Political Theory 26 (4):514-535 (1998)

Mark Tunick
Florida Atlantic University
Hegel for the most part insists we support existing practices: they have endured, have socialized us, are our home. At times Hegel seems to demand conformity, to leave no room for dissent or disobedience. Hegel gives great weight to the authority of the state and of custom. But Hegel does not leave the individual confronted with an unjust state powerless. To Hegel, we are obligated to obey the law if we are at home in the state, if its practices, institutions and laws are rational, if the free will "comes into existence" in it. But on Hegel's view, if the practices, institutions and laws of the state are not rational, we are not obligated to comply with their demands. Few recognize that Hegel even allows for justified disobedience, let alone that he can tell us anything about the conditions under which disobedience is justified. This is partly attributable to the fact that important texts concerning Hegel's views have only recently been discovered and published. For example, in a passage from one of these texts, a set of notes of Hegel's lectures on political philosophy, Hegel declares that if my free will does not come into existence in the state, I have no corresponding duty to the state. My purpose is to articulate a distinctive Hegelian theory of justified disobedience, show how it differs both from the traditional understandings of Hegel's views and from contemporary approaches to the problem of justified disobedience, and briefly to point to some difficulties with Hegel's position that need to be worked out if it is to be a satisfactory alternative.
Keywords Hegel  political obligation
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DOI 10.1177/0090591798026004004
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