Hegel on Market Laws and External Teleology

Hegel Bulletin 44 (1):27-45 (2023)
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Abstract

By highlighting the logico-metaphysical undergirding of Hegel's discussion of the market, this article brings to light certain proto-Marxist or proto-socialist tendencies in Hegel as well as key disagreements with Adam Smith, which have been missed by recent studies like Herzog's Inventing the Market (2013). For Smith, market laws function like an impartial arbiter that rewards honest effort; his main worry is that individuals may fail to display virtues like honesty, probity and frugality, thereby hindering the smooth functioning of the market mechanism. For Hegel, by contrast, the market is a de-personalized player in its own right that imposes its arbitrary rule, a rule that does not reflect in any way the virtues and efforts of market participants. This assessment is easily overlooked, unless one realizes that Hegel believes the market to be functioning according to the structures that he discusses in the ‘Objectivity’ section in his Science of Logic. As a consequence of this assessment Hegel attributes a different role to the state than Smith does: Rather than aiding and shaping individuals, by means of institutions, education and health care, the state needs to address the structural functioning of market laws and, to some extent, inhibit its free-flowing functioning. Individuals need to re-appropriate their own social relations by organizing them along the lines of the logical organism or internal teleology. After outlining Hegel's interpretation and assessment of the market structures with the help of the Logic, I will discuss Hegel's demand for an organic state, that sublates and oversees the market, thereby safeguarding the important personal freedoms enjoyed by market participants.

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Charlotte Baumann
University of Sussex

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