Hegelian Organic State and Individual Rights

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel delivering a lecture at the Berlin University in 1828 (sketch after nature and lithograph by Franz Kugler). Source: Wikipedia

In his book, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Hegel (1991) articulates three stages of the movement of the Idea (or the Spirit); the Family, the Civil Society and the State. State resembles the last stage in which the universalisation of the Idea occurs in its highest point. He concludes the state as an ‘moral whole’ which is ‘the union of the subjective will with the rational will’ (1953, p. 49). Hegelian idea of the State consists three main parts: The Constitutional Law, the International Law, and the process of World History. The constitutional Law ‘has immediate actuality’ and ‘is the individual state as a self-related organism’ (1991, p. 281). The organic State consists three layers: the assembly of estates, the civil service and the monarchy.

According to Doniela (1986), the assembly of estates is the place in which specific interests within civil society integrated with a considerable/changing measure. In the assembly, the consensus is aimed, and which tends civil society to reach a common political will. The focus of makes the assembly as a mediator between the civil society and other layers of the state, civil service and the monarch. Hegel concludes the estates like that:

The role [Bestimmung] of the Estates is to bring the universal interest [Angelegetzlzeit] into existence [Existenz] not only in itself but also for itself, i.e. to bring into existence the moment of subjective formal freedom, the public consciousness as the empirical universality of the views and thoughts of the many. “

(§ 301) (G W F Hegel et al., 1991, p. 339)

The civil service resembles the bureaucratic class which located upward from any partisan objectives and that class is solely dedicated to the universal interest; that bureaucracy contains paid civil servants who have freedom from specific influences and they dedicated to common good (V. Doniela, 1986).

The monarch represents the top of the body of state. Hegelian monarch could not be understood as despot, because he is under the regulations set by the constitution; in other words, the monarch cannot act in capricious manner. The monarch can be called ‘the bearer of the individuality of the state’ and monarch’s ‘sovereignty is the ideality in unity in which the particular functions and powers of the state subsist’ (Duquette, n.d.).

Rights of Individual and Projection of These on Political and Economic Spheres In the very first part of his book, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Hegel (1991) explains Abstract Rights, which are basically listed as (1) property: the universality of will as embodied in things, (2) contract: the positing of explicit universality of will, (3) wrong: the particular will opposing itself to the universal (Duquette, n.d.) By making law, these abstract rights are become codified and earn formal character. The political and economic rights may have fundamentals from these rights. Possession of private property and commodification of it can be called as economic rights, and expression of individual will can be called as political rights.


Duquette, D. A. (n.d.). Hegel: Social and Political Thought. In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Pub. Retrieved from https://www.iep.utm.edu/hegelsoc/#SSH6c.iii

Hegel, G. W. F., & Hartman, R. S. (1953). Reason in history a general introduction to the philosophy of history. Liberal Arts Pr.

Hegel, G. W. F., Wood, A. W., & Nisbet, H. B. (1991). Hegel: Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Cambridge University Press.

V. Doniela, W. (1986). Hegel and the Organic State. In D. Muschamp (Ed.), Political Thinkers (pp. 161–176). Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-18183-4_13