Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right
Karl Marx, 1843

(c) The Legislature
§ 298. The legislature is concerned (a) with the laws as such in so far as they require fresh and extended determination; and (b) with the content of home affairs affecting the entire state (a very general expression). The legislature is itself a part of the constitution which is presupposed by it and to that extent lies absolutely outside the sphere directly determined by it; nonetheless, the constitution becomes progressively more mature in the course of the further elaboration of the laws and the advancing character of the universal business of government.

Above all it is noteworthy that Hegel emphasises the way in which the legislature is itself a part of the constitution which is presupposed by it and lies absolutely outside the sphere directly determined by it, since he had made this statement neither of the Crown nor of the Executive, for both of which it is equally true. But only with the Legislature does Hegel construct the constitution in its entirety, and thus he is unable to presuppose it. However, we recognise his profundity precisely in the way he always begins with and accentuates the antithetical character of the determinate elements (as they exist in our states).

The legislature is itself a part of the constitution which lies absolutely outside the sphere directly determined by it. But the constitution is certainly not self-generating. The laws which 'require fresh and extended determination' must have received formulation. A legislature must exist or have existed before and outside of the constitution. There must exist a legislature outside of the actual empirical, established legislature. But, Hegel will answer, we presuppose an existing state. Hegel, however, is a philosopher of right, and develops the generic idea of the state [die Staatsgattung]. He is not allowed to measure the idea by what exists; he must measure what exists by the idea.

The collision is simple. The legislature is the power which is to organise the universal. it is the power of the constitution. It extends beyond the constitution.

On the other hand, however, the legislature is a constitutional power. Thus it is subsumed under the constitution. The constitution is law for the legislature. It has given laws to the legislature and continues to do so. The legislature is only legislature within the constitution, and the constitution would stand hors de loi if it stood outside the legislature. Voilà la collision! In recent French history much nibbling away [at the constitution] has occurred.

How does Hegel resolve this antinomy?

First of all it is said that the constitution is presupposed by the legislature and to that extent it lies absolutely outside the sphere directly determined by it. 'Nonetheless' - nonetheless in the course of the further elaboration of the laws and the advancing character of the universal business of government it becomes progressively more mature.

That is to say, then: directly, the constitution lies outside the sphere of the legislature; indirectly, however, the legislature modifies the constitution. The legislature does in an indirect way what it neither can nor may do in a direct way. It picks the constitution apart enti détail, since it cannot alter it en gros. It does by virtue of the nature of things and circumstances what according to the constitution it was not supposed to do. it does materially and in fact what it does not do formally, legally, or constitutionally.

With that, Hegel has not resolved the antinomy; he has simply transformed it into another antinomy. He has placed the real effect of the legislature, its constitutional effect, in contradiction with its constitutionally determined character. The opposition between constitution and legislature remains. Hegel has defined the factual and the legal action of the legislature as a contradiction - the contradiction between what the legislature should be and what it really is, between what it believes itself to be doing and what it really does.

How can Hegel present this contradiction as the truth? 'The advancing character of the 'universal business of government' enlightens us just as little, for it is precisely this advancing character which needs explanation.

In the Addition [to this paragraph] Hegel contributes hardly anything to the solution of these problems. He does, however, bring them more into focus:

The constitution must in and by itself be the fixed and recognised ground on which the legislature stands, and for this reason it must not first be constructed. Thus the constitution is, but just as essentially it becomes, i.e., it advances and matures. This advance is an alteration which is imperceptible and which lacks the form of alteration.

That is to say, according to the law (illusion) the constitution is, but according to reality (truth) it becomes. According to its determinate character the constitution is unalterable; but it really is changed, only this change is unconscious and lacks the form of alteration. The appearance contradicts the essence. The appearance is the conscious law of the constitution, and the essence is its unconscious law, which contradicts the other. What is in the nature of the thing is not found in the law. Rather, the opposite is in the law.

Is it the fact, then, that in the state - which, according to Hegel, is the highest existence of freedom, the existence of self-conscious reason - not law, the existence of freedom, but rather blind natural necessity governs? And if the law of the thing is recognised as contradicting the legal definition, why not acknowledge the law of the thing, in this case reason, ,is the law of the state? And how then consciously retain this dualism? Hegel wants always to present the state as the actualisation of free mind; however, re vera he resolves all difficult conflicts through a natural necessity which is the antithesis of freedom. Thus, the transition of particular interest into universal interest is not a conscious law of the state, but is mediated through chance and ratified contrary to consciousness. And in the state Hegel wants everywhere the realisation of free will! (Here we see Hegel's substantial viewpoint.)

Hegel uses as examples to illustrate the gradual alteration of the constitution the conversion of the private wealth of the German princes and their families into state property, and the conversion of the German emperors' personal administration of justice into an administration through delegates. His choice of examples is unfortunate. in the first case, for instance, the transition happened only in such a way that all state property was transformed into royal private property.

Moreover, these changes are particular. Certainly, entire state constitutions have changed such that as new requirements gradually arose the old broke down; but for the new constitution a real revolution was always necessity.

Hence the advance from one state of affairs to another, Hegel concluded [in the Addition], is tranquil in appearance and unnoticed. In this way a constitution changes over a long period of time into something quite different from what it was originally.

The category of gradual transition is, first of all, historically false; and secondly, it explains nothing.

In order not only that the constitution be altered, thus that this illusory appearance not be in the end forcefully shattered, but also that man do consciously what he is otherwise forced to do unconsciously by the nature of the thing, it is necessary that the movement of the constitution, that progress, be made the principle of the constitution, thus that the real corner stone of the constitution, the people, be made the principle of the constitution. Progress itself is then the constitution.

Should the constitution itself, therefore, belong within the domain of the legislature? This question can be posed only (1) if the political state exists as the pure formalism of the actual state, if the political state is a domain apart, if the political state exists as constitution; (2) if the legislature is of a source different than the executive etc.

The legislature produced the French Revolution. In general, when it has appeared in its special capacity as the ruling element, the legislature has produced the great organic, universal revolutions. It has not attacked the constitution, but a particular antiquated constitution, precisely because the legislature was the representative of the people, i.e., of the species-will [des Gattungswillens]. The executive, on the other hand, produced the small, retrograde revolutions, the reactions. It revolted not against an old constitution in favour of a new one, but against the constitution as such, precisely because the executive was the representative of the particular will, subjective caprice, the magical part of the will.

Posed correctly, the question is simply this: Does a people have the right to give itself a new constitution? The answer must be an unqualified 'yes!' because the constitution becomes a practical illusion the moment it ceases to be a true expression of the people's will.

The collision between the constitution and the legislature is nothing more than a conflict of the constitution with itself, a contradiction in the concept of the constitution.

The constitution is nothing more than an accommodation between the political and non-political state; hence it is necessarily in itself a treaty between essentially heterogeneous powers. Here, then, it is impossible for the law to declare that one of these powers, which is a part of the constitution, is to have the right to modify the constitution itself, which is the whole.

In so far as we speak of the constitution as a particular thing, however, it must be considered a part of the whole.

In so far as the constitution is understood to be the universal and fundamental determinations of the rational will, then clearly every people (state) presupposes this and must form it to its political credo. Actually, this is a matter of knowledge rather than of will. The will of a people can no more exceed the laws of reason than can the will of an individual. In the case of an irrational people one cannot speak at all of a rational organisation of the state. In any case, here in the philosophy of right we are concerned with the species-will.

The legislature does not make the law, it merely discovers and formulates it.

The resolution of this conflict has been attempted by differentiating between assemblée constituante and assemblée constituée.

§ 299. Legislative business (the concerns of the legislature) is more precisely determined in relation to private individuals, under these two heads: (a) provision by the state for their well being and happiness, and [b] the exaction of services from them. The former comprises the laws dealing with all sorts of private rights, the rights of communities, Corporations, and organisations affecting the entire state, and further it indirectly (see § 298) comprises the whole of the constitution. As for the services to be exacted, it is only if these are reduced to terms of money, the really existent and universal value of both things and services, that they can be fixed justly and at the same time in such a way that any particular tasks and services which an individual may perform come to be mediated through his own arbitrary will.

Concerning this determination of the legislature's business, Hegel himself notes, in the Remark to this paragraph:

The proper object of universal legislation may be distinguished in a general way from the proper function of administrative officials or of some kind of state regulation, in that the content of the former is wholly universal, i.e., determinate laws, while it is what is particular in content which falls to the latter, together with ways and means of enforcing the law. This distinction, however, is not a hard and fast one, because a law, by being a law, is ab initio something more than a mere command in general terms (such as 'Thou shalt not kill'. . . ). A law must in itself be something determinate, but the more determinate it is, the more readily are its terms capable of being carried out as they stand. At the same time, however, to give to laws such a fully detailed determinacy would give them empirical features subject inevitably to alteration in the course of their being actually carried out, and this would contravene their character as laws. The organic unity of the powers of the state itself implies that it is one single mind which both firmly establishes the universal and also brings it into its determinate actuality and carries it out.

But it is precisely this organic unity which Hegel has failed to construct. The various powers each have a different principle, although at the same time they are all equally real. To take refuge from their real conflict in an imaginary organic unity, instead of developing the various powers as moments of an organic unity, is therefore an empty, mystical evasion.

The first unresolved collision was that between the constitution as a whole and the legislature. The second is that between the legislature and the executive, i.e., between the law and its execution.

The second determination found in this paragraph [§ 299] is that the only service the state exacts from individuals is money.

The reasons Hegel gives for this are:

1. money is the really existent and universal value of both things and services;

2. the services to be exacted can be fixed justly only by means of this reduction;

3. only in this way can the services be fixed in such a way that the particular tasks and services which an individual may perform conic to be mediated through his own arbitrary will. Hegel notes in the Remark [to this paragraph]:

ad. 1. In the state it may happen, to begin with, that the numerous aptitudes, possessions, pursuits, and talents of its members, together with the infinitely varied richness of life intrinsic to these - all of which are at the same time linked with their owner's mentality - are not subject to direct levy by the state. It lays claim only to a single form of riches, namely money. (Services requisitioned for the defence of the state in war arise for the first time in connection with the duty considered in the next sub-division of this book.) We shall consider personal duty with regard to the military only later - not because of the following sub-division, but for other reasons. In fact, however, money is not one particular type of wealth amongst others, but the universal form of all types so far as they are expressed in an external embodiment and so can be taken as 'things'.

In our day, it continues in the Addition, the state purchases what it requires.

ad 2. Only by being translated into terms of this extreme culmination of externality (sc. wherein riches are transformed into the externality of existence, in which they can be grasped as an object) can services exacted by the state be fixed quantitatively and so justly and equitably.

The Addition reads: By means of money, however, the justice of equality can be achieved much more efficiently. Otherwise, if assessment depended on concrete ability, a talented man would be more heavily taxed than an untalented one.

ad 3. In Plato's Republic, the Guardians are left to allot individuals to their particular classes and impose on them their particular tasks ... Under the feudal monarchies the services required from vassals were equally indeterminate, but they had also to serve in their particular capacity, e.g. as judges. The same particular character pertains to tasks imposed in the East and in Egypt in connection with colossal architectural undertakings, and so forth. In these circumstances the principle of subjective freedom is lacking, i.e., the principle that the individual's substantive activity - which in any case becomes something particular in content in services like those mentioned - shall be mediated through his particular volition. This is a right which can be secured only when the demand for service takes the form of a demand for something of universal value, and it is this right which has brought with it this conversion of the state's demands into demands for cash.

The Addition reads:

In our day, the state purchases what it requires. This may at first sight seem ail abstract, heartless, and dead state of affairs, and for the state to be satisfied with indirect services may also look like decadence in the state. But the principle of the modern state requires that the whole of an individual's activity shall be mediated through his Will ... But nowadays respect for subjective freedom is publicly recognised precisely in the fact that the state lays hold of a man only by that which is capable of being held.

Do what you want, pay what you must.

The beginning of the Addition reads:

The two sides of the constitution bear respectively on the rights and the services of individuals. Services are now almost entirely reduced to money payments, and military service is now almost the only personal one exacted.

§300. In the legislature as a whole the other powers are the first two moments which are effective, (i) the monarchy as that to which ultimate decisions belong: (ii) the executive as the advisory body since it is the moment possessed of [a] a concrete knowledge and oversight of the whole state in its numerous facets and the actual principles firmly established within it, and [b] a knowledge in particular of what the state's power needs. The last moment in the legislature is the Estates.

The monarchy and the executive are ... the legislature. If, however, the legislature is the whole, then the monarchy and the executive must accordingly be moments of the legislature. The supervening Estates are the legislature merely, or the legislature in distinction from the monarchy and the executive.

§ 301. The Estates have the function of bringing public affairs into existence not only implicitly, but also actually, i.e., of bringing into existence the moment of subjective formal freedom, the public consciousness as an empirical universal, of which the thoughts and opinions of the Many are particulars.

The Estates are civil society's deputation to the state, to which it [i.e., civil society] is opposed as the 'Many'. The Many must for a moment deal consciously with universal affairs as if they were their own, as objects of public consciousness, which, according to Hegel, is nothing other than the empirical universal, of which the thoughts and opinions of the Many are particulars. (And in fact, it is no different in modern or constitutional monarchies.) It is significant that Hegel, who shows such great respect for the state-mind [dem Staatsgeist] - the ethical spirit, state-consciousness - absolutely disdains it when it faces him in actual empirical form.

This is the enigma of mysticism. The same fantastic abstraction that rediscovers state-consciousness in the degenerate form of bureaucracy, a hierarchy of knowledge, and that uncritically accepts this incomplete existence as the actual and full-valued existence - the same mystical abstraction admits with equanimity that the actual empirical state-mind, public consciousness, is a mere potpourri of the 'thoughts and opinions of the Many'. As it imputes to the bureaucracy an essence which is foreign to it, so it grants to the actuality of that essence only the inferior form of appearance. Hegel idealises the bureaucracy and empiricises public consciousness. He can treat actual public consciousness very much à part precisely because he has treated the à part consciousness as the public consciousness. He need concern himself all the less with the actual existence of the state-mind in that he believes he has sufficiently realised it in its soi-disant existences. So long is the state-mind mystically haunted the forecourt it received many plaudits. Now that we have caught it in persona it is barely respected.

'The Estates have the function of bringing public affairs into existence not only implicitly [an sich], but also actually [für sich].' And indeed it comes into existence actually as the public consciousness, as 'an empirical universal, of which the thoughts and opinions of the Many arc particulars'.

The process in which 'public affairs' becomes subject, and thus gains autonomy, is here presented as a moment of the life-process of public affairs. Instead of having subjects objectifying themselves in public affairs Hegel has public affairs becoming the subject. Subjects do not need public affairs as their true affairs, but public affairs needs subjects for its formal existence. It is an affair of public affairs that it exist also as subject.

Here the difference between the 'being-in-itself' [Ansichsein] and the 'being-for-itself' [Fürsichsein] of public affairs must be especially considered.

Public affairs already exists 'in-itself' [i.e., implicitly] as the business of the executive etc. Thus, public affairs exists without actually being public affairs; nothing less, for it is not the affair of civil society. It has already found its essential existence, its being-in-itself. The fact that public affairs now actually becomes public consciousness, or empirical universal, is purely formal and, as it were, only a symbolic coming to actuality. The formal or empirical existence of public affairs is separated from its substantial existence. The truth of the matter is that public affairs as being-in-itself is not actually public, and actual empirical public affairs is only formal.

Hegel separates content and form, being-in-itself and being-for-itself, and allows the latter the superficial status of formal moment. The content is complete and exists in many forms which are not the forms of this content; while, clearly, the form which is supposed to be the actual form of the content doesn't have the actual content for its content.

Public affairs is complete without being the actual affairs of the people. The actual affairs of the people have been established without the activity of the people. The Estates are the illusory existence of the affairs of the state as being an affair of the people. The illusion is that public affairs are public affairs, or that truly public affairs are the affair of the people. It has come to the point in our states as well as in the Hegelian philosophy of right where the tautological sentence, 'The public affairs are the public affairs', can appear only as an illusion of practical consciousness. The Estates are the political illusion of civil society. Subjective freedom appears in Hegel as formal freedom (it is important, however, that what is free be done freely, that freedom doesn't prevail as an unconscious natural instinct of society), precisely because Hegel has not presented objective freedom as the actualisation, the activity, of subjective freedom. Because he has given the presumed or actual content of freedom a mystical bearer, the actual subject of freedom takes on a formal meaning. The separation of the in-itself and the for-itself, of substance and subject, is abstract mysticism.

Hegel, in his Remark to § 301 presents the Estates quite rightly as something 'formal' and 'illusory'.

Both the knowledge and the will of the Estates are treated partly as unimportant and partly as suspect; that is to say, the Estates make no significant contribution.

1. The idea uppermost in men's minds when they speak about the necessity or the expediency of 'summoning the Estates' is generally something of this sort: (i) The deputies of the people, or even the people themselves, must know best what is in their best interest, - .and (ii) their will for its promotion is undoubtedly the most disinterested. So far as the first of these points is concerned, however, the truth is that if 'people' means a particular section of the citizens, then it means precisely that section which does not know what it wills. To know what one wills, and still more to know what the absolute will, Reason, wills, is the fruit of profound apprehension (which is found, no doubt, in the bureaus) and insight, precisely the things which are not popular.

Further along in the paragraph we read the following about the Estates themselves:

The highest civil servants necessarily have a deeper and more comprehensive insight into the nature of the state's organisation and requirements. They arc also more habituated to the business of government and have greater skill in it, so that even without the Estates they are able to do what is best, just as they also continually have to do while the Estates are in session.

And it goes without saying that this is perfectly true in the organisation described by Hegel.

2. As for the conspicuously good will for the general welfare which the Estates are supposed to possess, it has been pointed out already. . . that to regard the will of the executive as bad, or as less good [than that of the ruled] is a presupposition characteristic of the rabble or of the negative outlook generally. This presupposition might at once be answered on its own ground by the countercharge that the Estates start from isolated individuals, from a private point of view, from particular interests, and so are inclined to devote their activities to these at the expense of the general interests, while per contra the other moments in the power of the state explicitly take up the standpoint of the state from the start and devote themselves to the universal end.

Therefore the knowledge and will of the Estates are partly superfluous and partly suspect. The people do not know what they want. III the possession of political knowledge [Staatswssenschaft] the Estates are not equal to the officials, who have a monopoly on it. The Estates are superfluous for the execution of public affairs. The officials can carry out this execution without the Estates; moreover they must, in spite of the Estates, do what is best. Thus the Estates, with regard to their content, are pure superfluity. Their existence, therefore, is a pure formality in the most literal sense.

Furthermore, the sentiment of the Estates, their will, is suspect, for they start from the private point of view and private interests. In truth, private interest is their public affairs, not public affairs their private interest. But what a way for public affairs to obtain form as public affairs - i.e., through a will which doesn't know what it wills, or at least lacks any special knowledge of t he universal, a will, furthermore, whose actual content is an opposing interest!

In modern states, as in Hegel's Philosophy of Right, the conscious, true actuality of public affairs is merely formal, or only what is formal constitutes actual public affairs.

Hegel is not to be blamed for depicting the nature of the modern state as it is, but rather for presenting what is as the essence of the state. The claim that the rational is actual is contradicted precisely by an irrational actuality, which everywhere is the contrary of what it asserts and asserts the contrary of what it is.

Instead of showing how public affairs exists for-itself, 'subjectively, and thus actually as such', and that it also has the form of public affairs, Hegel merely shows that formlessness is its subjectivity; and a form without content must be formless. The form which public affairs obtains in a state which is not the state of public affairs can be nothing but a non-form, a self-deceiving, self-contradicting form, a form which is pure appearance [eine Scheinform] and which will betray itself as this appearance.

Only for the sake of logic does Hegel want the luxury of the Estates. The being-for-itself of public affairs as empirical universal must have an existence [ein Dasein]. Hegel does not search for an adequate actualisation of the being-for-itself of public affairs, but contents himself with finding an empirical existent which can be dissolved into this logical category. This is the Estates. And Hegel himself does not fail to note how pitiful and full of contradiction this existent is. Yet he still reproaches ordinary consciousness for being discontent with this satisfaction of logic, for being unwilling to see actuality dissolved into logic by this arbitrary abstraction, for wanting logic, rather, to be transformed into concrete objectivity.

I say arbitrary abstraction, for since the executive power wills, knows, and actualises public affairs, arises from the people, and is an empirical plurality (Hegel himself tells us that it is not a totality), why should we not be able to characterise the executive as the 'being-for-itself of public affairs'? Or, again, why not the Estates as their being-in-itself, since it is only in the executive that [public affairs] receives illumination, determinacy, execution, and independence?

The true antithesis, however, is this: public affairs must somewhere be represented in the state as actual, and thus as empirical public affairs; it must appear somewhere in the crown and robes of the universal, whereby the universal automatically becomes a fiction, an illusion.

Here it is a question of the opposition of the universal as 'form', in the form of universality, and the universal as 'content'.

In science, for example, an individual can fully perform public affairs, and it is always individuals who do so. But public affairs become actually public only when they are no longer the affair of an individual but of society. This changes not only the form but also the content. In this case, however, it is a question of the state in which the people itself constitutes the public affairs, a question of the will which has its true existence as species-will only in the self-conscious will of the people, and, moreover, a question of the idea of the state.

The modern state, in which public affairs and their pursuit is a monopoly while monopolies are the actual public affairs, has effected the peculiar device of appropriating public affairs as a pure form. (in fact, only the form is public affairs.) With that, the modern state has found the appropriate form for its content, which only appears to be actual public affairs.

The constitutional state is the state in which the state-interest is only formally the actual interest of the people, but is nevertheless present as a distinct form alongside of the actual state. Here the state-interest has again received formal actuality as the people's interest; but it is to have only this formal actuality. It has become ) formality, the haut gout of the life of the people - a ceremony. The Estates are the sanctioned, legal lie of constitutional states, the lie that the state is the people's interest or the people the interest of the state. This lie will betray itself in its content. The lie has established itself as the legislature precisely because the legislature has the universal as its content and, being more an affair of knowledge than of will, is the metaphysical power of the state; whereas had the same lie established itself as the executive etc., it would have had either immediately to dissolve itself or be transformed into a truth. The metaphysical power of the state was the most likely seat for the metaphysical, universal illusion of the state.

[Remark to § 301.] The Estates are a guarantee of the general welfare and public freedom. A little reflection will show that this guarantee does not lie in their particular power of insight ... the guarantee lies on the contrary [a] in the additional (!!) insight of the deputies, insight in the first place into the activity of such officials as are not immediately under the eye of the higher functionaries of state, and in particular into the more pressing and more specialised needs and deficiencies which are directly in their view; [b] in the fact that the anticipation of criticism from the Many, particularly of public criticism, has the effect of inducing officials to devote their best attention beforehand to their duties and the schemes under consideration, and to deal with these only in accordance with the purest motives. This same compulsion is effective also on the members of the Estates themselves.

As for the general guarantee which is supposed to lie peculiarly in the Estates, each of the other political institutions shares with the Estates in being a guarantee of public welfare and rational freedom, and some of these institutions, as for instance the sovereignty of the monarch, hereditary succession to the throne, the judicial system etc., guarantee these things far more effectively than the Estates can. Hence the specific function which the concept assigns to the Estates is to be sought in the fact that in them the subjective moment in universal freedom - the private judgment and private will of the sphere called 'civil society' in this book - comes into existence integrally related to the state. This moment is a determination of the Idea once the Idea has developed to totality, a moment arising as a result of an inner necessity not to be confused with external necessities and expediencies. The proof of this follows, like all the rest of our account of the state, from adopting the philosophical point of view.

Public, universal freedom is allegedly guaranteed in the other institutions of the state, while the Estates constitute its alleged self-guarantee. [But the fact is] that the people rely more heavily on the Estates, in which the self-assurance of their freedom is thought to be, than on the institutions which are supposed to assure their freedom independent of their own participation, institutions which are supposed to be verifications of their freedom without being manifestations of it. The coordinating function Hegel assigns to the Estates, alongside the other institutions, contradicts the essence of the Estates.

Hegel solves the problem by finding the 'specific function which the concept assigns to the Estates' in the fact that in them 'the private judgment and private will ... of civil society... comes into existence integrally related to the state'. It is the reflection of civil society on the state. just as the bureaucrats are delegates of the state to civil society, so the Estates are delegates of civil society to the state. Consequently, it is always a case of transactions of two opposing wills.

What is said in the Addition to this paragraph, namely:

The attitude of the executive to the Estates should not be essentially hostile, and a belief in the necessity of such hostility is a sad mistake.

is a sad truth.

'The executive is not a party standing over against another party.' Just the contrary.

The taxes voted by the Estates, moreover, are not to be regarded as a present given to the state. On the contrary they are voted in the best interests of the voters themselves.

Voting for taxes in a constitutional state is, by the very idea of it, necessarily a present.

The real significance of the Estates lies in the fact that it is through them that the state enters the subjective consciousness of the people and that the people begins to participate in the state.

This last statement is quite correct. In the Estates the people begins to participate in the state, just as the state enters the people's subjective consciousness as something opposed. But how can Hegel possibly pass off this beginning as the full reality!

§ 302. Regarded as a mediating organ, the Estates stand between the government in general on the one hand and the nation broken up into particulars (people and associations) on the other. Their function requires them to possess a political and administrative sense and temper, no less than a sense for the interests of individuals and particular groups. At the same time the significance of their position is that, in common with the organised executive, they are a middle term preventing both the extreme isolation of the power of the crown, which otherwise might seem a mere arbitrary tyranny, and also the isolation of particular interests of persons, societies, and Corporations. Further, and more important, they prevent individuals from having the appearance of a mass or an aggregate and so from acquiring an unorganised opinion and volition and from crystallising into a powerful bloc in opposition to the organised state.

On the one hand we have the state and the executive, always taken as identical, and on the other the nation broken up into particulars (people and associations). The Estates stand as a mediating organ between the two. The Estates are the middle term wherein political and administrative sense and temper meet and are to be united with the sense and temper of individuals and particular groups. The identity of these two opposed senses and tempers, in which identity the state was supposed to actually lie, acquires . a symbolic appearance in the Estates. The transaction between state and civil society appears as a particular sphere. The Estates are the synthesis between state and civil society. But how the Estates are to begin to unite in themselves two contradictory tempers is not indicated. The Estates are the established contradiction of the state and civil society within the state. At the same time they are the demand for the dissolution of this contradiction.

At the same time the significance of their position is that, in common with the organised executive they are the middle term etc.

The Estates not only mediate between the people and the executive, but they also prevent the extreme isolation of the power of the crown, whereby it would appear as mere arbitrary tyranny, and also the isolation of the particular interests etc. Furthermore they prevent individuals from having the appearance of a mass or an aggregate. This mediating function is what the Estates have in common with the organised executive power. In a state in which the position of the Estates prevents individuals from having the appearance of a mass or an aggregate, and so from acquiring an unorganised opinion and volition and from crystallising into a powerful bloc in opposition to the organised state, the organised state exists outside the mass and the aggregate; or, in other words, the mass and aggregate belong to the organisation of the state. But its unorganised opinion and volition is to be prevented from crystallising into an opinion and volition in opposition to the state, through which determinate orientation it would become an organised opinion and volition. At the same time this powerful bloc is to remain powerful only in such a way that understanding remains foreign to it, so that the mass is unable to make a move on its own and can only be moved by the monopolists of the organised state and be exploited as a powerful bloc. Where it is not a matter of the particular interests of persons, societies and Corporations isolating themselves from the state, but rather of the individuals being prevented from having the appearance of a mass or an aggregate and from acquiring an unorganised opinion and volition and from crystallising into a powerful bloc in opposition to the state, precisely then it becomes evident not that a particular interest contradicts the state, but rather that the actual organised universal thought of the mass and aggregate is not the thought of the organised state and cannot find its realisation in the state. What is it then that makes the Estates appear to be the mediation against this extreme? It is merely the isolation of the particular interests of persons, societies and Corporations; or the fact that their isolated interests balance their account with the state through the Estates while, at the same time, the unorganised opinion and volition of a mass or aggregate employed its volition (its activity) in creating the Estates and its opinion in judging their activity, and enjoyed the illusion of its own objectification. The Estates preserve the state from the unorganised aggregate only through the disorganisation of this very aggregate.

At the same time, however, the mediation of the Estates is to prevent the isolation of the particular interests of persons, societies and Corporations. This they achieve, first, by coming to an understanding with the interest of the state and, second, by being themselves the political isolation of these particular interests, this isolation as political act, in that through them these isolated interests achieve the rank of the universal.

Finally, the Estates are to mediate against the isolation of the power of the crown as an extreme (which otherwise might seem a mere arbitrary tyranny). This is correct in so far as the principle of the power of the crown (arbitrary will) is limited by means of the Estates, at least can operate only in fetters, and in so far as the Estates themselves become a partaker and accessory of the power of the crown.

In this way, either the power of the crown ceases to be actually the extreme of the power of the crown (and the power of the crown exists only as an extreme, a one-sidedness, because it is not an organic principle) and becomes a mere appearance of power [eine Scheingewalt], a symbol, or else it loses only the appearance of arbitrary tyranny. The Estates mediate against the isolation of particular interests by presenting this isolation as a political act. They mediate against the isolation of the power of the crown as an extreme partly by becoming themselves a part of that power, partly by making the executive power an extreme.

All the contradictions of modern state-organisations converge in the Estates. They mediate in every direction because they are, from every direction, the middle term.

It should be noted that Hegel develops the content of the Estates' essential political activity, viz., the legislature, less than he does their position, or political rank.

It should be further noted that, while the Estates, according to Hegel, stand between the government in general on the one hand and the nation broken up into particulars (people and associations) on the other, the significance of their position as developed above is that, in common with the organised executive, they are a middle term.

Regarding the first position, the Estates represent the nation over against the executive, but the nation en miniature. This is their oppositional position.

Regarding the second, they represent the executive over against the nation, but the amplified executive. This is their conservative position. They are themselves a part of the executive over against the people, but in such a way that they simultaneously have the significance of representing the people over against the executive.

Above, Hegel called the legislature a 'totality' (§ 300). In fact, however, the Estates are this totality, the state within the state; but it is precisely in them that it becomes apparent that the state is not a totality but a duality. The Estates represent the state in a society that is no state. The state is a mere representation [eine blosse Vorstellung].

In the Remark Hegel says:

It is one of the most important discoveries of logic that a specific moment, which, by standing in an opposition, has the position of ail extreme, ceases to be such and is a moment in an organic whole by being at the same time a mean.

(Thus the Estates are at one and the same time (1) the extreme of the nation over against the executive, but (2) the mean between nation and executive; or, in other words, the opposition within the nation itself The opposition between the executive and the nation is mediated through the opposition between the Estates and the nation. From the point of view of the executive the Estates have the position of the nation, but from the point of view of the nation they have the position of the executive. The nation in its occurrence as image, fantasy, illusion, representation - i.e., the imagined nation, or the Estates, which are immediately situated as a particular power in dissociation from the actual nation - abolishes [hebt auf] the actual opposition between the nation and the executive. Here the nation is already dressed out, exactly as required in this particular organism, so as to have no determinate character.)

The Remark continues:

In connection with our present topic it is all the more important to emphasise this aspect of the matter because of the popular, but most dangerous, prejudice which regards the Estates principally from the point of view of their opposition to the executive, as if that were their essential attitude. If the Estates become an organ in the whole by being taken up into the state, they evince themselves solely through their mediating function. In this way their opposition to the executive is reduced to a show. There may indeed be an appearance of opposition between them, but if they were opposed, not merely superficially, but actually and in substance, then the state would be in the throes of destruction. That the clash is not of this kind is evident in the nature of the thing, because the Estates have to deal, not with the essential elements in the organism of the state, but only with rather specialised and trifling matters, while the passion which even these arouse spends itself in party cravings in connection with purely subjective interests such as appointments to higher offices of state.

In the Addition it says: 'The constitution is essentially a system of mediation.'

§ 303. The universal class, or, more precisely, the class of civil servants, must, purely in virtue of its character as universal, have the universal as the end of its essential activity. In the Estates, as an element in the legislative power, the unofficial class acquires its political significance and efficacy; it appears, therefore, in the Estates neither as a mere indiscriminate multitude nor as an aggregate dispersed into its atoms, but as what it already is, namely a class subdivided into two, one subclass [the agricultural class] being based on a tic of substance between its members, and the other [the business class] on particular needs and the work whereby these are met . . . It is only in this way that there is a genuine link between the particular which is effective in the state and the universal.

Here we have the solution of the riddle. 'In the Estates, as an element in the legislative power, the unofficial class acquires its political significance.' acquires It is understood that the unofficial, or private class [der Privatstand] this significance in accordance with what it is, with its articulation within civil society; (Hegel has already designated the universal class as the class dedicated to the executive; the universal class, therefore, is represented in the legislature by the executive.)

The Estates are the political significance of the unofficial class, i.e., of the unpolitical class, which is a contradictio in adjecto; or to put it another way, in class as described by Hegel the unofficial class (or, more correctly, unofficial class difference) has a political significance. The unofficial class belongs to the essence, to the very political reality [zur Politik] of this state, which thus gives it also a political significance, that is, one that differs from its actual significance.

In the Remark it says:

This runs counter to another prevalent idea, the idea that since it is in the legislature that the unofficial class rises to the level of participating in matters of state, it must appear there in the form of individuals, whether individuals are to choose representatives for this purpose, or whether every single individual is to have a vote in the legislature himself. This atomistic and abstract point of view vanishes at the stage of the family, as well as that of civil society where the individual is in evidence only as a member of a general group. The state, however, is essentially an organisation each of whose members is in itself a group of this kind, and hence no one of its moments should appear as an unorganised aggregate. The Many, as units - a congenial interpretation of 'people', are of course something connected, but they are connected only as an aggregate, a formless mass whose commotion and activity could therefore only be elementary, irrational, barbarous, and frightful.

The circles of association in civil society are already communities. To picture these communities as once more breaking up into a mere conglomeration of individuals as soon as they enter the field of politics, i.e., the field of the highest concrete universality, is eo ipso to hold civil and political life apart from one another and as it were to hang the latter in the air, because its basis could then only be the abstract individuality of caprice and opinion, and hence it would be grounded on chance and not on what is absolutely stable and justified.

So-called 'theories' of this kind involve the idea that the classes [Stände] of civil society and the Estates [Stände], which are the 'classes' given a political significance, stand wide apart from each other. But the German language, by calling them both Stände has still maintained the unity which in any case they actually possessed in former times.

'The universal class, or, more precisely, the class of civil servants. Hegel proceeds from the hypothesis that the universal class is the class of civil servants. For him, universal intelligence is attached permanently to a class.

'In the Estates as an element etc.' Here, the political significance and efficacy of the unofficial class is precisely its particular significance and efficacy. The unofficial class is not changed into a political class, but appears as the unofficial class in its political significance and efficacy. It does not have political significance and efficacy simply; its political efficacy and significance are those of the unofficial class as unofficial or private. Accordingly, the unofficial class can appear in the political sphere only in keeping with the class difference found in civil society. The class difference within civil society becomes a political difference.

Even the German language, says Hegel, expresses the identity of the classes of civil society with the classes given a political significance; it expresses a unity which in any case they actually possessed in former times - a unity, one should thus conclude, which no longer exists.

Hegel finds that, in this way there is a genuine link between the particular which is effective in the state and the universal. In this way the separation of civil and political life is to be abolished and their identity established.

Hegel finds support in the following: 'The circles of association (family and civil society) are already communities.' How can one want these to break up into a mere conglomeration of individuals as soon as they enter the field of politics, i.e., the field of the highest concrete universality?

It is important to follow this development very carefully.

The peak of Hegelian identity, as Hegel himself admits, was the Middle Ages. There, the classes of civil society in general and the Estates, or classes given political significance, were identical. The spirit of the Middle Ages can be expressed thus: the classes of civil society and the political classes were identical because civil society was political society, because the organic principle of civil society was the principle of the state.

But Hegel proceeds from the separation of civil society and the political state as two actually different spheres, firmly opposed to one another. And indeed this separation does actually exist in the modern state. The identity of the civil and political classes in the Middle Ages was the expression of the identity of civil and political society. This identity has disappeared; and Hegel presupposes it as having disappeared. The identity of the civil and political classes, if it expressed the truth, could be now only an expression of the separation of civil and political society! Or rather, only the separation of the civil and political classes expresses the true relationship of modern civil and political society.

Secondly: the political classes Hegel deals with here have a wholly different meaning than those political classes of the Middle Ages, which are said to be identical with the classes of civil society.

The whole existence of the medieval classes was political; their existence was the existence of the state. Their legislative activity, their grant of taxes for the realm was merely a particular issue of their universal political significance and efficacy. Their class was their state. The relationship to the realm was merely one of transaction between these various states and the nationality, because the political state in distinction from civil society was nothing but the representation of nationality. Nationality was the point d'honneur, the kat exhin political sense of these various Corporations etc., and taxes etc., pertained only to them. That was the relationship of the legislative classes to the realm. The classes were related in a similar way within the particular principalities. There, the principality, the sovereignty was a particular class which enjoyed certain privileges but was equally inconvenienced by the privileges of the other classes. (With the Greeks, civil society was a slave to political society.) The universal legislative efficacy of the classes of civil society was in no way the acquisition of political significance and efficacy by the unofficial, or private class, but was rather a simple issue of its actual and universal political significance and efficacy. The appearance of the private class as legislative power was simply a complement of its sovereign and governing (executive) power; or rather it was its appropriation of wholly public affairs as a private affair, its acquisition, qua private class, of sovereignty. In the Middle Ages, the classes of civil society were as such simultaneously legislative because they were not private classes, or because private classes were political classes. The medieval classes did not, as political Estates, acquire a new character. They did not become political classes because they participated in legislation; rather they participated in legislation because they were political classes. But what does that have in common with Hegel's unofficial class which, as a legislative element, acquires political bravura, an ecstatic condition, a remarkable, stunning, extraordinary political significance and efficacy?

All the contradictions of the Hegelian presentation are found together in this development.

1. He has presupposed the separation of civil society and the political state (which is a modern situation), and developed it as a necessary moment of the Idea, as an absolute truth of Reason. He has presented the political state in its modern form of the separation of the various powers. For its body he has given the actual acting state the bureaucracy, which he ordains to be the knowing spirit over and above the materialism of civil society. He has opposed the state, as the actual universal, to the particular interest and need of civil society. in short, he presents everywhere the conflict between civil society and the state.

2. He opposes civil society as unofficial, or private class to the political state.

3. He calls the Estates, as element of the legislative power, the pure political formalism of civil society. He calls them a relationship of civil society to the state which is a reflection of the former on the latter, a reflection which does not alter the essence of the state. A relationship of reflection is also the highest identity between essentially different things.

On the other hand:


1. Hegel wants civil society, in its self-establishment as legislative clement, to appear neither as a mere indiscriminate multitude nor as an aggregate dispersed into its atoms. He wants no separation of civil and political life.

2. He forgets that he is dealing with a relationship of reflection, and makes the civil classes as such political classes; but again only with reference to the legislative power, so that their efficacy itself is proof of the separation.

He makes the Estates the expression of the separation [of civil and political life]; but at the same time they are supposed to be the representative of an identity - an identity which does not exist. Hegel is aware of the separation of civil society and the political state, but he wants the unity of the state expressed within the state; and this is to be achieved by having the classes of civil society, while remaining such, form the Estates as an element of legislative society. (cf. xiv, x)'