Philosophy Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Philosophy of Politics
Thom Brooks
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 October 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0052


G. W. F. Hegel is widely considered to be one of the most important philosophers in the history of philosophy. This entry focuses on his contributions to political philosophy, with particular attention paid to his seminal work: the Philosophy of Right. A particular focus will be placed on Hegel’s theories of freedom, contract and property, punishment, morality, family, civil society, law, and the state.

General Overviews

Hegel’s political philosophy has attracted a great deal of attention, especially since the 1960s, when there was a resurgent and widespread interest in Marx’s ideas and their philosophical foundations. There are several excellent commentaries. The most influential general overview of Hegel’s political philosophy is Wood 1990. This work is both philosophically and historically rich: readers will walk away with an excellent understanding of Hegel’s views as well as insight into the philosophical background that shaped his work. Pelczynski 1971 is the classic collection of essays covering most topics in the Philosophy of Right. Findlay 1958 discusses various aspects of Hegel’s philosophy more generally but also includes important, substantive discussions of Hegel’s political philosophy as well. Brooks 2012 offers a comprehensive collection that examines the Philosophy of Right from the perspective of ethics, political philosophy, and legal theory. Other excellent collections, including leading work by German scholars, can be found in Siep 2005 and Pippin and Höffe 2004. Ilting 1971 analyzes how the foundations of Hegel’s philosophical system inform the argumentative structure of his Philosophy of Right. Westphal 1993 offers an excellent account of the Philosophy of Right’s philosophical structure with a special focus on freedom. Brooks and Stein 2017 is the most comprehensive examination into how the Philosophy of Right connects with Hegel’s philosophical system. Although not widely known as a student of Hegel’s texts, John Rawls was long interested in them, and his lectures on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (Rawls 2000) are characteristically insightful and charitable.

  • Brooks, Thom, ed. Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Oxford: Blackwell, 2012.

    A comprehensive collection examining Hegel’s Philosophy of Right from the perspectives of ethics, political philosophy and legal theory.

  • Brooks, Thom, and Sebastian Stein, eds. Hegel’s Political Philosophy: On the Normative Significance of Method and System. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

    Essays by the leading Hegel scholars exploring the “systematic” reading of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and how it connects with his logic and system.

  • Findlay, J. N. Hegel: A Re-examination. London: Allen and Unwin, 1958.

    A classic work on Hegel’s philosophy that helped set the scene for the “analytic” reception of his thought. Although it covers a variety of topics across Hegel’s general philosophy, it also has important substantive discussions of his views on ethics and political philosophy.

  • Ilting, K. H. “The Structure of Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Right.’” In Hegel’s Political Philosophy: Problems and Perspectives. Edited by Z. A. Pelczynski, 90–110. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1971.

    An excellent critical discussion of the dialectical structure of Hegel’s political philosophy as presented in the Philosophy of Right.

  • Pelczynski, Z. A., ed. Hegel’s Political Philosophy: Problems and Perspectives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1971.

    The leading classic collection of essays on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. This work is comprehensive and highly influential.

  • Pippin, Robert B., and Otfried Höffe, eds. Hegel on Ethics and Politics. Translated by Nicholas Walker. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511498176

    An excellent collection of leading work by German scholars translated into English.

  • Rawls, John. Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy. Edited by Barbara Herman. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

    These are excellent lectures on a range of important figures, concluding with Hegel. Although the discussion is relatively brief, it is also clear and insightful.

  • Siep, Ludwig, ed. G. W. F. Hegel: Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2005.

    An excellent collection of essays on the Philosophy of Right in both English and German.

  • Westphal, Kenneth. “The Basic Context and Structure of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.” In The Cambridge Companion to Hegel. Edited by Frederick C. Beiser, 234–269. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521382742.009

    An excellent analysis of the philosophical structure of the Philosophy of Right. In addition, there are further chapters of interest in this Companion by Allen Wood on Hegel’s ethics and Hegel and Marxism.

  • Wood, Allen W. Hegel’s Ethical Thought. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139172257

    The leading general commentary on Hegel’s ethical and political philosophy. It is broad and covers most topics in the Philosophy of Right.

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