Hegel's Political Philosophy

Hegel's Political Philosophy: Interpreting the Practice of Legal Punishment

Mark Tunick
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 212
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  • Book Info
    Hegel's Political Philosophy
    Book Description:

    To scholars of Western intellectual history Hegel is one of the most important of all political thinkers, but politicians and other "down-to-earth" persons see his speculative philosophy as far removed from their immediate concerns. Put off by his difficult terminology, many participants in practical politics may also believe that Hegel's idealism unduly legitimates the status quo. By examining his justification of legal punishment, this book introduces a Hegel quite different from these preconceptions: an acute critic of social practices. Mark Tunick draws on recently published but still untranslated lectures of Hegel's philosophy of right to take us to the core of Hegel's political thought. Hegel opposes radical criticism like that later offered by Marx, but, argues Tunick, he employs "immanent" criticism instead. For instance, Hegel claims that punishment is the criminal's right and makes the criminal free. From this standpoint, he defends specific features of the practice of punishment that accord with this retributive ideal and criticizes other features that contradict it. In a lucid account of what Hegel means by right and freedom, Tunick addresses Hegel specialists and those interested in criminal law, the interpretation of legal institutions and social practices, and justification from an immanent standpoint.

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6307-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. One Introduction to Hegel’s Political Philosophy
    (pp. 3-23)

    Why take seriously a metaphysician notorious for his prolix writing? Hegel’s writing is dense, obscure, always difficult, and sometimes impossible to understand. Even if we can wade through it, the promised land is either nightmare or deluded Utopia to anyone with the modern sensibility: its world has an “absolute rational design”;¹ it is governed by God (“the actual working of His government—the carrying out of His plan—is the history of the world”);² and in this world “the state is absolutely rational.”³

    I should be clear about my intentions at the start. I share in the modern sensibility that...

  7. Two Hegel’s Theory of Legal Punishment: An Overview
    (pp. 24-36)

    Among all our social practices, legal punishment is one of the most troubling to us. Some think punishment is institutionalized revenge, a barbaric practice we should now be above.¹ Others respond that punishment is our way of meting out just deserts: someone who is rightly condemned deserves to be punished, and failure to punish her is wrong.² To some, such justice is hypocritical, and punishment nothing but a “morality play.”³ Legal punishment is a practice troubling not only to those concerned with the “timeless” ethical questions of right and wrong, of justice and injustice, but to those who work within...

  8. Three Hegel’s Conception of Freedom
    (pp. 37-75)

    For Hegel, practices, institutions, and laws are right (Recht) if we can understand ourselves to be free by living in accord with them. “The system of right is the realm where freedom is realised.”¹ Something is right if by willing it we are free: “Any existent that is an embodiment of the free will is right.”² Hegel also claims that a criminal, who has violated the law by committing a wrong (Unrecht), has a right to punishment, and only by being punished is he respected as a free human being.³ In this chapter I discuss what Hegel means by freedom....

  9. Four Recht-an-sich and the Power That Punishes
    (pp. 76-107)

    In chapter 2 we saw that Hegel claims there are both objective and subjective reasons for punishing a criminal. One objective reason is to vindicate right: if we do not punish the criminal, his action may come to be taken by society as right. Another objective reason, we said, is to restore right, or justice. We noted that Hegel speaks sometimes of right as lying in wait until it is violated, upon which it turns against the criminal. Hegel suggests that the power that punishes is not just the state but justice, which he sometimes depicts with the images of...

  10. Five Hegel’s Immanent Criticism of the Practice of Legal Punishment
    (pp. 108-141)

    Political theorists are not often taken seriously. Their ideas are expressed mainly in academic journals unread by those who practice politics. The theorist typically is relegated to the far corner of a university social science department, tolerated, perhaps, out of a sense of duty to our intellectual traditions. One reason for this is that most theorists seem to have nothing to say of relevance to practitioners, to those working within our institutions and practices and coping with the problems of everyday life. Theorists are often perceived as outsiders, occupied with the profound and timeless, not the mundane and ordinary. I...

  11. Six Theory and Practice
    (pp. 142-174)

    A single man, no home, no meaningful job, sits in an East Oakland jail, convicted of buying crack, which he takes to escape his miserable life. A Berkeley Hegelian speaks to him on behalf of the state: “As you sit in your cell, you feel unfree. But you aren’t. We are punishing you because you have broken our laws. But these laws are your laws as well, and really you are punishing yourself. It is your implicit, rational will to act in accordance with the law, and in doing so you are really free. When you take crack, your natural...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 175-184)
  13. Index
    (pp. 185-191)