Uncivil Society: Hegel, Kojève, and the Crisis of Political Legitimacy
Dissatisfaction with “the neoliberal policy consensus” has fueled the rise of “populist” parties and candidates around the world, Donald Trump being the foremost example. But what underlies this discontent? Hegel’s understanding of civil society and its proper relationship to the family and the state may provide an answer to this question. Specifically, neoliberal policies and attitudes are based upon a one-sided view of “work” and economic activity that erodes the dignity of the political community and its members. Both elites and non-elites are suffering from the cannibalization of the family and the colonization of the state by civil society, which produces social strain that goes well beyond economic anxieties. Furthermore, Kojève’s interpretation of Hegel, especially his understanding of the nature of authority, helps explain the distinctively political aspects of these developments. Neoliberalism, through its pursuit of increasing depoliticization, undermines its own sources of political legitimacy and ultimately reduces human relations to the application of force in the service of individual ends.
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