Hegel’s theory of state

Hegel’s theory of state

The most seminal contribution of Hegel to Political Philosophy is his theory of state. Like Plato, Hegel is a great system builder. His theory of state is rooted in the axiom: “What is rational is real and what is real is rational”. It means that whatever exists in the world is according to Reason and whatever is according to reason exists. Hegel’s theory of state is based on the basic premise about the gradual unfolding of Reason or Spirit or Absolute Idea through a dialectical process. Reason gets its perfect realisation in the state. Thus, the state is Reason personified. State is rational, state is real; therefore what is rational is real. Here, real does not only mean that which is empirical but that which is fundamental. In fact, Hegel distinguishes between real and that which merely exists. That which merely exists is only momentary and mere surface manifestation of underlying forces which alone are real. Thus, Hegel sought to bridge the gap between the rational and the real. The real is nothing but the objective manifestation of spirit.

This implies that for Hegel all states are rational in so far as they represent the various states of unfolding of Reason. By doing so he took a conservative position because it tantamount to saying that whatever happens is manifestation of unfolding of Reason. No event ever occurs unless ordained by Reason. So every event takes place according to a rational plan. He considered the state as “March of God on Earth” or the ultimate embodiment of Reason.

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