Friday, 5 February 2016

Neo-hegelianism in Germany before 1945 (Part Three)

This post completes our summary of the Introduction to Sylvie Hürstel's Au Nom de Hegel (2010) on German juridical neo-hegelianism, with some selections from her conclusion.

We turn from Hürstel's general description of relevant Hegel scholarship (Part One) and the idea of a "Hegel-renaissance" (Part Two) to consider developments in legal philosophy (in particular, the "philosophy of right") and then the post-1933 context.

The Philosophy of Right in Question

Positivism and historicism were dominant trends in German philosophy in general at the end of the 19th century, according to Herbert Schnädelbach in German Philosophy 1831-1933 (1983). [available in English.] These trends apply particularly to the philosophy of right in German universities. [In broad terms, legal positivism is the view that law is what is enforced by a state authority and is hence that what the law is, is a matter of fact. It is opposed to the view that the question of what law is involves moral judgments prior to or independent of state authority, known as "natural law" theory. - SC] The philosophy of right was a province of the law faculties in Germany. Natural law theory was in retreat here before historical inquiry. This trend can be traced back to Gustav Hugo’s Textbook of Natural Law as a Philosophy of Positive Law (1798). Hegel had been aware of Hugo and of the same trend as exemplified by Carl von Savigny. Contesting the idea of natural law helped to displace the philosophy of law from general philosophy into the Law faculties of the German universities. [This sounds like an instance of the quarrel of generalism and specialization in higher education.]

A later, more direct attack on natural law that asserted the factual status of law was Karl Bergbohm’s Jurisprudenz und Rechtsphilosophie (1892). Bergbohm confined the philosophy of law to methodology and epistemology. He exemplified a more general culture sympathetic to legal positivism at the end of the 19th century. Within law faculties, there was disdain for general philosophical ideas of a Hegelian stamp, but also for natural law theorizing.

As for the philosophers, on the whole the idea of “philosophy of right” had given way to larger accounts of “political philosophy", or “social philosophy”, though there was an exception in Adolf Lasson’s System der Rechtsphilosophie (1882, reprinted 1967). 

There was a debate around the relations of Hegel and Prussia, started by Rudolf Haym’s Hegel and his Time (1857) and Karl Rosenkranz’s replies. This flowed into the self-image of German liberals, as shown by Domenico Losurdo’s Hegel and the German Inheritance (1989).

To take the situation of the philosophy of right in Germany forward to the beginning of our period, we will look at three areas:
a) Positivism and historicism in the work of Emil Lask and his critique of neo-Kantianism;
b) the reception of political philosophy and Hegelian philosophy of right around the turn of the century; and
c) the foundation of the important journal Archiv für Rechts- und Wirtschaftsphilosophie by Kohler and Berolzheimer, two neo-Hegelian jurists.

The heritage of historicism and positivism 

Hürstel examines legal historicism and positivism through the article “Rechtsphilosophie” by Emil Lask in Wilhelm Windelband (ed.) Festschrift für Kuno Fischer, Band II, Philosophie im Beginn des XX Jahrhunderts (1905). [Hürstel calls this a “famous article”, without providing any account of its fame or of Lask.]

Lask first notes the common rejection of “natural law”, whether conceived materially-ontologically or in neo-Kantian terms. There is a general atmosphere of rejection of supra-empirical truth claims. The “18th century” struggled for the recognition of the individual as an end in himself; whilst the “19th century” saw absolute meaning in social relationships. The neo-Kantians had clearly distinguished Sein and Sollen (is and ought) and theorists of social philosophy (Sozialphilosophie) often accepted this distinction. However, the neo-Kantians often confined the sphere of moral reasoning thus won to considerations of epistemology or methodology. Proponents of social philosophy sought to co-opt the results of the historical school of law, which Lask considers unduly conservative. 

Historicism, Lask argues, is an inconsequent path to values: a mere naturalism, even dogmatism. He concludes that Hegel – as studied by Fischer – was an opponent of the historicist tendencies of the Restoration. Hegel might thus be used as a mediating figure between the “personalism” of the 18th century and the “transpersonalism” of the 19th century historical school.

One point that comes out from this book is the willingness of many thinkers to rearrange Hegel’s ideas, rather than focusing on the sequence and transitions of the printed texts.

Hegel’s political philosophy at the start of the 20th century

[Hürstel paints a picture of this through four authors of the era: Georg Lasson, Friedrich Meinecke, Hermann Heller and Franz Rosenzweig.]

Georg Lasson founded the Hegel-Archiv in Berlin and commenced a new edition of Hegel’s works. For this, he wrote introductions to his editions of the Philosophy of Right (1911, 2nd edition 1921) and Writings on Politics and Philosophy of Right (1913, 2nd edition 1923). This second volume contained Hegel’s essay on The German Constitution (attributed to 1802) that was first published in 1893 by Georg Mollat, who saw it as prophetic of German unification under Bismarck. Lasson echoes this evaluation, writing:

“Hegel calls for a saviour of Germany who would bring about by force, with all the energy of a conqueror, a German state and a German army.” (48, Einleitung in Schriften, XXI)

This projection of Hegel’s thought onto the Bismarckian era of “blood and iron” helps explain the rejection of Hegel by both the Weimar liberals and the 3rd Reich, as both regimes conceived of themselves as breaking with the Wilhelmine era.

Otto von Bismarck (1815-98)

Lasson had trained as a theologian as well as studying philosophy. In his introduction to the Natural Law essay, he criticizes Hegel’s identification of “absolute ethical life” with a community that forms a state. Lasson extends this critique in his introduction to the Philosophy of Right (1913) to the status of ethical life (Sittlichkeit) in general as well as its relation to religion. He attributes Hegel’s view to a wish to oppose the subjectivism of his day. There is no need to oppose morality and ethical life, according to Lasson – the Phenomenology gives a better view of how they develop, in which morality can itself lead to religion. 

Lasson makes a further criticism of Hegel for separating private law and public law (in the “Abstract Law” and “Ethical Life” sections of the Philosophy of Right respectively) When he does this, the unity of law is lost, being divided between two separate sections of the book, with both again separated from morality. He wrote:

“In this separate treatment of private law, which Hegel calls abstract law, as a specific sphere of ethical reality, one can see a residue of the concepts of natural law, which Hegel elsewhere surpassed and combatted.” (50)

Lasson considers this rejection of natural law something unworthy of Hegel. He writes:

“This is why it scarcely corresponds to the true spirit of the Hegelian system to construct, through “abstract law” and the law of the person as such a sort of rational law valid for all time. In his desire to give law a logical content, Hegel gave himself over to an abstraction that contradicts his otherwise so living conception of  the state and history.” (50)

[It is not though, in my view, contradictory to see facts about human nature that do not change, alongside those that do, and thus to note constant alongside changing aspects of the legal order that stems from them. For example, it will always be the case that 10 men can overcome one physically and hence those acting in concert will always prevail over those who do not; although new forms of social contract, weapons, etc may be invented.] Lasson concludes:

“One cannot speak of a rational law that would be identical in each era, but on the contrary of a law that is reasonable in the way specific to each era and each people. Hegel, in the third part of his work (the sphere of ethical life) raised himself to this thought, which takes him close to the historical school of law.” (50)

We find Lasson’s piety alongside the concerns with legal positivism, and historicism that we have seen characterized 19th century debates.

The following works look beyond philosophical ideas as such to the political significance of the reception of Hegelian ideas:
Friedrich Meinecke – Cosmopolitanism and the National State (1907) [English translation available]
Ibid – The Idea of Reason-of-State in Modern History (1924) [English translation available]
Hermann Heller – Hegel und der Nationale Machtstaatsgedanke in Deutschland / Hegel and the Thought of the National Authoritarian State in Germany (1921)
Franz Rosenzweig – Hegel and the State (1920, but written before the war) [French translation available]
Meinecke and Heller are more essayistic, Rosenzweig more scholarly, but together they allow us to descend from the ivory tower to the realm of practical politics. 

Friedrich Meinecke was an eminent historian and follower of Leopold von Ranke. In 1907, in his work on Cosmopolitanism (chapter 11), he ranks Hegel, Ranke and Bismarck as three liberators of the state. He sees an ambiguity in Hegel’s idea of the state as “individual”, writing:

“Hegel’s concept led logically to depriving historical individuals of their particular right and reduced them to being only simple unconscious instruments and simple place holders of the world spirit.” (52)

Ranke and the historical school had reacted to this by arguing for the autonomy of the historical agent and thus justifying the political realism of Bismarck. For Bismarck, universal history was exalted so highly that real history could proceed undisturbed by it. Meinecke traces this back to ambiguities in Hegel’s philosophy of history.

In 1924, he located Hegel and Hegelianism in a cultural and political history of the idea of reason-of-state in Germany, associating Hegel instead with Machiavelli and Frederick the Great [the latter of whom had written a book in criticism of Machiavelli on which Hegel had commented.] Hegel, he argues, overcomes the division of natural law and real historical situation by placing reason in the world. The state becomes a puppet of the world-spirit. Meinecke finds that this is an unacceptable way of interpreting later historical developments.  

Hermann Heller was a sociologist who specialized in public law. In his 1921 book, he traces the repercussions of Hegel’s ideas in German political culture. He is discussed in more recent scholarship:
Christoph Müller & Ilse Statt – Staatslehre in Weimarer Republik / The Theory of the State in the Weimar Republic (1984) 
Catherine Colliot-Thélène – Les Origines de la Théorie du Machtstaat (in Philosophies 19, 1988)
Hegel, according to Heller, was the source of the theory of Machtstaat that led to the politics of Bismarck. [I find the translation of Machtstaat (lit. “power-state”) problematic. It depends on the contrast with Rechtstaat (constitutional state) – I think “power politics” corresponds to the usage in international terms and will use “authoritarian state” where it refers to domestic politics. Suggestions welcome.] Heller wrote:

“There seems to be no link here, leading from the “people of poets and thinkers” to that of “blood and iron”. However, this link exists right enough! One can even say that the national ideology of the authoritarian state is surely the offshoot of the idealist philosophy and that its father is no other than Hegel.” (54) 

This reflects the war propaganda of the Entente powers (i.e. Britain, France, Russia) in the wake of German defeat in WW1, but also the anti-Hegelian ideas of the German liberals. Heller mixes this with current ideas, e.g. Gustav Radbruch’s distinction of “personalism” and “transpersonalism” [which we found in Emil Lask’s distinction of natural law and the historical school.] The latter idea (transpersonalism) affirms the sovereign rights of the national state. In Hegel, natural law is limited by the requirement of free expression for the “spirits of nations”. He wrote:

“To this [Kantian?] ideal of peaceful co-existence between states, Hegel opposes the succession of nations struggling for world domination, not only as a political theory, but as an ideal.” (54)

He justifies this by reference to The German Constitution, Phenomenology of Spirit and the Philosophy of Right (paras 324 & 347). Hegel gives a metaphysical backdrop to legal realities based on political power and justifies national imperialism by reference to the “world spirit”. This lay behind both Treitschke’s theories and Bismarck’s politics. [This is obviously the tradition going back to Haym that Karl Popper draws on.]

Heller sees this Hegelian spirit at work in his own day (albeit “unconsciously”) in German universities, law, politics and the military – whenever power politics has need of ideological justification. This spirit finds older supports than Hegel and is mixed with other currents of thought, so it cannot be proved. Hegel though, he insists, is at the root of German ideas of power politics. 

Such views were the context of Franz Rosenzweig’s Hegel and the State (1920), which was begun in 1909 under Meinecke’s auspices and in light of his earlier work. Rosenzweig dates Hegel’s manuscript The German Constitution from 1799 and uses this to challenge Dilthey’s “theological” reading of the young Hegel. [This was later taken up by French scholar Paul Chamley in relation to Hegel’s economics.] Rosenzweig sought to demonstrate Hegel’s “duplicity” by examining his philosophical development in relation to the universalism of the 18th century and the individual nation state. In doing this, his dating of Hegel’s works cleared Hegel of the “prussophile” accusation of Haym. On the whole though, he saw Hegel’s conjoining of reason and the state as noxious, though he admired his thought, particularly the Philosophy of Right. He sees in Hegel a progressive abandonment of cosmopolitan universalism. He identifies specific steps in this direction. This is more precise that Meinecke’s vision of a path “from Hegel to Bismarck”.
Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929)

The neo-Hegelians then, had to respond to these liberal critics, as did Glockner for example in his review of Rosenzweig (Logos, 1928), where he criticized him for an “overly historical” approach.

The Founders of the Archiv für Rechts- und Wirtschaftsphilosophie

Two neo-Hegelian authors, Joseph Kohler and Fritz Berolzheimer, founded the scholarly journal Archiv für Rechts- und Wirtschaftsphilosophie (“Archive for Legal and Commercial Philosophy”, AWRP) in 1907. They were the first to call for a renewal of Hegelianism in legal theory, with “neo-Hegelianism” invoked in the first issue of ARWP. It was later renamed Archiv- für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie and still survives [2010] under this name and is highly thought of in its field, though its neo-Hegelian days are long gone.

The founding of the ARWP coincided with Benedetto Croce’s What is Living and What is Dead in the Philosophy of Hegel (1907), which was translated into German in 1909 and reviewed in the ARWP. Augusto Vera in Italy and J Bolland in the Netherlands were also active neo-Hegelians. Kohler wrote in his review of Croce on Hegel’s sense of historicity:

“That is our unforgettable debt to Hegel, for without this idea, we would not have history, and the whole historical conception of the world as a whole we owe to Hegel  - truly, that is a sufficient merit to place him alongside the greatest thinkers of all time.” (57, ARWP I, 229)

What he values, it emerges, is an informal sense of dialectical content that does not seek to employ a priori reasoning in place of observation. Kohler wrote:

“Philosophy can surely develop a priori the laws that govern the world of phenomena; it can equally render probable some of the goals and final causes of becoming, but for the rest, a priori reasoning ceases immediately to be fruitful, and it is only observation that can take us further. That is the viewpoint of neo-Hegelianism.” (58, Ibid.)

Hegel was responsible for the misuse (Mißbrauch) of his ideas that would see sciences of observation absorbed into philosophy.

Kohler saw an autonomous world of empirical inquiry, i.e. the historical school and positivism, modified only by neo-Kantianism in legal theory; and in response, he seeks a more synoptic standpoint. The intellectual hegemony of philosophy in the German universities is unjustified, but it can assist with the rigor and unity of thinking. Neo-Kantianism had devolved principles to the particular sciences. He concluded:

“Although we are not in agreement with Croce on all points, we share with him the conviction that there is an ever-present kernel in Hegel’s philosophy that it is simply a matter of developing, but also the conviction that such a development is necessary to keep philosophy at the level to which Hegel carried it, and to prevent it from falling into the Kantian doctrine which, if it is applied rigorously, leads to the self-destruction of philosophy.” (58)

Hence there is a need for a renewal of Hegelianism, which will contain other standpoints, including neo-Kantianism, and opening out into experience through the inheritance of natural law, the historical school and positivism, though without absorbing them, for their results come straight from empirical inquiry. Kohler values the idea of Sittlichkeit as a move beyond the individualism of Kant’s ethics, but he interprets it as a secondary effect of living in community.  

In a series of articles in the early issues of ARWP, Kohler outlines criticisms of natural law theory and the a priori universal norms it claimed to identify. This led him to conclude:

“There is no philosophy of law without legal history [...] A philosophy of law without legal history is like a philosophy of nature with no knowledge of natural phenomena. “ (59)

Here Hegel must set the tone, not Kant, and still less the neo-Kantians. Hence he rejects the “abstract law” section of the Philosophy of Right, except for the treatment of punishment. What he values is the formal and methodical parts of the Philosophy of Right, i.e.: “the unity of subject and object, the movement of universal spirit and its realization in an infinite number of particular beings, as well as constant progress through the endlessly renewed results of history.” (60)

In the same journal, Fritz Berolzheimer advocated comparative studies as part of a universal history. History is not a mere collection of materials, but discerns tendencies as they evolve. He speaks of “ideas”, without implying any metaphysical character for them. Similarly, law is a cultural phenomenon, the result of a particular culture. He takes this as something more modest than the universal claims of natural law. Philosophy of law in his view would have a “regulatory” function – he adopts Kantian terminology. 

Kohler aimed at a unifying, inclusive standpoint:

“The philosophy of law is not possible without history, but history is not possible without metaphysics and a theory of knowledge.” (61)

The latter (theory of knowledge) marks common ground with positivism, whilst the former (metaphysics) is not thus far developed. In this situation, the term Kulturphilosophie begins to gain currency.

A New Context: the “Ideas of 1933”

[Hürstel adapts this title from the “ideas of 1914” associated with Germany at the outset of WW1.] Hürstel calls Nazism “hostile for the most part to philosophy” (61). She characterizes it as consisting of conflicting ideologies whose adherents competed for state power. [This is a realistic view, though it neglects the role and influence of the leading personalities.] In my view, this is a weaker section of the book, as it attempts too much and mixes up popular ideology with philosophy proper.

She cites examples of views expressed about Hegel, for example in Alfred Rosenberg's Myth of the 20th Century. This book first appeared in 1930. In Hürstel’s view, it typifies the “ideas of 1933”. She covers it only briefly. Rosenberg calls the Philosophy of Right a "blutfremde Machtlehre". Hürstel translates this as a “theory of power foreign to our blood” – though the word “our” is an insertion on her part. Rosenberg thought that Hegel’s theories facilitated Marxism. Rosenberg juxtaposes the histories of different races rather than perceiving a universal history and a rationally understandable evolution of ideas and institutions. Hence his hostility to Hegel has ideological roots. 

Philosophy and Philosophers after 1933

Turning to philosophy proper, Hürstel judges that we can measure events by reference to:
Franz Böhm – Anti-Cartesianismus: Deutsche Philosophie in Widerstand / Anti-Cartesianism: German Philosophy in Opposition (1938)
Ernst Krieck – Völkisch-politische Anthropologie / National-Political Anthropology (1936-38)
Böhm was close to Krieck (see Logos, 1938), but does not go as far as Krieck in demanding the replacement of philosophy by völkisch anthropology. [This neglects the fact that philosophical anthropology was a significant intellectual trend of the era, as seen in Kojève’s lectures on Hegel. In the English literature, Böhm is discussed by Herbert Marcuse in Reason and Revolution.]  

Franz Böhm opposes the rationalism of Descartes and the abstraction from action of the historicist spectator. [“Cartesian” derives from “Descartes”. The attempt to relate theory to action was a common intellectual trend of the era, found in John Macmurray and the Marxist tradition.] He sees Hegel as having strengthened Cartesian rationalism by means of his historicist sense. This “turned the Germans from concrete commitments and historical action” (64). With Hegel, “an iron curtain falls before the scene of the world-theater.” (64). This echoes the liberal Hegel-scholar Rudolf Haym. It makes Germany “the old man of history” (64). Böhm extends his condemnation to the revival of Hegel in his own day, referring to Croce and Windelband as representative of neo-Hegelianism in Italy and Germany. He writes:

“Only a century become historicist through and through could take pleasure in the dead monumentality of the Hegelian system. The belated return to honor of Hegel at the start of our century is perhaps the surest sign of the lasting “end” that Hegel has signified for more than a century for German philosophy. In this renewal, Hegel becomes the symbol of a philosophical historicism that, after having turned away from every future, could take care of the past with a good conscience. By enthroning Hegel, the philosophy of the 20th century in its academic form made a definitive renunciation of all activity and active shaping of the future.” (64)

[In response, we may say that we can only act in light of the knowledge we have and hence there is no absolute opposition between activity and scholarship. Rhetorical calls to action, as in Kierkegaard, are appropriate only if that is understood.] Böhm continues:

“It is not because we can contradict Hegel that we fall anew on the reality from which he withdrew us, but the other way around: because the völkisch and political reality of our German life is again present [to us], we fall at every moment on the artificial barriers that Hegelian universalism has placed between ourselves and our roots. [...] Thus it is that Hegel has become for us the symbol of a secular past [that is overcome]. Insofar as he was an end and wished to be so, he is in all points contrary to the philosophical will of our time.” (64)

Dialectic is a theoretical construction: what is needed is real struggle, including in the fields of myth, language and art. The ideas of struggle and of a return to roots are cyclical, an “eternal return” that replaces the idea of historical progress in Hegel. There is an anti-intellectual content in this oratory that contrasts with the mode of expression. 

Alfred Baeumler was another philosopher identified with Nazism who thought the contemporary situation more important than Hegel’s talk of “spirit” and “Idea”. There is no place for idealism in his vision of the new Reich. These philosophers then, opposed central themes in Hegel, according to their understanding of them. We turn now to others who remained sympathetic to Hegel.

Strategies of adaptation of Hegelian authors

Hürstel considers Theodor Haering and Hermann Glockner noteworthy as Hegelian authors of the period. [I concur with this in the case of Glockner, whose wide ranging interpretations of European history through aesthetics are remarkable in scope and require to be evaluated. Haering (son of a theologian of the same name) wrote a biography of Hegel applying Diltheyan ideas that may be less significant.] Both had public reputations and so had to respond to the new situation to justify their position. She says that this was in response to Böhm and Baeumler, though without evidence. In such works as:
T Haering – Das deutsche in der deutschen Philosophie / The German in German Philosophy (1941)
H Glockner – Vom Wesen der deutschen Philosophie / on the Essence of German Philosophy (1941),
they sought to exceed their rivals in patriotism. 
Later, they sought to establish a European dimension. See:
T Haering – Die deutsche und die Europaische Philosophie / German and European Philosophy (1943)
H Glockner Hegel und die Franzosen / Hegel and the French (1943)
The first strategy objects to taking a politicized German Weltanschauung as a criterion in philosophy. Instead, it sees German philosophy as an interpreter of splits in the German mind. Glockner’s Essence of German Philosophy (1941) was republished in 1942. [There was also a French translation in 1944. In my view, it is a bombastic pamphlet that does little justice to the range and connectedness of his thought. Another of Glockner’s early works appeared in Spanish, but other than that he is little known outside Germany.] The German philosopher, he argues, was sprung from the people:
“ Whilst a majority of English and French philosophers were of high station, of aristocratic birth for the most part, the German philosopher grew up, almost without exception immediately in the fertile heart of the common people” (67)
Thus the German people sees its philosophers as its own sons favoured by fortune. German philosophers have the soul of a peasant and that of a soldier. They have the piety of the peasant and the boldness of the soldier. Sometimes there is a tranquil joy, sometimes a bold leap towards the transcendent. The picture of the divided soul is from Faust, the figures of the peasant and the soldier from the ideology of blood and soil, says Hürstel. To continue, Germany is torn between the rationalism of the West (France and England) and the irrationalism of the Slav nations. As one might expect from a Hegelian, Glockner hopes for a “synthesis” of these opposed extremes. He said this at the start of the 1930s with reference to rationalism and irrationalism and here he is simply saying much the same thing in terms that accord with the ruling ideology. Similarly, there can be a synthesis between nationalism and socialism:
“Have socialism and nationalism not passed up to now for mutually exclusive opposites between which one had to choose? [...] And have the German people not been led by a genial German to achieve a synthesis, which is certainly not to be confused with a mean compromise or a middle path, but which represents a global and energetic new project.” (68)
As for idealism, Glockner recalls the idea of freedom and concept of action that it includes. This is opposed to liberal thought on the question of community. He includes Hegel in a line of “Aryan” thinkers after Meister Eckhardt, Jacob Böhme and Leibniz. He objects to “Jewish journalists” - meaning perhaps the Young Hegelians – who have disguised the Germanic connections of Hegel. [This seems dubious, as he may have intended to refer to Heinrich Heine.] Glockner wrote:
“When the traits of the elders appear again in so evident a manner on the face of the descendants, no doubt can remain that here is spirit that comes from the German spirit and blood of German blood.” (69)
A living link with the ancestors must be maintained: they are part of the national community for they are what defines it. [This sounds like the prose of Burke and perhaps also relates to the physical anthropology of the day.]:
“It is not only our blood that springs from our ancestors, but also our spirit. A true community of people includes not only contemporaries, but also ancestors.” (69)
Thus he vindicates a place for philosophy in a Reich governed by the ideology of blood and soil. As such, it can also represent Germany abroad. Germany could present itself as the central country of Europe. This appears in Haering and Glockner’s texts of 1943, cited above. [So also Hoffmeister’s book on Hölderlin published in Paris around the same time, which I reviewed here.] Culture and military expansion permitted a reassertion of universalism and conversely a limitation of the appeal to blood and spirit. The Germans, says Haering, have imported culture:
“because, misapprehending his own nature and his own value, and through false modesty, the German has almost always been convinced that he owed more to others than the other way around.” (70)
The Germans have not simply borrowed ideas passively, but adapted them. Thus they can play a mediating role vis à vis French rationalism and English empiricism. These can be incorporated into German philosophy. Hegel’s philosophy could play a privileged role in European education.
Glockner addresses this in his essay Hegel and the French (1943), which references Bernhard Knoop’s book of the same name of 1941. Knoop claimed that Hegel had become a symbol in France of all that was intellectually dubious in Germany since 1830. Glockner seeks to explain that there is no fixed image of Hegel because of the inadequacies of Hegel scholarship. French philosophers display a dilettantism more fitted for literary salons:
“Our thoughts are turned to the future. In the name of this future, we must observe that the image of Hegel in Germany is no longer wholly given over to uncertainty.” (71)
If this understanding can be spread to France, French understanding of Germany will increase, which all men of good will must want. There are historical, linguistic, religious and political obstacles to understanding, which he outlines. Hegel thus becomes a philosophical ambassador of Germany in Europe.


The take home points of the opening chapter are that there was a significant revival of Hegelian ideas in Germany in the first half of the 20th century that has been neglected by scholarship and that the omission of this from our understanding of German and European politics is unsustainable.
Neo-hegelian projects of reconciling contrary theories (positivism and historicism) in legal philosophy were ambitious, all the more so as the figure of Hegel himself was contested.

The remainder of the book sheds great light on the considerable influence of Hegelian ideas in the Weimar Republic and Third Reich, particularly on legal thinking through the influence of Julius Binder, Karl Larenz and Walter Schönfeld. In relation to Hegel, the main ideas were of the priority of community over individuality as a source of value (“socialism” as opposed to “individualism” or “liberalism”) and the preference for the concrete thinking of Sittlichkeit in the third part of the Philosophy of Right over the idea of abstract right in the first part, which they considered a hang over from the natural law tradition. The view of Hegel as aligned to Prussian traditions is traced back to Johann Erdmann and rejected. This is of great interest as a contrast with better known Hegel interpretations drawn from the liberal and Marxist political traditions.

The historicity of law recognised by Hegel was held to be in opposition to both legal positivism and the natural law tradition and the hope was to supersede this opposition and that of is/ought (Sein/Sollen in German), associated with both legal positivism and neo-kantianism, by placing the origin of value in the achievement or fact of community. For example, Karl Larenz wrote in 1935:

“It is the Hegelian doctrine of “objective spirit”, the doctrine of objective idealism, that allows us to consider right [...] as an autonomous field of value, finding the basis and criterion of its validity in itself, that is to say, in its Idea, and whose ethical character does not rest on its agreement with the positive morality and with the ethical convictions of individuals, but in its agreement with its own Idea.” (324n)

The opaqueness of the “Idea” is filled in by references to the history of community. However, these thinkers were also influenced by the (German) natural law tradition of Pufendorf and this was the main influence that outlived the war.

In biographical terms, their influence increased after the fall from power of Carl Schmitt in 1936 and the rise of Hans Frank, editor of Deutsche Rechtswissenschaft. They were associated with a project of renewal of German law on a basis independent of the Roman law tradition (hence of natural law) that drew instead from the analysis of German communal tradition found in Otto von Gierke. To the extent that Frank fell from favor, so did the neo-hegelians. Hürstel’s own summary is as follows:

“This work has made it clear that, amongst the diverse, heterogeneous and sometimes contradictory references cultivated by the “neo-hegelian” jurists in their contributions to völkisch ideology, the reference to Hegel became, starting from 1933, if not secondary, at least not exclusive in their discursive strategy. We have been able effectively to follow the way in which the thought of Sittlichkeit was taken up outside its properly hegelian context to be reattached to a larger tradition, encompassing successively the historical school of law and the thought of German natural law. The “missing link of the chain” (to take up an expression of Karl Popper) which would relate Hegel to Nazi totalitarianism, would not at the end of the day be a “neo-hegelianism” associated with the figure of Hegel, but associated with a Hegel mediated by the historical school of law and by his being written into a German line of “natural law”, that was interrupted in Germany by the introduction of a foreign codification and that played out through the debate between Thibaut and Savigny.” (335)
“The reference to Hegel was doubtlessly not the one to prioritize in the structure of an ideology hostile to all universalism. But even in their attempts at völkisch adaptation, the “neo-hegelians” could not present a consistent line, nor a united front, and their Nazi commitment waned each time for specific reasons. This failure to constitute themselves as a movement reveals a fundamentally untenable position. It illustrates not only the antagonistic and disparate nature of the Nazi ideology, but also its deep incompatibility with hegelian rationality.” (341)

As for the main individuals, Julius Binder died shortly before the war in 1939, Adam von Trott zu Solz was executed for his part in the July 1944 attempted coup d’état, Martin Busse died before Königsberg in east Prussia in 1945 and Hans Frank was executed as a war criminal at Nuremberg in 1946. Of those who survived the war and its aftermath, Walter Schönfeld went on to be a minister and Karl Larenz returned to university teaching, both publishing material in the natural law tradition.

I have not gone in detail through the hundreds of pages of citations and Hegel interpretation in Hürstel’s book, partly as it might raise questions of copyright. In my view, the book as a whole supersedes the work of German scholars such as Ernst Topisch and Hubert Kiesewetter for its period, though its scope is narrower. As far as I know, there is nothing like it in English.

My own conclusion is that, whilst the period of the German Reich (1871-1945) is of interest for Hegel interpretation and as an outdated exemplar of the political ideas of nation and power politics, we need to focus also on the period prior to German unification as the original context of Hegelian thought and its decline and on the post-1945 era as the present field of reflection for political theory.