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Re: [hegel] Losurdo on Hegel and the German Catastrophe

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  • greuterb
    ... Stephen, These remarks by Bismarck would be interesting to know. Bismarck is one of these rulers who wanted to preserve the social structure of Prussian
    Message 1 of 3 , Dec 12, 2011
      Am 11.12.2011 13:59, Stephen Cowley writes:

      > Hi,
      > Domenico Losurdo is a prolific Italian scholar who has written several
      > books on the reception of Hegel’s political ideas. He is best known as
      > a Marxist critic of liberalism (“Liberalism: a Counter-history” in
      > English, 2011) which tries to locate liberalism historically and for
      > his “revisionist” work on Stalin (2008). This latter argues that
      > Stalin (“Uncle Joe”) was not thought of that badly before the Cold War
      > and that Western accounts of his crimes since Khrushchev's politburo
      > denunciation of them in the 1950s are greatly exaggerated.
      >
      > However, the subject of this email is his The German Catastrophe and
      > the Image of Hegel (1987), translated into French as Hegel et la
      > Catastrophe Allemande (Paris: Albin Michel, 1994). I’ll summarise the
      > main themes of this, in chronological order, as it covers some ground
      > that was new to me and concerns aspects of the reception of Hegel’s
      > ideas in several countries and in relation to several political
      > standpoints:
      >
      > The Wars of Liberation
      > Firstly, Hegel lived through the Befreiungskriege (Wars of Liberation)
      > which repulsed Napoleon’s armies from Germany in the period up to
      > 1815. These wars produced Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation
      > (1813). As a result of these events, there was a tendency for German
      > patriotism – and perhaps Russian - to be associated with a rejection
      > of the French revolution of 1789 and its ideals. Politically, these
      > were taken by some to be a strong central state imposing equality at
      > the expense of individuality, accompanied by military expansionism as
      > the ideas were held to be universally applicable.
      >
      > Hegel lived in the Rhine confederation at this time as opposed to the
      > more patriotic and reactionary Prussia. His earliest expression of his
      > political philosophy was the sections on Objective Mind in the
      > Encyclopaedia (Heidelberg, 1817) and his lectures from that period.
      > His view was that Germany ought not to reject legal and constitutional
      > advances made under Napoleonic rule out of a misguided patriotism that
      > would reject things because they came from France rather than being
      > patriotic by selecting what was best for Germany. He maintained this
      > outlook in slightly modified form when he moved to Berlin.
      >
      > It seems to me that Hegel was lifting people’s heads from their
      > immediate struggles to see what modern European states had in common,
      > either as reality or ideal – i.e. the rule of law and representative
      > institutions - and this is still what is valuable in the Philosophy of
      > Right. Losurdo seems at times to want to make Hegel a more partisan
      > figure than he was. He is right to point out that later writers often
      > wrongly identified Hegel with the reactionary Prussian tradition of
      > Jahn, Arndt and Scharnhorst that he in fact viewed from a distance.
      >
      > >From Hegel to Bismarck
      > Losurdo doesn’t seem to have much to say about the period from Hegel’s
      > death in 1831 to the 1860s, perhaps because it is the subject of
      > another of his books (see below). His general line seems to be that
      > Hegel’s students supported the 1848 democratic revolution in Germany
      > which he equates with Hegel doing so by proxy. After its failure
      > though, German unification was carried through by the Prussian
      > establishment partly by military means. Hegel was regarded as a
      > Francophile figure in this period and his social philosophy was seen
      > as opposed to semi-feudal authority and favouring representative
      > government. He finds some remarks by Bismarck that are critical of Hegel.
      >



      Stephen,

      These remarks by Bismarck would be interesting to know. Bismarck is one
      of these rulers who wanted to preserve the social structure of Prussian
      (his clientele, the Prussian squires) together with his introducing of
      some social and other rights which should calm the people, against the
      social-revolutionary procedure which for Hegel is necessary for
      realizing real constitutional structures as he wrote in his writing
      about the "Verhandlungen in der Versammlung der Landstände des
      Königreichs Württemberg im Jahr 1815 und 1816". With this writing he
      opposed both, the liberal and the consevative view: the liberals (i.e.
      his friend Niethammer, 1766-1848) who wanted to realize the constitution
      from below which according to Hegel is impossible without the
      social-revolutionary act before, and the conservatives who wanted to
      keep the status quo. With this Hegel also opposed his Romantic
      contemporaries to whom he also belonged. These Romantics put the nation
      above the right.

      Regards,
      Beat Greuter



      > The Kaiserreich
      > The key text from this era is Rudolf Haym’s Hegel and his Time (1857).
      > This led to a debate with Karl Rosenkranz whose views of Hegel are
      > probably more accurate. Losurdo identifies Haym with a National
      > Liberal tendency in German politics that Treitschke embodied in his
      > History of Germany. Haym decries Hegel for rejecting the ideology of
      > the Wars of Liberation. He thinks his praise of civil servants and the
      > centralised imposition of detailed regulations inappropriate to German
      > freedom and individuality. His dislike of Hegel thus flows from his
      > association of Hegel with the ideas of the French revolution. Thus the
      > French had a strong centralised state both before and after 1789 and
      > so he disapproves of this in Hegel. I have not read Haym, though I now
      > intend to, but Losurdo’s general line of argument seems convincing to me.
      >
      > The Ideas of 1914
      > Losurdo points out that various German writers regarded the war of
      > 1914-18 as an expression of a specifically German social philosophy
      > that rejected the French Ideas of 1789 – e.g. Sombart’s Handler und
      > Helden (Merchants and Heroes). These he thinks relate back to Haym and
      > the National Liberal tradition in Germany and that the attempt to
      > associate them with Hegel is arbitrary.
      >
      > He then discusses the views of French patriots and philosophers Emile
      > Boutroux, Charles Andler and Henri Bergson who created negative images
      > of Hegel and of German philosophy generally at this time. Losurdo
      > points out that Adam Fergusson’s Essay on Civil Society is more
      > warlike than anything in Hegel, but that Britain was not condemned as
      > a result. Kant was exempted from this at first for his essay on
      > Perpetual Peace, but then other passages in his writings were found
      > that could be condemned.
      >
      > Losurdo compares the French authors unfavourably with Croce in Italy,
      > who argued that wars were fought for commercial or state interests and
      > that a war for the sake of scholarship was absurd. I suppose though,
      > that scholars do have an interest in a free press and related freedoms
      > and are sometimes corralled into supporting wars for this reason.
      >
      > The German Catastrophe
      > This chapter seems to be a very incomplete exposition of the Hegel
      > literature of its period. Losurdo ignores leading Hegelian figures
      > like Theodor Haering and Hermann Glockner in favour of Carl Schmitt
      > and tends to mix together scholarly works with propaganda and
      > sloganising (e.g. Spengler). He neglects Johannes Hoffmeister, the
      > Hegel scholar who defended Hegel’s liberalism in newspaper articles in
      > 1937. He also has an imperfect grasp of the English-language
      > literature, for example, he ignores Bertrand Russell’s History of
      > Western Philosophy (1945) which was one of the great war books in
      > which Hegel is given a central role and the debate between TM Knox and
      > ER Carritt in 1940 that attained a much higher level of scholarship.
      > More significantly still, he ignores Thomas Carlyle, whose Hero
      > Worship and biography of Frederick the Great was at the root of a lot
      > of germanophile irrationalism in the 19th century and I think
      > influential in Germany. He ignores the Hegel-Renaissance in France in
      > the 1930s.
      >
      > He describes Social Darwinist ideas and points out that these did not
      > originate in Germany alone, but stem from naturalist tradition of
      > thought that Hegel opposed in the form of phrenology and physiognomy
      > in the Phenomenology. I think we have to distinguish Social Darwinism
      > as a political project here from physical anthropology as an empirical
      > study which Hegel did not reject, as he discusses it in the Subjective
      > Mind sections of the Philosophy of Mind. Hegel’s general approach of
      > regarding reason as an omnipresent and prevailing mental faculty in
      > humanity that supersedes possible or actual empirical variations in
      > human nature strikes me as fundamentally correct and an appropriate
      > explanation and justification of universal human values that will
      > stand up to the current revival of that discipline.
      >
      > Losurdo does not clarify what he means by the German Catastrophe
      > (singular), though one supposes the collapse of the government into
      > tyranny, subversion of human rights and outbreak of war are part of it
      > as well as the race question and perhaps from his standpoint the
      > rejection of communism. I think he is plausible in suggesting that the
      > tradition of Haym is more to blame for the general course of events
      > than the influence of Hegel, though this may not be the whole truth.
      > My feeling is that the history of this period needs to be reworked to
      > weed out atrocity propaganda from the historical record and give a
      > less theological view of the political motives of the actors of the
      > time than was done at the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, but this is a
      > historical project in the first instance rather than a philosophical
      > one and rather tangential to Hegel.
      >
      > General conclusions
      > The author’s Marxist position gives him a critical view of popular
      > ideologies that invoke Hegel’s name and this is abundantly appropriate
      > to the subject matter, though it also includes unexamined value
      > judgements (e.g. on the virtues of communism) that lurk under the
      > surface of the expositions. He is dissatisfied with the exclusive
      > disjunction of Conservative versus Liberal interpretations of Hegel
      > which I found interesting, though the point did not seem to be
      > developed in this book, though perhaps it is in the one I mention below.
      >
      > He adopts the viewpoint of the political agent which is not altogether
      > that of Hegel or appropriate to understanding him. I thought his
      > account of Croce, who thought scholars should keep scholarship
      > separate from their political commitments, was more valid than his own
      > agenda which seems to be to smear liberal ideas by association.
      >
      > Further reading
      > Losurdo’s books on Hegel are in Italian:
      > The Cultural Politics of Hegel at Berlin: Enlightenment, Revolution
      > and National Tradition (1981)
      > Hegel, National Question and Restoration: Presuppositions and
      > Development of a Political Battle (1983)
      > which were collected in a German edition in 1989.
      > Between Hegel and Bismarck: the Revolution of 1848 and the Crisis of
      > German Culture (1983)
      > Losurdo has also written Hegel and the Freedom of the Moderns which
      > appeared in English (Duke UP, 1994)
      > http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hegel-Freedom-Moderns-Post-Contemporary-Interventions/dp/0822332914/ref=lh_ni_t#reader_0822332914
      > This seems to draw on Jacques DHondt in its first chapter to judge
      > from the Amazon preview pages.
      >
      > All the best
      > Stephen Cowley
      >



      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Stephen Cowley
      Hi Beat, I have checked the book and don’t find a direct citation by Bismarck on Hegel, so regrettably I may have misled you. In the relevant chapter Losurdo
      Message 2 of 3 , Dec 12, 2011
        Hi Beat,

        I have checked the book and don’t find a direct citation by Bismarck on Hegel, so regrettably I may have misled you. In the relevant chapter Losurdo opposes Hegel and Bismarck’s views in turn on France, civil servants, landed proprietors and town and country, but only in the abstract. The nearest is on page 48, but that is not quite what it seems. Losurdo writes:

        “For Haym, to settle accounts with Hegel remained the indispensible presupposition for working any passage to Realpolitik, or at least to a realist vision of political life. One finds a similar chronology with Bismarck, when he affirmed in 1861 that Germany had only begun to feel “a true taste for politics” less than “fourteen years” ago. [85] The turning point dates back to 1848, the period marking the failure of a revolution where at last the illusions of an era corrupted by aestheticism and idealism burned; this is the moment when Germany freed itself at last from “its theologico-philosophical scruples” [86]”

        Unfortunately, only the first footnote [85] refers to a text of Bismarck whilst the second [86] refers again to Haym.

        Bismarck lived from 1815-98 and so would have missed any direct contact with Hegel. There seems to be an interesting book edited by Jon Stewart on the Hegel Myths and Legends (Northwestern UP, 1996) that has a few essays on Hegel’s reception. I find the following quote in an English book by Charles Lowe, Bismarck’s Table Talk (1895) “But at a later time the Chancellor, speaking of his early reading, remarked to another friend : "In my time Hegel was taught at all the Universities, but I learned of him only as much as I wanted for the examination”. That is only hearsay evidence of course. When you think of it, it’s pretty unusual for practical politicians to have a deep interest in philosophy, though it’s certainly not unheard of.

        All the best
        Stephen Cowley


        From: greuterb
        Sent: Monday, December 12, 2011 9:53 AM
        To: hegel@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: Re: [hegel] Losurdo on Hegel and the German Catastrophe


        Am 11.12.2011 13:59, Stephen Cowley writes:

        > Hi,
        > Domenico Losurdo is a prolific Italian scholar who has written several
        > books on the reception of Hegel’s political ideas. He is best known as
        > a Marxist critic of liberalism (“Liberalism: a Counter-history” in
        > English, 2011) which tries to locate liberalism historically and for
        > his “revisionist” work on Stalin (2008). This latter argues that
        > Stalin (“Uncle Joe”) was not thought of that badly before the Cold War
        > and that Western accounts of his crimes since Khrushchev's politburo
        > denunciation of them in the 1950s are greatly exaggerated.
        >
        > However, the subject of this email is his The German Catastrophe and
        > the Image of Hegel (1987), translated into French as Hegel et la
        > Catastrophe Allemande (Paris: Albin Michel, 1994). I’ll summarise the
        > main themes of this, in chronological order, as it covers some ground
        > that was new to me and concerns aspects of the reception of Hegel’s
        > ideas in several countries and in relation to several political
        > standpoints:
        >
        > The Wars of Liberation
        > Firstly, Hegel lived through the Befreiungskriege (Wars of Liberation)
        > which repulsed Napoleon’s armies from Germany in the period up to
        > 1815. These wars produced Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation
        > (1813). As a result of these events, there was a tendency for German
        > patriotism – and perhaps Russian - to be associated with a rejection
        > of the French revolution of 1789 and its ideals. Politically, these
        > were taken by some to be a strong central state imposing equality at
        > the expense of individuality, accompanied by military expansionism as
        > the ideas were held to be universally applicable.
        >
        > Hegel lived in the Rhine confederation at this time as opposed to the
        > more patriotic and reactionary Prussia. His earliest expression of his
        > political philosophy was the sections on Objective Mind in the
        > Encyclopaedia (Heidelberg, 1817) and his lectures from that period.
        > His view was that Germany ought not to reject legal and constitutional
        > advances made under Napoleonic rule out of a misguided patriotism that
        > would reject things because they came from France rather than being
        > patriotic by selecting what was best for Germany. He maintained this
        > outlook in slightly modified form when he moved to Berlin.
        >
        > It seems to me that Hegel was lifting people’s heads from their
        > immediate struggles to see what modern European states had in common,
        > either as reality or ideal – i.e. the rule of law and representative
        > institutions - and this is still what is valuable in the Philosophy of
        > Right. Losurdo seems at times to want to make Hegel a more partisan
        > figure than he was. He is right to point out that later writers often
        > wrongly identified Hegel with the reactionary Prussian tradition of
        > Jahn, Arndt and Scharnhorst that he in fact viewed from a distance.
        >
        > >From Hegel to Bismarck
        > Losurdo doesn’t seem to have much to say about the period from Hegel’s
        > death in 1831 to the 1860s, perhaps because it is the subject of
        > another of his books (see below). His general line seems to be that
        > Hegel’s students supported the 1848 democratic revolution in Germany
        > which he equates with Hegel doing so by proxy. After its failure
        > though, German unification was carried through by the Prussian
        > establishment partly by military means. Hegel was regarded as a
        > Francophile figure in this period and his social philosophy was seen
        > as opposed to semi-feudal authority and favouring representative
        > government. He finds some remarks by Bismarck that are critical of Hegel.
        >

        Stephen,

        These remarks by Bismarck would be interesting to know. Bismarck is one
        of these rulers who wanted to preserve the social structure of Prussian
        (his clientele, the Prussian squires) together with his introducing of
        some social and other rights which should calm the people, against the
        social-revolutionary procedure which for Hegel is necessary for
        realizing real constitutional structures as he wrote in his writing
        about the "Verhandlungen in der Versammlung der Landstände des
        Königreichs Württemberg im Jahr 1815 und 1816". With this writing he
        opposed both, the liberal and the consevative view: the liberals (i.e.
        his friend Niethammer, 1766-1848) who wanted to realize the constitution
        from below which according to Hegel is impossible without the
        social-revolutionary act before, and the conservatives who wanted to
        keep the status quo. With this Hegel also opposed his Romantic
        contemporaries to whom he also belonged. These Romantics put the nation
        above the right.

        Regards,
        Beat Greuter

        > The Kaiserreich
        > The key text from this era is Rudolf Haym’s Hegel and his Time (1857).
        > This led to a debate with Karl Rosenkranz whose views of Hegel are
        > probably more accurate. Losurdo identifies Haym with a National
        > Liberal tendency in German politics that Treitschke embodied in his
        > History of Germany. Haym decries Hegel for rejecting the ideology of
        > the Wars of Liberation. He thinks his praise of civil servants and the
        > centralised imposition of detailed regulations inappropriate to German
        > freedom and individuality. His dislike of Hegel thus flows from his
        > association of Hegel with the ideas of the French revolution. Thus the
        > French had a strong centralised state both before and after 1789 and
        > so he disapproves of this in Hegel. I have not read Haym, though I now
        > intend to, but Losurdo’s general line of argument seems convincing to me.
        >
        > The Ideas of 1914
        > Losurdo points out that various German writers regarded the war of
        > 1914-18 as an expression of a specifically German social philosophy
        > that rejected the French Ideas of 1789 – e.g. Sombart’s Handler und
        > Helden (Merchants and Heroes). These he thinks relate back to Haym and
        > the National Liberal tradition in Germany and that the attempt to
        > associate them with Hegel is arbitrary.
        >
        > He then discusses the views of French patriots and philosophers Emile
        > Boutroux, Charles Andler and Henri Bergson who created negative images
        > of Hegel and of German philosophy generally at this time. Losurdo
        > points out that Adam Fergusson’s Essay on Civil Society is more
        > warlike than anything in Hegel, but that Britain was not condemned as
        > a result. Kant was exempted from this at first for his essay on
        > Perpetual Peace, but then other passages in his writings were found
        > that could be condemned.
        >
        > Losurdo compares the French authors unfavourably with Croce in Italy,
        > who argued that wars were fought for commercial or state interests and
        > that a war for the sake of scholarship was absurd. I suppose though,
        > that scholars do have an interest in a free press and related freedoms
        > and are sometimes corralled into supporting wars for this reason.
        >
        > The German Catastrophe
        > This chapter seems to be a very incomplete exposition of the Hegel
        > literature of its period. Losurdo ignores leading Hegelian figures
        > like Theodor Haering and Hermann Glockner in favour of Carl Schmitt
        > and tends to mix together scholarly works with propaganda and
        > sloganising (e.g. Spengler). He neglects Johannes Hoffmeister, the
        > Hegel scholar who defended Hegel’s liberalism in newspaper articles in
        > 1937. He also has an imperfect grasp of the English-language
        > literature, for example, he ignores Bertrand Russell’s History of
        > Western Philosophy (1945) which was one of the great war books in
        > which Hegel is given a central role and the debate between TM Knox and
        > ER Carritt in 1940 that attained a much higher level of scholarship.
        > More significantly still, he ignores Thomas Carlyle, whose Hero
        > Worship and biography of Frederick the Great was at the root of a lot
        > of germanophile irrationalism in the 19th century and I think
        > influential in Germany. He ignores the Hegel-Renaissance in France in
        > the 1930s.
        >
        > He describes Social Darwinist ideas and points out that these did not
        > originate in Germany alone, but stem from naturalist tradition of
        > thought that Hegel opposed in the form of phrenology and physiognomy
        > in the Phenomenology. I think we have to distinguish Social Darwinism
        > as a political project here from physical anthropology as an empirical
        > study which Hegel did not reject, as he discusses it in the Subjective
        > Mind sections of the Philosophy of Mind. Hegel’s general approach of
        > regarding reason as an omnipresent and prevailing mental faculty in
        > humanity that supersedes possible or actual empirical variations in
        > human nature strikes me as fundamentally correct and an appropriate
        > explanation and justification of universal human values that will
        > stand up to the current revival of that discipline.
        >
        > Losurdo does not clarify what he means by the German Catastrophe
        > (singular), though one supposes the collapse of the government into
        > tyranny, subversion of human rights and outbreak of war are part of it
        > as well as the race question and perhaps from his standpoint the
        > rejection of communism. I think he is plausible in suggesting that the
        > tradition of Haym is more to blame for the general course of events
        > than the influence of Hegel, though this may not be the whole truth.
        > My feeling is that the history of this period needs to be reworked to
        > weed out atrocity propaganda from the historical record and give a
        > less theological view of the political motives of the actors of the
        > time than was done at the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, but this is a
        > historical project in the first instance rather than a philosophical
        > one and rather tangential to Hegel.
        >
        > General conclusions
        > The author’s Marxist position gives him a critical view of popular
        > ideologies that invoke Hegel’s name and this is abundantly appropriate
        > to the subject matter, though it also includes unexamined value
        > judgements (e.g. on the virtues of communism) that lurk under the
        > surface of the expositions. He is dissatisfied with the exclusive
        > disjunction of Conservative versus Liberal interpretations of Hegel
        > which I found interesting, though the point did not seem to be
        > developed in this book, though perhaps it is in the one I mention below.
        >
        > He adopts the viewpoint of the political agent which is not altogether
        > that of Hegel or appropriate to understanding him. I thought his
        > account of Croce, who thought scholars should keep scholarship
        > separate from their political commitments, was more valid than his own
        > agenda which seems to be to smear liberal ideas by association.
        >
        > Further reading
        > Losurdo’s books on Hegel are in Italian:
        > The Cultural Politics of Hegel at Berlin: Enlightenment, Revolution
        > and National Tradition (1981)
        > Hegel, National Question and Restoration: Presuppositions and
        > Development of a Political Battle (1983)
        > which were collected in a German edition in 1989.
        > Between Hegel and Bismarck: the Revolution of 1848 and the Crisis of
        > German Culture (1983)
        > Losurdo has also written Hegel and the Freedom of the Moderns which
        > appeared in English (Duke UP, 1994)
        > http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hegel-Freedom-Moderns-Post-Contemporary-Interventions/dp/0822332914/ref=lh_ni_t#reader_0822332914
        > This seems to draw on Jacques DHondt in its first chapter to judge
        > from the Amazon preview pages.
        >
        > All the best
        > Stephen Cowley
        >

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