International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 63, Issue 3, September 2023

Joshua Folkerts
Pages 253-271

A Foundation for a Hegelian Welfare State
Poverty as a Lack of Self-Actualization and the Right of Subsistence in Service of Freedom

In addition to its main theme of freedom, Hegel’s political philosophy addresses the problem of poverty. This article proposes a theoretical foundation for a Hegelian welfare state by demonstrating how its rationale and concepts are derived from Hegel’s political philosophy. Poverty constitutes a fundamental deficiency in the modern liberal state focused on the self-actualization of its citizens. This poverty is not an accidental but a structural factor of modern market society, resulting from economic contingencies. The poor rabble is deprived of the opportunities for self-actualization that market society provides. Therefore, the main task of a Hegelian welfare state is to secure the right of subsistence as a condition of the possibility of self-actualization. Without subsistence citizens are unable to develop and actualize their free will through property formation in market society. Derived from Hegel’s right of necessity and the guiding principle of freedom, the right of subsistence is paramount to the legitimacy of the state. Therefore, it cannot be left to the contingent morality of private charity. The right of subsistence does not only guarantee mere survival, but also includes a minimum of property needed to participate in market society.