The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd


  • R. P. Bellamy
Reference work entry


The origins and concerns of the political ideas of the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel (1770–1831) are traditionally thought to be religious rather than economic. However, a preoccupation with issues of political economy is present in his earliest theological writings and lies at the centre of his wider philosophical project (Hegel 1793–1800). Broadly speaking, Hegel wished to construct an ethical theory appropriate for the specific problems of the modern world. He believed ancient and medieval societies had been bound together by a communal code of behaviour, with social roles mirroring a putative natural or divine order. The harmony of the natural macrocosm and the social microcosm had been sundered in modern societies by a growing awareness of individuality on the part of their members. Hegel traced this development to two sources: the primacy accorded to the individual conscience within Christianity, especially the Lutheranism he personally espoused, and the individualism encouraged by the capitalist mode of production. Contrary to recent influential critics (e.g. Popper 1945), Hegel did not wish to stifle individual liberty by returning to the organic community theorized by Plato. Instead, he sought to describe the conditions necessary for the freedom of each person to be compatible with the freedom of all.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • R. P. Bellamy
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