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hegel’s the german constitution

October 5, 2010

G.W.F. Hegel

The German Constitution 5-15, 15-25


-Hegel’s main argument in the first ten pages is that Germany is not a state, and that it currently does not have an adequate constitution.
-Hegel mentions that if Germany was a state, its current condition could only be described as anarchy if certain parts had not maintained a sense of unity which is derived from memory. He makes an analogy that fruit which has fallen from a tree can be said to trace itself back to the tree, but laying on the ground will not help the fruit from rotting, only being part of the tree would.
-Hegel says the health of a state shows during times of war, not times of peace. When you look at how Germany faired against the Revolutionary French armies it shows that the results were parts of Germany being lost, having to pay huge reparations, and a division between northern and southern Germans.
-Hegel says that anyone who tried to understand how things normally happened by looking at the concepts that ought to have happened is mistaken, and that the dissolution of the state can be seen by the fact that “everything is at variance in the law” (pg 9)
– Hegel says that the organisation of the German constitution took place in a different time with different concepts of things such as justice, power, wisdom etc. Hegel says again that the German state no longer exists. (pg 10)
-Hegel writes about how the old German constitution was based on the Germans drive for freedom. The Germans of Hegel’s time want to continue to believe in the ideas that worked for the old conditions, and ignore how they clash with the current conditions Germany is facing.
– Hegel describes how in the older system, that many spheres of power, such as princely houses, cities, guilds, were carved out of the power of the state. These groups do not consider the needs of the whole, but of the individual members.
– Hegel claims that this type of system of justice “where each part is maintained in separation from the state stands in absolute contradiction to the necessary claims of the state on its individual members.” (pg 12) He says the state requires a universal centre, made up of a monarch and Estates in which the various government portfolios are united, and has the power to assert itself and insure the individual parts of the state stay dependent on it. (pg 13)
– Hegel restates again, his main point that Germany is not a state, and to call it an empire is just a stop-gap measure. He says that one reason it is not a state is that a teacher of constitutional law would not be able to call Germany a state without making a number of concessions, and that you are not supposed to treat Germany as a non-state
– The result of this is that Germany ought to be a monarchy, but the imperial title is adopted. However this does not produce the result that Hegel wants, as he compares them to the Doge of Venice or the Turkish sultan. The Doge has very little power, but the Sultan has a great amount of power. Hegel says that because they are both heads of state, then the idea of a head of state is valueless

Germany and Italy in 1806

The Concept of the State

– In this section Hegel outlines his concept of the state. This helps show why Germany is not a state, which was Hegel’s main point in his introduction.
– Hegel opens this section with the statement “a mass of people can call itself a state only if it is united for the common defence of the totality of its property.” (pg 15) On this definition alone Germany is not a state, which Hegel lays out by saying Germany was united in word, but not action.
– Hegel goes on to say that “for a mass of people to form a state, it is necessary that it should form a common military force and political authority.”(pg 16)
– Hegel spends some time on the point that what is necessary for the masses to become a state and political authority is different from a particular modification of the political authority.
-Hegel says that the political authority should only focus on things which are necessary, and if it focuses on arbitrary things as well, people will become confused to what is really necessary and damage the interests of the state.
-Hegel discusses the various ways political authority exists such as whether authority is vested in one or many, appointed or elected is not important to the one essential factor, that the mass of people should form a state, its exact form is irrelevant.
– Hegel does not think that all the laws in the state have to be the same, as he says if Europe had all the same laws, it would not make it a state, and that diversity of laws does not cancel out a state.
– Hegel also says that what power is responsible for legislature is extraneous to the concept of the state.
-Hegel says that even religion has been found superfluous in modern states
-Hegel discusses one of the primary political ideas of his time, that “everything we have excluded from the necessary concept of the political authority – except the most important aspects…is subordinated to the immediate activity of the supreme political authority.” (pg 21) This is not an idea Hegel is particularly fond of. He says that it ends up with the idea that nothing can be spent without going through the political authority, and that no school teacher can be appointed, and every morsel of food must be managed. Hegel says that the protection of the citizens’ free activity should be the states most important task, as that kind of freedom is sacred.
-Hegel goes on to give three arguments in favour of the idea that citizens should manage their own affairs through particular bodies with their own procedures. The first benefit Hegel identifies is that the state will accrue more money this way through taxation. The second benefit is that the efficiency which “all the operations of a machine proceed at a regular pace”(pg 23). The third benefit Hegel identified is that the vitality and spirit of the individual benefits from being involved universal affairs.
-Hegel says that a state with less freedoms for its people would have an advantage over a freer one, but only if the restrictive state has a higher tax rate. If it is to be in control of the various offices, it will have to account for the revenue and costs, which will increase its expenditures over a freer state.
– Hegel shows that the requirements of a state have to do with constituting one political authority, with its own military force which can defend the totality of its property. It is not so important for Hegel how this state’s political authority functions, or how free the citizens of that state are, but that the state reaches the necessary conditions of defending its property, which was something the Germany of Hegel’s time failed to do, and why Hegel does not consider Germany a state.

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