Hegel and the Failure of Civil Society

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Philosophy Dept., Villanova University


On what might be called a Marxist reading, Hegel’s analysis of civil society accurately recognizes a necessary tendency toward a polarization of classes and the pauperization of the proletariat, a problem for which Hegel, however, has no solution. Indeed, Marxists think there can be no solution short of eliminating civil society. It is not at all clear that this standard reading is correct. The present paper tries to show how it is plausible to understand Hegel as proposing a solution, one that is similar to that of social democrats, and one that could actually work.