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Political Utopia and the Philosophy of Action

  • Robert Gascoigne
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire Des Idees / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 105)

Abstract

Arnold Ruge, the editor of the Hallische and Deutsche Jahrbücher, was the leading publicist of Young Hegelian ideas. Assembling the leading radical minds of Germany in his journal, he attempted to draw political conclusions from the critique of Christianity begun by Strauss. Ruge had begun the Jahrbücher sharing Hegel’s conviction that the Prussian state, which had shown itself to be receptive to the principles of the Aufklärung in the past, first rising to international prominence under the patron of Voltaire and surviving the impact of the Napoleonic wars through the enlightened administrative reforms of vom Stein and Hardenberg, could now associate itself irrevocably with the party of freedom. For Ruge, the principles of the journal in its first year were, in the realm of theory ‘Protestantism and free science, and in praxis, the protestant, modern state’.1 The journal’s defence of the Prussian state in the Cologne controversy over mixed marriages was not simply an attack on the ultramontanism of Görres, but rather an attempt to delineate the cause of Protestantism as associated with enlightened and progressive principles against Lutheran pietism.

Keywords

Human Nature French Revolution Political Freedom True Content Ethical Life 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    A. Ruge, Sämtliche Werke, Mannheim, 1847, volume 4, p. 7.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    W. Neher, Arnold Ruge als Politiker und politischer Schriftssteiler, Heidelberg, 1933, p. 51.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Werke, IV, p. 24.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., IV, p. 273.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Ibid., IV, pp. 280–1.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ibid., IV, p. 279.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    As a Hegelian, Ruge initially felt the need to identify with a historical tradition in order to avoid assuming a ‘party’ consciousness over against a reality that was assumed to be the expression of historical reason. The problem was solved when the Prussian state began to suppress free thought, notably in its dismissal of Bauer from his teaching post at the University of Bonn. For Ruge, this meant that the state itself had become partisan, opposing the progress of critical reason which had its leading exponents in the Young Hegelians themselves. This implied in turn the right of the representatives of reason to make critical judgements of reality, cf. W. Neher, op. cit., pp. 54–5, 80.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Werke, IV, p. 404.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    A modern commentator on Hegel has assumed a stance very similar to Ruge in the criticism of the idea of absolute knowledge: ‘Philosophical concepts now came to reflect the actual movement of reality, but since they themselves were patterned on its social content, they stopped where the content stopped, that is, in the state that governed civil society, while the ideas and values that pointed beyond this social system were stowed away in the realm of the absolute mind, in the system of dialectical philosophy’. H. Marcuse, Reason and Revolution, (New York, 1955), p. 257.Google Scholar
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    For E. Kehr, in his ‘Zur Genesis der preussischen Bürokratie und des Rechtsstaates: Ein Beitrag zum Diktaturproblem’, in H.U. Wehler, ed., Moderne deutsche Sozialgeschichte (Köln-Berlin, 1966), p. 46, ‘all political claims of the German bourgeoisie in the 19th century are economic claims, which required political guarantees only for the protection of economic interests and not because of “polities” itself.’ Such an interpretation, together with his association of political freedom with atheism, may explain the difficulty Ruge had in gaining support for a democratic political philosophy which went beyond the limits of economic liberalism.Google Scholar
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    A. von Cieszkowski, Prolegomena zur Historiosophie, (Berlin, 1838), pp. 9–15.Google Scholar
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    E. Silberner, Moses Hess: Geschichte seines Lebens, Leiden, 1966, ch. 4, passim. D. McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx, London, 1969, p. 16.Google Scholar
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    In general, Hess’s judgements on the history of philosophy take the form of a freely — sometimes arbitrarily — personal interpretation of the role a given thinker played in the dialectic of ideas that Hess sees as culminating in the Philosophie der Tat, the advocation of ethical action as the creator of the future. A central doctrine is seized upon and transformed into the symbol of a particular thinker’s historical role. Hegel becomes the cipher for the philosophical understanding of history that limited itself to meditation on the past, Schelling the understanding of nature, and Spinoza the philosophical Messiah of the modern epoch.Google Scholar
  81. 81.
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    H. Lademacher, Moses Hess in seiner Zeit, Bonn, 1977, p. 53.Google Scholar
  84. 84.
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  85. 85.
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  87. 87.
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  88. 88.
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  89. 89.
    Ibid., p. 242.Google Scholar
  90. 90.
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  91. 91.
    Lademacher, p. 165.Google Scholar
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    K. Mielcke, in his Deutscher Frühsozialismus: Gesellschaft und Geschichte in den Schriften von Weitling und Hess, (Forschungen zur Geschichts- und Gesellschaftslehre, Heft 4, 1931), notes that Hess’s later acceptance of historical materialism was not completely without precedent in his early thought. In Mielcke’s judgement, Hess had hoped to develop a justification for socialism from the philosophy of history, but finally felt compelled to make an ethical statement of humanity’s need. (p. 133) H. Stuke, in his Philosophie der Tat, op. cit., also comments on the inconsistency in Hess’s use of both ethical and historical arguments for socialism, (p. 216)Google Scholar
  95. 95.
    Lademacher, p. 167.Google Scholar
  96. 96.
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  97. 97.
    Cornu and Mönke, p. 285.Google Scholar
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  99. 99.
    Lademacher, p. 165.Google Scholar
  100. 100.
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  102. 102.
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  105. 105.
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  106. 106.
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  107. 107.
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  108. 108.
    Lademacher, p. 167.Google Scholar
  109. 109.
    This priority referred particularly to his attack on Kühlmann and Becker in his piece Umtriebe der kommunistischen Propheten, Cornu und Mönke, pp. 376–77.Google Scholar
  110. 110.
    Cornu and Mönke, p. 300.Google Scholar
  111. 111.
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  112. 112.
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  113. 113.
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  114. 114a.
    Cieszkowski, Prolegomena, pp. 147–8. For A. Liebich, in his Between Ideology and Utopia; The Politics and Philosophy of A. Cieszkowski (Dordrecht, 1979) ‘in evoking Fourier’s system as one “which has made a great step in developing organic truth within reality”, and simultaneously criticizing it as an unselfconscious production, Cieszkowski is conveying two ideas: first, that the construction of Utopia is a valid task in the cognition of the future; second, that Utopia has been inadequately understood as a relation between the ideal and the real. The implications of the paradoxes which he deduces from Fourier’s position are unmistakeable: if Utopia as a category of analysis is developed speculatively and consciously it will result not in vain utopianism but in knowledge of the future. The true Utopia can “never be ideal enough” for it is teleological. In this way, the concept of Utopia — like myth in Strauss’s work — is taken out of the realm of illusion or deception and granted legitimacy’, (p. 49) Such an understanding of the role of Utopia is true also of Hess: for both Hess and Cieszkowski the elaboration of social Utopia was accompanied by an awareness of detailed tasks and concrete reforms.Google Scholar
  115. 114b.
    For J. Gebhardt, in his Politik und Eschatologie (München, 1963), ‘the transformation of the speculative revolt against our own cre-aturehood into an objective revolutionizing of the order of being through revolutionary action in historico-political reality received through Cieszkowski a symbolisation which remains popular to this day’, (p. 145) Yet an interpretation of the utopianism of Hess and Cieszkowski as a gnostic ‘leap out of being’ (p. 144) does not do justice to a form of utopianism which had no desire to impose itself upon the world and which acted as a visionary encouragement to concrete and humane social action. ‘If utopia is a regulative idea of the optimum and not an assurance that we have mastered the skill to produce the optimum, then Utopia is a necessary part of our thinking’Google Scholar
  116. 114c.
    L. Kolakowski, ‘Need of Utopia, Fear of Utopia’, in Radicalism in the Contemporary Age, ed. Bialer and Sluzer, vol. 2: Radical Visions of the Future, 1977, p. 11.Google Scholar
  117. 115.
    Cornu and Mönke, p. 292.Google Scholar
  118. 116.
    Ibid., p. 413.Google Scholar
  119. 117.
    Ruge drew his attention to the similarities between his own work and Stirner’s: ‘You seem not to have noticed that he wants fundamentally the same thing as you, except that he comes from the other side. While you proceed from the whole, he comes as an individual, and demands that everyone should do the same. And what a divine chemistry! He has succeeded in dissolving all concepts and substances, he, the Creator. Yet you won’t give this excellent man any credit… Even that is progress, that he writes like a human for humans and not, like the rest of our philosophers, and even you yourself, for gods and wandering scholastics’. Ruge to Hess, in Moses Hess: Briefwechsel, ed. E. Silberner (The Hague), 1959), p. 110.Google Scholar
  120. 118.
    E. Silberner, op. cit., pp. 209–210, considers that Hess’s stress on the necessarily immature character of socialist thought as the result of a sick social organism must be the result of the influence of Marx and Engels. Lademacher, Moses Hess in seiner Zeit, p. 68, emphasizes, however, that Hess’s evolution from a generalized conception of the ‘poor’ towards a concentration on the proletariat as the only possible agent of change is not necessarily to be identified with the influence of Marx. D. McLellan, op. cit., emphasizes the influence in particular of Hess’s Über das Geldwesen on Marx, especially on the Paris Manuscripts of 1844 and Zur Judenfrage, (pp. 154–8)Google Scholar
  121. 119.
    Lademacher, Ausgewählte Schriften, p. 194.Google Scholar
  122. 120.
    Ibid., p. 383.Google Scholar
  123. 121.
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  124. 122.
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  125. 123.
    Ibid., p. 387.Google Scholar
  126. 124.
    Ibid., p. 389.Google Scholar
  127. 125.
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  128. 126.
    Ibid., p. 396.Google Scholar
  129. 127.
    Ibid., p. 209.Google Scholar
  130. 128.
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  133. 131.
    Philosophy of Right, (Knox translation), p. 26.Google Scholar
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    Cieszkowski, Prolegomena zur Historiosophie, p. 16.Google Scholar
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    E. Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, pp. 466–467, (Free Press, New York, 1965).Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1985

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  • Robert Gascoigne

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