoned. These ideas included a theory of politics and social class that coloured Marx?s view of capitalist and working-class opposition to government reform initiatives.

    MacGregor criticizes interpretations of state action that present government solely as a tool of capitalist and patriarchal interests. Noting the essential significance of child labour in the growing industrialization during Hegel?s and Marx?s time, the author contends that `alienation,? as the two thinkers understood the term, assumes a labour force in which many workers are socially powerless children and women. Given these conditions, the centrality of the English Factory Acts to workers? lives becomes obvious, a centrality acknowledged by Marx but forgotten by his followers. The author concludes his discussion with an assessment of current debates about state and civil society, relating these arguments to Hegel?s conception of the rational state.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7568-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Almost twenty years ago A. O. Hirschman (1973; 1981) pointed to the remarkable similarity between the theory of imperialism developed by J. A. Hobson and Rosa Luxemburg in the early twentieth century, and the brief but lucid account of imperialism in Hegel’sPhilosophy of Right.“There are a number of puzzles here,” Hirschman wrote. “First of all, how did Hegel come to express these ‘premature’ thoughts?” Why, he wondered, had Marx missed the striking implications of Hegel’s text? Moreover, why had Marx’s followers themselves ignored Hegel in this regard? Adding to the original mystery, the quandary opened up by the...

  4. 2 “Not Reform but Revolution”
    (pp. 12-52)

    Hegel died of cholera on 14 November 1831. The end came amidst revolutionary upheaval in Europe and political turmoil in England. An economic depression gripped Germany. During the last months Hegel watched events with growing anxiety. The English situation dismayed him; the government’s Reform Bill was grossly inadequate. Although the proposed reform was illusory, Hegel feared it would make England’s free market experiment even more attractive to radicals on the continent. Liberal economic ideology dominated political thought, and many looked to Adam Smith’sWealth of Nationsfor guidance in constructing a new society.¹ Like East European admirers of American democracy...

  5. 3 A Hegelian Marx
    (pp. 53-71)

    “Leonard Horner has resigned his post,” Marx wrote to Engels (Marx and Engels 1985: 5) in January, 1860. Marx was referring to the chief inspector responsible for administration of the Factory Acts. “His last brief report is replete with bitter irony. Could you find out whether the Manchester MILL-OWNERS had a hand in his resignation?” There is no record of a reply from Engels, but the request stemmed from Marx’s deep fascination with the “history, the details, and the results of the English factory legislation.” This peculiar love affair reached full bloom and “occupied a great deal of space” in...

  6. 4 “Personality”
    (pp. 72-94)

    Parliamentary reform, and the 1833 Factory Act that followed, mark a profound divide between Hegel’s and Marx’s world. They also furnish a vital link between the two thinkers. The spectacle of political change at Westminster fascinated both men; and both were convinced of the importance of factory regulation. They realized that state intervention would alter the terms of the employment contract: “theabsolute foundationof capitalist production” (Marx 1976: 1005). This chapter outlines the Hegelian critique of the assumptions underlying the employment contract. Marx accepted Hegel’s critique—which centers on the idea of individual personality—only in part, with fateful...

  7. 5 “The Father’s Arbitrary Will Within the Family”
    (pp. 95-137)

    In the last chapter we learned that Hegel’s concept of individual personality is closely connected to the notion of property. Yet Hegel would have disagreed with modern libertarian theorists, such as Robert Nozick, who discuss property solely as a relationship between individuals (Munzer 1990: 153). Property has a social context. Practically everyone belongs to a family, the first social relation; an individual’s personality begins and grows within a network of family ties. This chapter examines Hegel’s theory of the family.¹ I will look at the theory partly as a conversation between Hegel and other theorists, and as a reflection on...

  8. 6 Hegel’s Theory of Property, Part I: Possessions and Use
    (pp. 138-156)

    Hegel’s concept of the family, as we saw in the last chapter, uncovered profound domestic conflicts within the family’s key tenets, including equality in love and marriage, common property holdings, and the education of children. By accepting the family ideal, Hegel’s theory produced a more powerful critique of traditional domestic arrangements than that put forward later by Marx and Engels. In his 1884 classic,The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,for instance, Engels (1985) overlooked the role of state legislation in family matters, even though the English courts had by that time made some clear advances...

  9. 7 Hegel’s Theory of Property, Part II: Class Consciousness
    (pp. 157-184)

    The treatment of poverty in Hegel’s Berlin lectures, and a similar approach in thePhilosophy of Right,appear to be grounded in a radical critique of civil society. Yet commentators have discovered in Hegel only a conservative understanding of the basis of civil society—private property. This chapter presents a different account of Hegelian property theory. I shall argue that Hegel’s concept includes a profound critique of bourgeois private property, a critique that underpins his position on poverty. My argument hinges on a neglected contrast Hegel made between the moments of property called respectively, taking possession and use. Possession was...

  10. 8 Dialectical Inversion of the “Free Contract”
    (pp. 185-203)

    Despite significant differences with Hegel, Marx (1976: 90) employed Hegelian theory in his analysis of England, the“locus classicus”of the capitalist mode of production. The most striking instance of this is the transformation of the employment contract. Hegel emphasized the central place of the wage bargain in the bourgeois economic system, and its intimate connection with the state. He saw democratic corporations and government intervention as the solution to the dilemmas of poverty and economic crisis caused by the contract for wages. An identical strain emerges inCapital.This chapter explores the transformation of the employment contract inCapital,...

  11. 9 Marx and the Factory Acts
    (pp. 204-271)

    For Marx (1976: 520, 621, 635), ferocious exploitation of children and women by capital and large-scale introduction of machinery decisively transformed the labor contract in the first half of the nineteenth century. The cruel metamorphosis of contractual freedom in the sale of labor-power prompted “state intervention into factory affairs.” We shall see that Marx’s history of state action relied heavily on reports of the English Factory Inspectorate. Government inspectors, however, do not appear simply as fact-gatherers and statisticians. The bureaucrats who designed, implemented, and defended the statutes regulating the working day are key figures in Marx’s Hegelian account of the...

  12. 10 The Rational State
    (pp. 272-299)

    Hegel and Marx shared an ardent belief in the inherent rationality and liberating potential of government. Their view reflects a long tradition in German thought (Ritter 1986: 17), but it contrasts deeply with doubts about the state that characterize our own period. In this concluding chapter I will bring together the main arguments of this book and show that the standpoint of Hegel and Marx is even more compelling today, when the state is much larger and more powerful than in their time. The present section will assess the current status of the Hegelian vision of the state; subsequent sections...

  13. References
    (pp. 300-328)
  14. About the Book and Author
    (pp. 329-330)
  15. Index
    (pp. 331-345)