Volume 21, Issue 1, Spring 2017
Elements of Hegel’s Political Theology
Civic Republicanism, Social Justice, Constitutionalism, and Universal Human Rights
This essay examines Hegel’s variegated understanding of the relationship of religion and politics, especially as articulated in his idea of state as a “secular deity” or “earthly divinity.” It does so by engaging and expanding upon themes explored by Ludwig Siep in his 2015 Der Staat als irdischer Gott: Genese und Relevanz einer Hegelschen Idee. Its focus is fourfold: 1) It affirms the special role played by a civil religion in sustaining and maintaining institutions of modern states. 2) It details the religious dimension of Hegel’s theory of the corporation to explicate an account of rights understood not just formally but with reference to substantive claims oriented to considerations of social justice. 3) It ascribes to Hegel a political theology rooted in the uniquely self-causative elements of his constitutional theory and directed to ongoing reflection by community members on the conditions of their commonality. 4) It asserts that Hegel’s notion of Weltgeist furnishes elements of a transnational account of human rights, yet one that both depends upon and entails proper development of Hegel’s notion of state as an earthly divinity.