Hegel’s Homecoming of Spirit

October 15, 2019

Dr. Samir Gandesha,  Humanities Dept.,  SFU

“Philosophy really is homesickness, says Novalis, “the urge to be at home everywhere in the world.”
Georg Lukacs - Theory of the Novel

“Heine’s stereotypical theme, unrequited love, is an image for homelessness, and the poetry devoted to it is an attempt to draw estrangement itself into the sphere of intimate experience. Now that the destiny which Heine sensed has been fulfilled literally, however, the homelessness that has become everyone’s homelessness; all human beings have been as badly injured in their beings and their language as Heine the outcast was. His words stand in for their words: there is no longer any homeland other than a world in which no one would be cast out any more, the world of a genuinely emancipated humanity. The wound that is Heine will heal only in a society that has achieved reconciliation.”
Theodor W. Adorno - Heine the Wound

“Every intellectual in emigration is, without exception, mutilated, and does well to acknowledge it to himself, if he wishes to avoid being cruelly apprised of it behind the tightly closed doors of his self-esteem…Between the reproduction of his own existence under the monopoly of mass culture, and impartial, responsible work, yawns an irreconcilable breach. His language has been expropriated, and the historical dimension that nourished his knowledge, sapped.”
Theodor W. Adorno - Minima Moralia


In his lecture to the Darmstadt Symposium on “Man and Space,” entitled “Building Dwelling Thinking,” with the memory of Second World War still fresh, particularly to the European mind, Martin Heidegger makes the scandalously audacious claim that “the real plight of dwelling does not merely lie in a lack of houses. The real plight of dwelling is indeed older than the world wars with their destruction, older also than the increase of the earth’s population and the condition of the industrial workers. The real dwelling plight lies in this, that mortals ever search anew for the essence of dwelling, that they must ever learn to dwell.[1] In a way that connects up with his shift from the “existential analytic” of Dasein or a phenomenological account of human being-in-the-world to the question of Being (as a structure of concealment/disclosure) as such, a shift which can be located in the Nietzsche lectures in the 1930’s, Heidegger comes to understand the forgetting of the question of Being, as culminating in the technological reduction of the world to a “standing reserve” of energy, the fate of which human beings, themselves, are unable to escape. The reduction of place to an abstract, measurable and quantifiable space lies at the heart of such technological determinism.[2] Heidegger seeks to undo such reductionism through a hermeneutics of the verbs “dwelling” (wohnen), building (bauen), and thinking (denken), showing the connection between dwelling and building in such a way that brings into play what he calls somewhat mystically the “four-fold (das Gevirte): the earth, the sky, mortals and gods.[3] Heidegger’s argument is that this particular set of relations is necessarily presupposed in any discussion of a solution to the housing or any other social question insofar as it establishes a prior openness wherein entities come into appearance or are simultaneously disclosed and concealed. In other writings following this shift or the so-called “turn,” Heidegger pays particular attention to the way in which—as he actually shows through his etymological analysis—human beings (mortals) dwell in language as the “house of being.”[4] Yet, one can also trace a concern for the problem of dwelling (and therefore place or Ort or topos) in his early text Being and Time, which centers principally on the existential analysis of Dasein, “the Being for whom being is itself a question.” Dasein understood as “being-in-the-world” is inextricably tied to the world into which it is thrown and which makes it “Unheimlich” or uncanny.[5]

In both his early and later writings, Heidegger draws salutary attention to the critical relation between philosophical experience and place, indeed, he shows that more often than not, philosophy has tended to marginalize the question of place in favour of an abstract, measurable and quantifiable conception of space—space qua container.[6] So important is the question of place that Jeff Malpas is led to characterize his thinking as a whole as “topological.”[7]

Drawing upon not just Heidegger, but the later Wittgenstein, European modernist literature and Maori aboriginal traditions, Malpas makes a strong argument for the inextricability of place and experience. “There is good reason to suppose that the human relationship to place is a fundamental structure in what makes possible the sort of life that is characteristically human while also being determining….of human identity.” Malpas’s method is, as is suggested by the book’s subtitle, “topographical” which involves a certain kind of mapping of concepts: “just as a place or more specifically a stretch of country, is mapped out through the inter-relation of the features within it, so too,…are the objects of philosophical inquiry properly understood through the inter-relation and inter-connection of distinct, irreducible, but inter-related components.[8] In this paper, I want to suggest that Malpas enables us to see the philosophical tradition in a new way. For instance, as I shall attempt to show, the question of place lies at the very heart of Hegel’s philosophical project. In the Phenomenology of Spirit (1806), Hegel points repeatedly to the way in which Spirit undertakes an arduous journey through various shapes of consciousness and this constitutes “experience” or Erfahrung. Experience is deeply tied to this journey or the what Hegel calls the “pathway of doubt and despair.”[9] The connection here is in Hegel’s understanding ofErfahrung as entailing a journey or Fahrt through which Spirit traverses the various shapes of Spirit back home to itself as it achieves a “being at home in its other being.”[10]In the later Philosophy of Right (1821), Hegel seeks to ground the over-coming of the abstract individualism of abstract right and morality in a conception of Sittlichkeit, of Ethical life, which involves a rational grasping of the traditional or customary practices of a particular political community situated in a particular history and language. Yet Malpas’s topographical approach, insightful as it is, remains blind to what I call, following Adorno, a “damaged” relation to place.[11] Such a relation to place becomes particularly evident in Hegel’s treatment of the poor or the penurious “rabble” which is produced by the very sphere which gives rise to the modern idea of freedom, namely: civil society. In other words, despite Hegel’s claim that Spirit can work itself through the most extreme experiences including death and destruction, that Spirit “wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself,”[12] what we find, instead, is an unwitting acknowledgment of a damaged relation to place that cannot be healed; the negation cannot negate without remainder.[13]

The structure of my paper is as follows:  (I) in the first section I use Malpas’s notion of topography to read Hegel’s notion of experience to suggest the key connection between experience and place. At the same time, I suggest in the second section (II) some limitations of the topographical approach insofar as it is unable to account for a more complex, conflictual, and indeed fractured relation between place and experience—one that is in fact what Hegel himself points to in his attempt to grapple with the fundamental problems arising from within that modern sphere par excellence, namely: civil society (buergerlich Gesellschaft) and this centers on its production of what Hegel calls the rabble (Pöbel). Indeed, there is evidence that this is the decisive problem of Hegelian philosophy, one that it is unable to fully address. On the one hand, the rabble is the necessary product of an incipient industrial capitalism which is increasingly freed from the rural means of production and which must endure the precarious existence of having to sell their labour power to secure the conditions of life. On the other hand, it is excluded by the very objective forms of recognition—through the Estates (Staende) that would foster their integration within the space of reasons constituting the Sittlichkeit of the modern state. And, finally, in the concluding section (III) I suggest that while the notion of the rabble constitutes the nascent idea of the proletariat in his early journalistic account of the wood-theft debate in the Westphalian parliament, I suggest the exemplarity of the Pöbel for an alternative grounding of what Marx calls the “ruthless criticism of everything existing.” We might locate here in its conditions of simultaneous belonging/non-belonging to civil society the critical impulse that comes to fruition in the idea of non-identity thinking. In other words, what we find embodied in the “rabble” is an exemplary form of non-identity, as that agent which is neither properly incorporated nor fully excluded from the objective structures of recognition within the state and which belies the dialectic’s claim to achieve a mediation between individual, particular and universal.

I “The Need for Philosophy”

From the very start Hegel’s career as an early partisan of the Enlightenment and, with Tubingen room-mates Schelling and Holderlin, the French Revolution, through his Romantic phase to his mature thought, Hegel’s philosophy is typically seen to be preoccupied with both a diagnosis and cure for the diremptions (Entzweiungen) of modern society. For example, in the Early Theological Writings, Hegel criticizes the split between the spontaneous feeling of natural religion, on the one hand, and what he calls the “positivity” of the institutions of the Church on the other.[14] In the so-called “Differenzschrift” or the Difference Between Fichtean and Schellingean Systems of Philosophy, the need (Beduerfnis) for philosophy arises from the painful divisions and conflicts that arise historically. In his mature work, like virtually all those of his generation, Hegel took the Kantian Critical System, with its opposition between the noumenal and the phenomenal realms, the rational duty of will and embodied, empirical inclination, ought and is, to be uniquely expressive of the such diremptions (Entzweiungen) of modernity that were in need of supersession. The means by which this would be accomplished, in Hegel’s view, was through a conception of Experience or Erfahrung. It is here that we find the first suggestion of an integral connection between place and experience.

In his essay on Leskov, Walter Benjamin notes the German saying that “he who just returned from a journey has a story to tell” and the story was the means by which certain experiences were communicated. While recognizing that the “settled tiller of the soil” just as much as the “trading seamen” are equally legitimate archetypes of storytelling, what Benjamin points to is the intimate connection between journey (Fahrt) and experience (Erfahrung), which takes narrative form.[15]It is this idea of experience or to be more precise philosophical experience, and its relation to the idea of a dynamic, historical sense of becoming would play a key role in the Phenomenology’s response to the antinomy of freedom and nature which Hegel outlines most clearly in the Introduction to the Phenomenology. Indeed, it could be argued that in Hegel these two archetypes are dialectically related: the sedentary being-at-home of the “tiller of the soil”—the originator of culture as he who cultivates and through this process becomes cultivated[16]—can only truly be at home with the world by virtue of leaving home, of alienation, and return from out of this condition of self-estrangement via self-consciousness, through a recognition of oneself in the alien products of his own activity. The seaman’s journey, of course, is only possible through a distinct a point of departure, a stable or fixed abode or “home,” from which he takes his leave and which he can only truly claim upon returning. Therefore, the sedentary tiller of the land and the wandering seaman presuppose one another in much the same way that Odysseus and Abraham, archetypes for home-coming and exile respectively, presuppose one other in the Western intellectual imagination.

Hegel explains the task of philosophic cognition as the systematic exposition of “grasping and expressing the True, not only as Substance, but equally as Subject,” warning that such a form of cognition ought to be wary of mere edification if it lacks “the seriousness, the suffering, the patience and labour of the negative.” Rather than being a superficial “imparting of moral and spiritual stability” (OED), corresponding to what Hegel called “positivity” in his early theological writings, this “labour of the negative” would take the form of a pathway analogous to the process of education (Bildung), or the progress of a “child through school,” corresponding to “the history of the cultural development of the world traced, as it were, in outline.”In other words, rather than a superficial accounting of this process from the outside, thePhenomenology unfolds in detail the specific shapes of Spirit down this pathway.

Yet, from the standpoint of individual development, it involves “acquiring what thus lies at hand, devouring his inorganic nature, and taking possession of it for himself.” From the standpoint of “universal spirit, as substance,” in contrast, this is “nothing but its own acquisition of self-consciousness, the bringing about of its own becoming and reflection into self.”7Central to the movement from natural consciousness to self-consciousness is what Hegel calls the “extraordinary” power of the negative; it is the energy of thought, of the pure “I.” The nihilism of the Fichtean absolute “I” is none other than death. Yet, crucially, “the life of Spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself.”8

If what characterizes natural consciousness (or the immediate existence of Spirit) is an apprehension of the antithesis of knowing, on the one hand, and the object known, on the other, then the transition to self-consciousness is made via experience (Erfahrung). Science is the process by which what is taken by natural consciousness as merely a given object that stands in a relation of negativity toward its knowing is revealed as itself nothing “other” than Spiritual substance. This is because consciousness now experiences itself as having “othered” itself in the externality of the object. The key passage thus runs as follows:

[…] experience is the name we give to just this movement, in which the immediate, the unexperienced, i.e. the abstract, whether it be of sensuous [but still unsensed] being, or only thought of as simple, becomes alienated from itself and then returns to itself from this alienation, and is only then revealed for the first time in its actuality and truth, just as it then has become a property of consciousness also.9

It is here that Hegel seeks to show that the diremptions that, as he puts it in the Differenzschrift, give rise to the need for philosophy are healed in the course of Spirit’s journey from the immediacy of consciousness, estrangement from itself, and return to itself in the form of self-consciousness. The pathway that Spirit traverses—what Hegel calls, as we’ve already seen, the “pathway of doubt and despair”—crystallizing in modern skepticism, is itself the journey (Fahrt) of experience (Erfahrung). Indeed the pathway is one leading through the various “shapes” (Gestaltungen) of Spirit; from abstract experience of sense-certainty, perception, force and understanding through the historically inflected chapters addressing the struggle for recognition between Master and Slave, marking the transition from consciousness to self-consciousness and the corresponding realization that the external world apprehended by perception is a shared, inter-subjective one, through stoicism in which the self withdraws into itself, skepticism in which the self takes the next step and doubts the reality of the external world through to the Unhappy Consciousness in which an unbridgeable gulf is posited between the individual and the universal. That “for itself, action and its own actual doing remain pitiable, its enjoyment remains pain, and the overcoming of these in a positive sense remains a beyond.”[17] Central to Hegel’s argument is the unfolding of a logic of contradiction which involves the confrontation and collision of two mutually contradictory perspectives wherein each perspective, while initially claiming to embody the true or the good is revealed to be only partial or one-sided.

The best, most famous, example of this is, of course, Hegel’s opening discussion of Being in the greater Logic.[18] Here Hegel argues that the concept of Being, while at first glance the most basic philosophical concept, in actual fact, is so empty so as to be virtually indistinguishable from Nothing. For Hegel, the key dynamic of the Spirit’s journey through the multiple forms it takes is the activity of externalization, the mis-recognition of the products of such externalized activity as alien, as “other,” and then the recognition and therewith a re-internalization (Errinerung) of the products of that activity as genuinely its own. The truth of the contradiction between Being and Nothing is the concept of becoming. The becoming of Spirit takes the form of Spirit’s “homecoming,” or return to itself through a process of externalization (Entauserung), loss and re-internalization (Erinnerung). Hegel makes this clear when he says (and I quote at length):

…the other side of its Becoming, History, is a conscious, self-mediating process—Spirit emptied out into Time; but this externalization, this kenosis, is equally an externalization of itself. This Becoming presents a slow-moving succession of Spirits, a gallery of images, each of which, endowed with all the riches of Spirit, moves thus slowly just because the Self has to penetrate and digest this entire wealth of its substance…But recollection, the inwardizing, of that experience, has preserved it and is the inner being, and in fact the higher form of the substance.[19]

II The “Home-coming of Spirit”

It might be objected here that while Hegel uses the language of home and home-coming, these are merely metaphors that have little if any bearing on the content of his actual arguments. This argument can be countered by considering carefully Hegel’s use of terms. Key to Hegel’s intention of showing the manner in which the norms to which Spirit commits itself to are its own historical forms that have been objectified and externalized insofar as they have been forgotten as such and now appear—as in his earlier use of the case of the “positivity” of the Christian religion—to confront it as something strange or as alien. It is through the process of an act of interiorizing memory or re-collection  (Er-innerung) that these objectified forms are brought or returned to itself as heimlich (“homely,” familiar, comfortable) that is to say, now Spirit can be said to “inhabit” these forms as the products of its own autonomous and therefore rational activity. It is thus that Spirit goes through a process of elaboration and externalization, mis-recognition, and, finally, recognition of the products of its world-transforming activity. In the process, the forms of normativity historically embodied in customary forms of practice initially apprehended as something merely external, heteronomous and irrational are ultimately revealed to be historical products of Spirit’s own elaboration or what Hegel calls the “labour of the concept,” that had gone their own way and become alienated and, ultimately, forgotten. The final re-collection of those forms as available for rational justification, is how we might understand what Hegel means by the reconciliation of substance and subject. It is through the reconciliation of substance and subject are the wounds of the modern world finally healed.

Here a brief comparative glance at Freud’s reflections on “The Uncanny” (das Unheimliche) might prove to be instructive. In one of the most exhaustive studies of etymology of the uncanny and therefore also its opposite das Heimliche (the homely), Freud demonstrates semantically that what appears at first to be a clear opposition of meanings, is in actuality much more ambivalent and that, in fact, the two are closely intertwined. What is at issue with the Uncanny is the familiar, which containing repressed Oedipal material, is revealed as something strange, as that which, as his citation of Schelling indicates, should have remained hidden.[20] Indeed, the key to unlocking the uncanny is the pre-fix “un” as itself an agent of repression which separates our initial relation with our primordial home (uterus) as something heimliche which, nonetheless, through the process of ontogenic development, becomes uncanny (unheimliche).[21] Of course, the possibility of the full transparency of the ego to itself is ruled out by Freud himself.[22] At bottom, for Freud given that the Oedipal relation, which is to say the “Law of the Father, is constitutive of subjectivity, the subject is never able to fully learn the truth about himself.

For Hegel, in contrast, the relation is inverted: what is entailed is the objectifying activity of Spirit which is initially mis-recognized as such and therefore appears as something alien, something strange, which nevertheless comes to be re-collected[23] as something familiar: as products of its own ultimately rational (because autonomous) activity. The aim of the Phenomenology of Spirit is a revelation of the passage of Spirit through the various shapes of consciousness as a pathway (Weg) culminating in the reconciliation of the in-itself and the for-itself. Here Hegel seeks a culmination of the Socratic ideal of philosophy and its Aufhebung—its simultaneous negation and realization, the passage from philosophy as the love of wisdom to its actual possession of Absolute Knowledge as the unity of the in-itself and the for-itself.

How can the Phenomenology be understood within the terms of the Malpas’s topographical reading of philosophy? To begin with, the Phenomenology is replete, as suggested earlier, with a complex metaphorics space, place, home, and journeying. Hegel compares Spirit (Geist) to a wanderer in the desert craving a simple drink of water (8) (wie in der Sandwueste der Wanderer nach einem einfachen Trunk wassers” (S17). Spirit “deliberately holds itself aloof from notion and necessity as products of that reflection which is at home only in the finite” (10) “die nur in der Endlichkeit hause.” (S17?)

In fact, the journey away from home, the loss of an immediate relation with home, is, as also suggested earlier, is inscribed in the key idea of the Phenomenology: experience (Erfahrung). Indeed, experience is key to the reconciliation of the in-itself and the for-itself: “For experience is just this,” argues Hegel, “that the content—which is Spirit—is in itselfsubstance and therefore an object of consciousness.” So it is through experience and interiorizing memory that the products of Spirit’s activity are brought back to it and this signifies the return of Spirit home to itself.

But, it could still be objected that the argument is articulated in too abstract terms to bear only a superficial resemblance to topography insofar as, despite Hegel’s passing references to particular, situated events, such as the Theban polis (as reflected in Sophocles), the Roman Empire or “the Terror” of the French Revolution. Yet, Hegel points to the centrality of Sitten or the prima facie irrational, purely contingent customs or customary practices in his political philosophy which, once grasped as externalized and alienated forms of Spirit, are revealed to possess an inherently rational content. As Hegel states in the Phenomenology: “The unity of being-for-another or making oneself a Thing, and of being-for-self; this universal substance, speaks its universal language in the customs and laws of its nation.”[24]

In the Philosophy of Right, Hegel spells out most concretely in his discussion the administration of justice. Hegel argues that not only is the administration of justice, objectively, the reconciliation of right with itself, it is, subjectively, the “reconciliation of the criminal with himself, ie. with the law known by him as his own and as valid for his own protection; when this law is executed upon him, he himself finds in this process the satisfaction of justice and nothing save his own act.”[25] Let me turn now to a closer examination of how Hegel’s notion of “the homecoming of spirit” plays itself out in his political philosophy.

That one is justified in taking seriously the idea of home as possessing substantive content rather than only metaphorical significance in Hegel becomes clearer still in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right—lecture notes with additions provided by students of sections drawn from Hegel’s 1817 Encyclopedia. In the subsection on Civil Society in the section on Ethical life or Sittlichkeit in the Philosophy of Right, Hegel argues similarly that the role of education of Bildung is the banishing of both natural simplicity—the “absence of the self”—and the “crude type” of knowing and willing, which is to say immediacy and singularity, in which Spirit is absorbed, but rather aims at universality. “By this means alone,” argues Hegel, “does [Spirit] become at home with itself within this pure externality.”[26]

The intention of the Philosophy of Right, in keeping as I mentioned with Hegel’s overall concern with healing the rifts and divisions of modernity, begins where Hegel’s reading of Sophocles Antigone leaves off, insofar as what the Antigoneenacts is the conflict between the “law of the family”, on the one hand, and the “law of the polis,” on the other; the conflict between Antigone who is compelled to perform burial rights on Polynices corpse, and the edict of Creon who, deeming Polynices a traitor to Thebes, proscribes theses same rites. With this conflict the beautiful unity and harmony of the Greek polis is torn forever asunder and with this the sphere of feeling and particularity, namely, the household oroikos, on the one hand, and that of reason and universality, are related only externally to one another. Antigone introduces a principle of negativity into the polis (which is why woman is the “ever-lasting irony of the political community”) because she acts within the political realm on the basis of feeling. The Antigone must ultimately be read as the contradiction between two separate social spheres: the oikos and the polis and the normative orders specific to each sphere. Two spheres that Hegel explicitly seeks to reconcile in the idea of Sittlichkeit in his later political philosophy.[27]

In the Philosophy of Right, it is civil society whose historical emergence is inscribed in the modern discipline of political economy[28]—the detailed study of which Hegel devoted himself to—therefore plays the role of mediator between these realms.[29] The tragedy of Antigone can in other words be understood in terms of the conflicting answers given to the question of ‘how ought one to dwell” is so far as the tragedy addresses the relationship between two distinct and different social spheres and the “laws” or forms of normativity specific to each. It is in this sense that we can make sense of Hegel’s statement that “woman (as represented by Antigone) is the eternal irony of the community.”  She is to be so understood precisely because through her action she shows that the polis, while purportedly the realm of the universal, is actually one-sided and particular, but at the same time, the particularity of the “law of the family” possesses a normative force, a universality, that exceeds the narrowness of underworld. Through the differentiated orders of the family, the system of needs comprising civil society whose very functioning transcendence of mere self-interest in the form of objective right or law, and the administration of justice in the state, the conflict between universality and particularity personified as it were in Creon and Antigone are finally reconciled and overcome.

Yet, at the same time, civil society, which plays a key role in mediating between family and state, insofar as for the family’s needs to be met, and insofar as the oikos has through a long process has become differentiated from the family per se, the male head of each household must enter civil society in order to participate in what Hegel calls the “system of needs” through exchange in such a way that needs are reciprocally satisfied via specialization a deepening division of labour. Individuals participate within civil society not simply qua atomistic individuals but always already as members of given Stande or members of estates. The estates are differentiated into the agricultural, the business and the universal class of civil servants. The business estate is further differentiated into the corporations or guilds. The Stande play a crucial role in mediating between the economic relations of civil society or the system of needs, on the one hand, and the state, on the other. It is through the crucial mediating function of the Stande that the unified being (Gemeinwesen) of ethical life as a whole is achieved. In this the corporations play a critical role insofar as to be a member of a corporation is to be in need of no further evidence that one has skills and regular income and means of subsistence, in other words, conformation that ‘he is a somebody.” The individual, according to Hegel, “finds his honour in his estate” precisely because in promoting the interest of the corporation he simultaneously promotes the good of the whole.

III. The Problem of “the Rabble”

The interpretive usefulness of Malpas’s topographical approach to the relationship between experience and place can now be made clear. Hegel seeks to show how the historical development of Spirit through the various shapes through which it passes forms the basis for the over-coming of the diremptions that charcterize the modern world. Such diremptions are overcome through labour of the concept through which Spirit returns home to itself, and in the process is reconciled with its own negativity or otherness. Such a return opens up a distinctively rational social space.

It is in this way that what Terry Pinkard, Judith Butler, Robert Pippin, and others identify as the “Kantian paradox” is decisively addressed. This is the paradox that arises with the notion that freedom consists in subjecting ourselves to laws that we, ourselves, author: Without a prior interest in subjecting ourselves to such laws, it is not clear how it is possible to achieve such freedom; by accepting merely empirical interest in so subjecting ourselves, we risk heteronomy. Yet, the positing of a self-evident “Fact of Reason” appears to avoid the issue insofar as the question of freedom is undeniably a normative rather than factual one.[30]

According to Pinkard, unlike Fichte who understands the ego which both posits itself and its other, not-ego, and his critics, the Early Romantics, who seek to address the Kantian paradox in emphasizing the dependent, receptive nature of subjectivity on a form of “Being” antecedent to it,[31] Hegel grounds the solution to the Kantian paradox in an understanding of how Schelling described his own philosophy: a “homecoming of Spirit” in the Phenomenology.  And central to such an idea of “homecoming,” as already previously suggested, is the concept of philosophical experience. (Indeed, Hegel had initially subtitled the Phenomenology “the experience of consciousness.”) According to Pinkard’s reading, for Hegel the way out of the “Kantian paradox” was to show how the history of inter-subjective demands we make upon one another require the development of a “determinate type of modern ‘social space,’ such that the modern, Kantian interpretation of the claims of reason on us would come to be seen not as merely contingent, and perhaps self-defeating, features of European history, but as something itself actually determined by the history of that ‘social space,’ or Geist.”[32] In a certain sense, then, Hegel’s transformation of Kant’s conception of freedom means taking up a particular relation to the cultural and institutional fabric of a given historically and geographically determinate form of life within one is situated. So, in this sense, it could be argued that a certain topography, in Malpas’s sense, structures Hegel’s project as a whole. Here place both makes experience possible and, at the same time, experience transforms, in turn, the very meaning and experience of ethical practices situated in the particularity of place.

Yet at the same time, that social space of reasons, as Hegel himself recognized, was a deeply fraught one. This is why, for Hegel, the problem of poverty, of what he calls the Poebel, poor, the indigent, the stricken and malcontented rabble, constitutes such a problem for his philosophy as he recognizes when he states that “The important question of how poverty is to be abolished is one of the most disturbing problems which agitate modern society.”[33] The rabble represent a form of negativity or non-identity that resists inclusion within the structures of ethical life and therefore belie the central claim of Hegel’s political philosophy of showing the final reconciliation of universality, individuality and particularity, substance and subject, as he argues,

The principle of modern states has prodigious strength and depth because it allows the principle of subjectivity to progress to its culmination in the extreme of self-subsistent personal particularity, and yet at the same time brings it back to the substantive unity and so maintains this unity in the principle of subjectivity itself.[34]

Several commentators have noted the manner in which for Hegel the problem of the rabble occupies the central concern of Hegel’s political philosophy yet, ultimately they affirm the possibility that this political philosophy mighty actually meet the challenge through the power of speculative thought.[35] Of course, it is with Marx’s early critique of Hegel that we discern the limitations of his philosophy in general, and political philosophy in particular, in being able to reconcile the conflicts of modern capitalist society.

And the manner in which subjectivity develops to the “extreme of self-subsistent personal particularity” while being brought back to unity has to do with the mediation of such particularity by the corporations. The agricultural and business classes along with the universal class of civil servants constitute the basis—the mediations—through which individuals participate in the system of needs comprising civil society and, in turn, gain recognition through law. In her important article on Marx’s journalistic contributions to the so-called “Wood Theft debates,” Erica Sherover argues that individuals who are members neither of the landed nobility nor the universal class of civil servants, only membership in a corporation confers membership in civil society. Thus, “to be a non-member of a corporation i.e. to be ‘unincorporated’ is to be a non-member of civil society.”[36] (55) For “only the common element (Das Gemeinsame), that which really exists in civil society is “what is legally constituted and recognized.”[37] In other words, it is ultimately through the ownership of property that subjects are brought back to the substantive ethical life of the state. Yet those who are remain un-incorporated, who have no basis for participating as individuals recognized as such through the institutional framework of civil society, remain un-reconciled and the fact of their existence belies the fundamental claims of Hegel’s political philosophy. The rabble constitutes the non-identity that, as Hegel himself wistfully acknowledges, cannot be subsumed without remainder beneath the identity of the Ethical Life (Sittlichkeit) of the community. The rabble cannot be incorporated by Ethical Life precisely because it does not belong to any of the established classes (or estates) and as a consequence—by virtue of the logic of Hegel’s own argument—can have no stake in the ethical life of the community.  According to Avineri, Hegel’s discussion of the rabble

brings out both his rare and astonishing grasp of the nature of civil society as well as his ultimate inability to cope with the problem of poverty…What is conspicuous in Hegel’s analysis, however, is not only his far-sightedness but also a basic intellectual honesty which makes him admit time and time again—completely against the grain of the integrative and mediating nature of the whole of his social philosophy—that he has no solution to the problems posed by civil society in its modern context.[38]

The rabble are destitute because they are denied social recognition and are denied social recognition because they are destitute. As a result, they stand in opposition to the social order as a whole.[39] As Sherover goes on to show, Marx argues that the Pobel constitute the elemental class of civil society that confer on it ontological and normative significance, and can subsequently be discerned in his conception of the proletariat as the ”class with radical chains” in his “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”:

Where, then, is the positive possibility of a German emancipation?

Answer: In the formulation of a class with radical chains, a class of civil society which is not a class of civil society, an estate which is the dissolution of all estates, a sphere which has a universal character by its universal suffering and claims no particular right because no particular wrong, but wrong generally, is perpetuated against it; which can invoke nohistorical, but only human, title; which does not stand in any one-sided antithesis to the consequences but in all-round antithesis to the premises of German statehood; a sphere, finally, which cannot emancipate itself without emancipating itself from all other spheres of society and thereby emancipating all other spheres of society, which, in a word, is thecomplete loss of man and hence can win itself only through the complete re-winning of man. This dissolution of society as a particular estate is the proletariat.[40]

It is in this way that Marx famously rescues the “rational kernel from the mystified shell” of Hegel’s thinking; it is in this way that Marx locates a universal agency not in the civil service but in the proletariat. The extent to which, for Marx, the proletariat continued, despite his own intentions of “leaving philosophy,” to play a metaphysical role was made clear in 1923 by Georg Lukacs. Lukacs saw in the proletariat a way beyond the “absolute sinfulness”, as he had characterized modernity, in his earlier proto-Marxist Theory of the Novel. Now, in History and Class Consciousness, Lukacs saw an answer to philosophy understood as homesickness: the revolutionary activity of the proletariat would decisively solve the problems that Kant, Fichte, Schelling and above all Hegel had grappled with insofar as their problems—for example, the idea of the “thing-in-itself” and the thing as it appeared to human cognition—were symptomatic of reified (literally: thingified, static) social relations.

Perhaps it is possible to understand the Pobel in slightly different terms, for example, as I have already suggested, as the revolt of what Adorno calls the non-identical against the identifying claims of totality or what Arendt calls the stand-point of the “self-conscious pariah.”[41] Indeed, one might find this impulse very much alive in Marx himself. In theEconomic and Philosophical Manuscripts, Marx provides a concrete example of alienation showing the worker to be radically estranged, not at-home, in his dwelling. In a manner that could be said—like figures such as Adorno and Arendt and many other intellectual emigres forced out of their homelands and in whom that very fact itself becomes a critical force[42]—to have drawn upon his own exile experiences in the development of historical materialism. Marx may have very well described his own living conditions while writing about “estranged labour and private property” in Paris, in the following passage of the 1844 Manuscripts:

the cellar-dwelling of the poor man is a hostile “an alien, restraining power which only gives itself up to him in so far as he gives up to it his blood and sweat”—a dwelling which he cannot look upon his own home and where he might at last exclaim, “here I am at home,” but where instead he finds himself in some one else’s house, in the house of a stranger,who daily lies in wait for him and throws himself out if he does not pay his rent. Similarly, he is also aware of the contrast in quality between his dwelling and a human dwelling—a residence in that other world, the heaven of wealth. (MER, 100)

In other words, Marx’s own distinctive intellectual constellation was constituted by itinerary of what he, himself, called the “sleepless night of exile” and one that he shared with the German-Jewish exile Heinrich Heine.  Clearly inscribed in this constellation is the relationship between thought and its material preconditions in the form of the places Marx inhabited as an exiled intellectual and political agitator: “classical German philosophy, British political economy and French politics.” What Edward Said calls the contrapuntal[43] nature of the exile’s thinking can be found in embodied in Marx’s writings, themselves, inasmuch as it brings these three moments into a tense field of force that enables Marx to undermine the autonomous claims of each, for example, by showing the great German philosophy of freedom articulated by the Idealist tradition to be, itself, dependent upon backward social, economic, and ultimately political conditions. At the same time, in the famous first chapter of volume I of Capital, Marx shows, via an appropriation of Hegelian concepts, the necessary mediations that must elude classical political economy and constitutively blind it to the real source of value which could only be worked out by way of the subtle mediations of dialectical thinking.

[1] Martin Heidegger, “Buidling Dwelling Thinking,” Basic Writings, David Farell Krell (San Francisco, Harper and Row Publishers, 1977): 339.
[2] “The Question Concerning Technology,” Basic Writings, 283-318.
[3] “Building Dwelling Thinking,” 329.
[4] Martin Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism,” Basic Writings, 189-242.
[5] Being and Time
[6] See the concise discussion of the relation between space and place in Ian Angus, Identity and Justice (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008): 24-25.
[7] Jeff Malpas, Heidegger’s Topology (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2006).
[8] Place and Experience, 18.
[9] GWF Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit (Oxford: Oxford University press, 1987).
[10] Arguably, the key question of so-called “continental philosophy” of the 20th and now 21st centuries is to challenge Hegel’s subordination of the “other” to Spirit. From Heidegger and Adorno through Althusser, Foucault, Derrida, Lacan, Levinas and Deleuze, the problem is to think otherness beyond the confines of subjectivity and totality.
[11] The key text here, of course, is Minima Moralia, Adorno’s reflection, as an intellectual in migration, on “damaged (beschadigen) life. An argument I develop elsewhere is that the such conditions have to do with the very fact of forced migration which irreversibly transforms our original relation to place. This damaged relation to place exerts contradictory effects on the subject, in terms of both paralyzing trauma of which Arendt speaks in her short but important piece “We Refugees,” and the way in which it enables a certain kind of critical reflection which Adorno specifically refers to as “writing” and what Said calls “contrapuntal thinking”.
[12] PhS,
[13] See Angus’s identity and Justice for very suggestive and important reflections on the difference between a “thinking of place” and “locative thinking.”  Angus argues: “The locative case denotes the place where an action occurs. Thinking in the locative case is a thinking which is permeated by the awareness of its own place, that will not abandon itself to abstract space, but neither can be restrained within a given place and defines itself in relation to other places of significance. Locative thinking is a thinking that does not simply occur somewhere, but whose location is integral to the meaning of what is thought. Locative thought dwells in the moment in which connection is made to other places beginning from here” (26). Nonetheless, greater specificity is called for here insofar as one needs to be able to distinguish between benign and damaged “connections” between places. For example, London, England-based immigrants  from Kenya in the 1990’s would have had a very different relation to, say, Kisumu or Nairobi, than refugees from Uganda in 1972 to Kampala or Jinja. One suspects that the nature of their “locative thinking” (as well judging and imagining) would be very different in each context.
[14] GWF Hegel, “The Positivity of the Christian Religion,” in Early Theological Writings, trans. T.M. Knox (Pennsylvania PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971): 67-181.
[15] Walter Benjamin, “The Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov,” Illuminations, Hannah Arendt (ed) (New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1986):
[16] Cf. “Building Dwelling Thinking” for Heidegger’s discussion of the relation between building, cultivation and culture.
[17] PhS, 230.
[18] GWF Hegel, The Science of Logic, trans. A.V. Miller (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International INC, 1989): 82-105.
[19] PhS, 808.
[20] Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny,” in The Pelican Freud Library, Vol. 14: Art and Literature, trans. James Strachey (London: Penguine, 1985). See also for a detailed discussion of the uncanny Anthony Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1994).
[21] “The Uncanny,” 368.
[22] And, for Lacan, the very possibility of the speculative self-relation of Spirit—as embodied in the mirror-stage–is irrevocably called into question by the self entry into the symbolic order.
[23] Or one could literally say: domesticated from the Latin domus meaning house or home.
[24] PhS, 351.
[25] GWF Hegel, Philosophy of Right, trans. Knox…para. 220.
[26] PR, 125.
[27] See Heidegger’s reading of the Antigone centering on the Chorus’s characterization of the “strangeness” of the human being in An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Ralph Manheim (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1973). Heidegger says: “We are taking the strange, the uncanny <das Unheimliche>, as that which casts us out of the ‘homely,” ie. The customary, familiar, secure. The unhomely <Unheimische> prevents us from making ourselves at home and therein it is overpowering. But man is the strangest of all, not because he passes his life amid the strange understood in this sense but because he departs from his customary, familiar limits, because he is the violent one, who, tending towards the strange in the sense of the overpowering, surpasses the limit of the familiar <das Heimische>” (151). Here Heidegger could be said to challenge Hegel’s argument that even in its most extreme forms of estrangement, Spirit is able to return to  itself and integrate the strange into the familiar, ie. The conditions of its own meaning-constituting activity. This is critically what is at issue between “dialectic” and “difference.”
[28] See Georg Lukacs, The Young Hegel: Studies in the relation between Dialectics and Economics, Trans. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1977).
[29] Hegel calls it the “zone of mediation par excellence.”
[30] Pinkard, German Philosophy 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002): 59.
[31] See Manfred Frank, The Philosophical Foundations of Early German Romanticism, trans. Elizabeth Millan-Zaibert (Albany: SUNY Press, 2004): 39-54.
[32] German Philosophy, 233.
[33] PhR, para. 244, A.150. The question of the rabble has returned to the forefront of debates within philosophy and social theory in such a way that tries to link it up with the recent work of Badiou, Agamben, Ranciere, Zizek and others. See Hegel’s Rabble: An Investigation into Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (New York, New York: Continuum, 2011). How successful Ruda’s attempt to actually throw new light on the problem of the rabble in Hegel’s political philosophy is an open question.
[34] PhR, para. 260
[35] See the discussion, for example, in Allen Wood’s Hegel’s Ethical Thought (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990): 248-50.
[36] Erica Sherover, “The Virtue of Poverty: Marx’s Transformation of Hegel’s Conception of the Poor,” Canadian Journal of Social and Political Theory, Vol. 3 No.1 (Winter/Hiver, 1979): 55.
[37] Erica Sherover, “The Virtue of Poverty.”
[38] Shlomo Avineri, Hegel’s Theory of the Modern State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972): 152-54.
[39] In this, it of course shows that the recent debate between Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth over whether social justice ought to be defined in terms of social recognition of culturally distinct identities or the equitable redistribution of the social product is falsely construed. See Redistribution or Recognition: A Political-Philosophical Exchange, trans. Joel Golb, James Ingram and Christianne Wilke (London: Verso Press, 2003). The rabble itself calls to mind the larger processes at work in the development of capitalist relations of production through the process of “primitive accumulation” via the “Enclosures acts” that transformed lands held and used in common into private property which drove increasing numbers of peasants and small farmers into the burgeoning towns and cities. It also draws attention to the way in which the particularity of place is literally effaced by the operations of extractive industries such as mining and oil, and more specifically the production of raw bitumen in the case of Western Canada. In other words, in the valorization of place and its connection to experiences lies a hidden (and not-so hidden) violence that makes it possible.
[40] Karl Marx, “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction,”
[41] Samir Gandesha, “Homeless Philosophy: The Philosophy of Exile and the Exile of Philosophy in Adorno and Arendt,” Lars Rensmann and Samir Gandesha (eds). Arendt and Adorno: Political and Philosophical Investigations (Palo Alto: Stranford University Press, 2012): 230-247.
[42] See  Issac Deutscher, “A Message from a Non-Jewish Jew.”
[43] Edward Said, “Reflections on Exile,” in Reflections on Exile and Other Essays (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002): 186.