Individual freedom against liberalism: Hegel's nonliberal individualism

Southern Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):622-637 (2024)
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Abstract

In this article, I argue that the main contribution of Hegel's philosophy of right to the contemporary political debate is that it opens a window on the idea that liberalism and individual freedom are incompatible. My main thesis is that the liberal conception of the State and law, structured from a nonrelational account of singularity, ends up denying the individual freedom that it claims to defend. I begin by reconstructing the Hegelian concept of freedom from its most general lines, showing that being free consists in wanting to become someone and not so much in wanting to do something. After showing that the purpose of becoming someone can only be fulfilled in a social medium, I focus on Hegel's critique of the liberal state (as expounded in the section on “civil society”). I argue that civil society structurally impedes individuals from realizing their purpose of becoming someone: the economical interactions of civil society give rise to impersonal and inscrutable mechanisms, which take the social conditions of people's individuation beyond their control. Finally, I claim that (rational) individual freedom consists in being able to thematize and democratically control the very social conditions of individuation through the State and law.

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