Friday, March 13, 2009

Some great new Hegel quotes,explanation of the Hegelian dialectic in modern poltical thought

The ten year "anniversary" of my first communitarian meeting is March 30, 2009. In most ways that date in 1999 was when the ACL was born, because I could never unlearn what I learned at that horrible meeting. I thought the people running it were nasty, I thought the agenda was blatant classism, and I was floored when the commentors were encouraged and applauded when they called people who lived in Roosevelt "trash" and "pigs." But the thing that stuck with me most over the next five months, while my landlord went visably insane begging me to read city documents, was that big white map at the front of the room with all the big red X's over all our homes.

Hugh was like a robot. He exclaimed, with the same amount of exasperation, everytime, and over and over like a mantra when I repeatedly refused to go to another meeting (my next one wasn't until August 30, 1999), "You don't understand! The City is STEALING MY LAND!"

Hugh Sisley must have said that 500,000 times to me and my roommates, and anyone visiting who would listen to him until he evicted me in October 2001 (after the City stopped their actions to abate his properties). I've run into Dawson client Shelly Sogga on facebook, and she told me Hugh is still "hanging on" with big buildings going up all around his houses.

What's almost ridiculous now is THAT is how our antithesis to communitarianism, the Anti Communitarian Manifesto, was born. Our entire academic (and I do use that term loosely) argument is the result of a cranky old American union electrician who served in two wars who insisted, day after day, on his right to own and develop his own land. He also ultimately screwed me over after I had helped him with research and FOIAs for almost three years. Funny how that is what led me down the path to making my gertees, so it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

I do appreciate good quotes about Hegel's thoughts on private property (the foundation for US law).


Please note: Quotes reprinted here without permission and against the author's wishes, and I will bear full responsibility for infringing on Ms. Morefield's request that her paper is only for personal use. I'm sharing just a few quotes and not anywhere near her entire, long document. As a fellow "student" of Hegel's return, I would hope Ms. Morefield understands my limited access to academic research relative to my course of study.
"For Hegel, the point of using the body as a metaphor for a social or political collectivity was to stress both the significance of its parts and their inability to function without the animating presence of the whole. As Hegel argued, the 'limbs and organs . . . of an organic body are not merely parts of it; it is only in their unity that they are what they are and they are unquestionably affected by that unity, as they also in turn affect it'.
The ethical unity of the state writ large (Sittlichkeit) was a 'dependent organism' and, like 'the so called "parts" of an animal organism', members of a state were 'moments in an organic whole whose isolation and independence spell disease'."
"Isolation and independence spell disease?" Pretty wild to realize everything I live for , who I am and even how I live, is, according to George Hegel, a disease. Not the first time my lifestyle has been termed a "disease" by Hegelian scholars and lawyers. Sounds supiciously like how the 1954 Berman lawyers (used in the Kelo v. New London decision) defined poor neighborhoods, where poor people (like me) are like rats in a sewer "spreading disease, crime, and immorality." First time I saw Berman cited in the Seattle city attorney's actions against Sisley it made me angry enough to keep helping the old creep.

"However, Hegel maintained that because private property was so intimately linked to the realization of freedom in civil society, some redistribution (although not an equal distribution) of property was necessary." p. 149

How's that for a perfectly Hegelian idea, "some, just not equal," pretty much sums him up for me.
"However, in spite of this holistic account of the relationship between the individual, society and the state, most British new liberals were unwilling to follow Hegel's dialectic through to the moment of resolution, to that moment in the dialectic when the individual and the universal concerns of the ethical state became one."

This needs to be in a dictionary:
Hegelian resolution: moment in the dialectic when the individual and the universal concerns of the ethical state became one."

And in a footnote we find the true relevance to the ACL of this paper on Hegel:
Hegel, Philosophy of Right, §257. While there is clearly disagreement among contemporary scholars as to whether one should stress the liberal or communitarian implications of Hegel's Staat and its relationship to the individual, this paper tends to side with the communitarian stress on holism and obligation. A liberal reading of Hegel, one that concentrates primarily on individual autonomy and its relation to 'rational freedom', must work exceedingly hard to avoid Hegel's call for organic community. Paul Franco, for instance, in 'Hegel and Liberalism' argues that Hegel's political philosophy aimed primarily to extend Kantian and Fichtean ideas of rational freedom and did not attempt to balance these ideas with 'an alternative romantic ideal of organic wholeness or communal solidarity' (Paul Franco, 'Hegel and Liberalism', The Review of Politics, 59 (4)(1997), p. 835). Yet the sheer repetitiveness with which Hegel calls forth the body to describe the various components of the doctrine of Sittlichkeit, suggests that, at its core, Hegel's state was conceived to be fundamentally organic." {boldface added}
This is one of those papers I've never seen before, something that I should have seen or been made aware of six years ago. You'd think at least one of the thousands of university students and professors who've read our What is the Hegelian Dialectic? page at the ACL would have thought it was relevant to send us a copy of Ms. Morefield's assessment of Hegel's influence on modern political thought. I'm very grateful to the person who finally did.

Hegel called for "organic community?" Who knew?


Sean said...

I don't know what to say. It seems like there must be a whole treasure trove of information available that no one has bothered to show us.

It sure makes it seem a lot more like a 'conspiracy' when you realize that there are libraries full of information... information you have been requesting... that is being witheld.

Good post! I'm tempted to e-mail the author a link to your blog and see what she does!

Bobby Garner said...

I Googled the title and got 21 hits. Among them, the authors page at Whitman. She looks friendly enough. Niki, it may be interesting to see how she responds to you if you emailed her. Actually, I found her closing comment quiet interesting:

"Perhaps, then, what the example of nineteenth-century new liberal social theory shows us is not the inevitability of paternalistic politics arising from a liberal attempt to understand and theorize community; rather, it demonstrates just how thoroughly the family is implicated in the idea of a community understood in natural terms."

She seems to be saying that no matter how you slice it, the nuclear family is the natural social unit and a force resistant to the efforts of social engineers.

Is she applauding or lamenting that fact?

Sean said...

excellent question bobby! I looked at her faculty page, and the book she wrote looks interesting as well. They might have a copy in my local library... If they do I think I'll check it out.