Hegel, Marx, and the English State

This work is a radically revised intellectual portrait of Hegel and Marx that challenges standard interpretations of their political theory and places their political thought directly into social and historical context.

David MacGregor reveals the revolutionary content of Hegel’s social theory and the Hegelian themes that underlie Marx’s analysis of the English state in Capital, and shows how the transformation of the Victorian state in the nineteenth century influenced the mature Marx to reclaim Hegelian arguments he had earlier abandoned. These ideas included a theory of politics and social class that coloured Marx’s view of capitalist and working-class opposition to government reform initiatives.

MacGregor criticizes interpretations of state action that present government solely as a tool of capitalist and patriarchal interests. Noting the essential significance of child labour in the growing industrialization during Hegel’s and Marx’s time, the author contends that “alienation”, as the two thinkers understood the term, assumes a labour force in which many workers are socially powerless children and women. Given these conditions, the centrality of the English Factory Acts to workers’ lives becomes obvious, a centrality acknowledged by Marx but forgotten by his followers. The author concludes his discussion with an assessment of current debates about state and civil society, relating these arguments to Hegel’s conception of the rational state.

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