Abstrakte Recht / Abstract Right
Moralität / Morality
Sittlichkeit / Ethical Life
Summary: An introduction to Hegel's Social and Political Theory
Hegel on the State and War
Extracts from : "The State and the Problem of War in Christian Peace Theology"
--Robbert Veen 16:08, 21 February 2006 (GMT)
The modern concept of the State
One of the reasons that a pacifist theology should deal with the notion of the modern state is the connection between sovereignty and the right to use force. According to Emil Brunner any acceptance of the state necessarily implies the acceptance of the violence that the state requires in order to protect its own existence. In theology this appeal to a right of self-defense has a long history. But what then is the State? Why is it possible to apply the notion of self defense to the State? In the theology of Emil Brunner the concept of the State remains ambiguous. On the one hand he accepts the State as a social order of justice, on the other hand he defines the State as the power that tries to execute justice by force and coercion. Only when this power becomes excessive, can the State be denied.
It seems obvious that the first part of this definition of the state is modern. The State as an expression of the social order is an early 19th century concept. The second part of this definition however, is pre-modern because it simply identifies the use of force with the sovereignty of the State. The identity of the state and the sovereign power brings it closer to biblical notions of the State as a rebellious power. The problem however, might be that the modern state is not adequately understood by this juxtaposition of two totally different principles. It is not clear why the state would execute violence if it is the expression of the social order of a people, unless the social order as such is worth defending. We will discuss Emil Brunner's view later on. For now its seems important to achieve a better understanding of the nature of the modern State.
There are many reasons to consider Hegel's philosophy of Right to be one of the most important texts of modern philosophy. Hegel's political philosophy had a profound influence on Western political thought. No other work has been so focused on the inner coherence of the social order. Without exaggeration it can be said that the Spirit of modern society is expressed in Hegel's philosophy of Right in an exemplary way. His systematic description of the inner structure of the social order gave us the basic categories of subsequent forms of social philosophy, and through Marxism and neo-Marxism it has deeply influenced the 20th century debate.
A theology of peace is in need of a theory of the modern state. It seems self evident that Hegel has a key role to play or least that he is one of the most important partners in dialogue. Yet it is altogether not clear how we can move beyond a recognition of the differences between a philosophical concept of the State and Biblical notion of government, power and the city that we want to use as guidelines in Christian social ethics. This uncertainty arises as soon as the realize that Hegel's philosophy of Right is a systematic reflection on the self realization of liberty. It seems obvious that only a Liberal concept of the State would allow for the notion of liberty to have such a prominent place. This uncertainty increases as soon as we become aware that Hegel's concept of liberty has no direct analogies with the modern Western democracies. We might suspect that Hegel's thought is too much connected with an outdated image of authoritarian government. It seems as if one needs to hold certain political views in order to take Hegel's political philosophy seriously. Yet there is a way of reading that turns out to be fruitful for a theology of peace. The reading of Hegel that I want to present here, will emphasize phenomena that Hegel considers to be typical modern, i.e. those elements of the social order that can be understood in conformity with the idea of self realizing liberty. Secondarily we will deal with the question to what extent the theological ethics of Karl Barth and John Howard Yoder have understood this modern character of the State sufficiently.
The introduction to Hegel's philosophy of Right in 1820 aims at establishing social philosophy as a speculative science about Law, social morality and the state. An axiom for this approach is the necessity to understand and clarify what is already given in reality. What Hegel has in mind is the idea, that we can only call something real, if it is to some extent rational, i.e. can be approached by reflection. The contents of that is already rational in itself must be expressed in its proper rational form. In this part of Hegel's project it seems important first of all to deny the legitimacy of other approaches. To our ways of thinking that try to remain close to what is given, approaches that characterize and describe what can be seen as apparent seem more realistic and truthful than others. Precisely if we remain in this descriptive mode, certain immediate principles like the idea of the authority and sovereign power of the State or the consensus among people, the general will, the social contract etc. will appear as foundational. In this manner we do not exercise a "freedom" of thinking but remain guided by what is already there on the surface.
The liberty of thought is not adequately understood and appreciated both in its own right, and in its inner connection with the object. To take a concept of the social order as a project of philosophy, must mean that the liberty of reflection is also part of that object. A free thought that cannot do otherwise than acknowledge the given authority of the state, cannot be free. Such a way of thinking cannot understand it self as a part of the social order. A form of reflection like that implies an abstract opposition between itself and its object in which the social order is understood externally. A concept from within the social order can only be achieved, when it becomes evident how social liberty and free reflection interconnect. It seems unimportant whether these forms of reflection deal with the social nature, the life of the people, the existing system of law or the positively given authority of the state.
Another motive behind these indications is the fact that such a form of reflection must be accompanied by a mere external criticism of the existing social order. In a sense, the point of view from which criticisms can be directed toward the State is utopian. But utopian idealism has no foundation in reality. It presents the position of an abstract "should-have-been" without concerning itself with the finitude of all human efforts as would be obvious from even a cursory glance at history. A free reflection on political reality as it is given is connected with the acceptance of random norms and values that are applied as a standard of conduct for the State without being derived from the reality of the State. In such an approach to social reality the rationality that is already present in it, is not adequately expressed. The concept of social reality is only used in an abstract sense to be applied in an utopian, idealistic, moralist manner. The problem here is not only that in such a moralism reality cannot be understood adequately, but because of this opposition to reality the moral content has no chance of realization whatsoever. Precisely if we could determine that the social order is morally inadequate in an absolute sense, it is clear that the standard is not a part of that order. Only if the standard is part of the reality that we understand in some manner, can it be meaningful. Only then can it represent an ideal that we may achieve with the means at our disposal.
This train of thought is characteristic for Hegel's contribution to modern philosophy. The form of reflection in which we think, actually determines the relationship with reality in which I stand. Within the way of thinking about reality lies something that can be understood as a quality or determination of that reality, excluding that it is reducable to an immediate given. What is true is only apparently to be identified with the immediate as it is given to me. What is true is also the real as it is in my knowledge. Moreover, my knowledge of reality must itself be understood as part of that reality that we speak about. The concept of reality in some manner involves a reality of the concept. Ultimately Hegel can make the claim that there is a connection of identity between philosophical knowledge and its object, which is why he comes to speak about a self understanding of reality. Only by paying attention to the logical form in which we understand, can reality itself be understood. The structure of our thoughts is an expression of the connection between subject and object that determines every act of knowledge and understanding. That is why there cannot be a simple transparency of thinking toward its object as an immediate given that can be described in order to confront it with a critical standard that is derived from elsewhere.
In a more positive sense Hegel has summarized this way of thinking in a principle: what is reasonable, is real; what is real, is reasonable. In the context of political philosophy, the argument has been made against Hegel that this principle gives sanction to whatever system of government exists, the analysis becoming corrupt by conservative assumptions. Based on the above it is better to say that Hegel is trying to express a form of reflection in which the concept of social reality achieves a real grasp of the peculiar nature of its object. Within Hegel's motivation up to a point coincides with the empiricis attitude, i.e. the approach to reality by description and clarification. Hegel shared with empiricism a deep respect for reality as it is. Precisely because of that respect, we should learn to understand that the reality cannot be conceived by us, without it being in itself rational. If reality is rational, that our knowledge of reality cannot or should not be grounded in a subjective predilections or utopian moralism. If reality is always rational, then the existing social order cannot be simply understood as an irrational power. Its own reality must be to some extent at least an expression of its own principle. Although that rational principle, on the other hand, is to some extent already realized, it remains to function as the standard with which reality can be measured. The concept of the State is therefore both descriptive of its objective reality and prescriptive on account of the realized concept. Its reality can be confirmed as in some measure the realization of its principle.
In this mode of the concept consciousness and reality are not abstract opposites. The consciousness of the social order signifies both the knowledge of a social reality, as the social reality of that knowledge. Social consciousness is itself a social reality; to some extent it is also possible to say that the social order is self-conscious. Hegel's concept differs from Karl Marx, because according to the former we cannot speak about a social order producing a form of reflection, i.e. externally.
All of this leads to the principle, that our understanding of the social order should reflect the conditions under which we have a consciousness of the social order. In Hegel's thinking, reflection is always engaged in, is intrinsically connected to the reality it tries to understand. No concept of the social order is viable, in which the very conditions of understanding that social order are denied or ignored. One of the main analogies therefore, between the form of the reflection and the nature of the object in this case, must be the liberty of both. A free reflection on the social order cannot be but grounded in a social structure that allows for that kind of free reflection.
Let us turn our attention now to the contents of Hegel's doctrine of the state. The concept of the State is the final piece of his analysis of the so called objective spirit. It is " the sphere in which the human mind aspires to the realization of its freedom by means of the legitimate social structures in which the human personality as a subject, i.e. as a center of understanding, action and meaning, can come to its own." (Cf. L. Fleischhacker, "Hegel's theorie van de oorlog in het licht van de kernbewapening." p. 269.) The State is the highest form of those social structures because it expresses the autonomous self determination of the subject, including the social order and the life of the people as such.
On the basis of these introductory remarks on the nature of Hegel's social philosophy, I will now try to clarify directly his understanding of the State as modern state. In every discussion of Hegel's concept of the State it is necessary to remove an obstacle that seems to block any kind of understanding. In the additional remark to paragraph 258 of his philosophy of Right, Hegel writes: 1. " this essential being realizes it self as an independent power, in which particular individuals are but moments: the State is the movement of God in the world (es ist der Gang Gottes in der Welt, dass der Staat ist): its foundation is the power of reason that realizes it self as will." The same thought seems to be present when Hegel writes in paragraph 270: 2. "The State is the divine will as the present Spirit, that unfolds itself to become the real shape and organization of a world. "
(Der Staat ist göttlicher Wille als gegenwärtiger, sich zur wirklichen Gestalt und Organisation einer Welt entfaltender Geist.)
Critics of Hegel usually understand these texts to be a glorification of the modern State. If we translate the sentence that begins with "Es ist der Gang..." with "...the State is the movement of God in the world " we identify the State with God. That hardly seems to be Hegel's intent. A more accurate version would be: " it is God's way in the world that that there is a state. "
In the second quotation it seems as if the State is a identified with the divine will without further qualification. On second thought Hegel tries to express the nature of the State with an accuracy that allows for a limitation. The State can be called the divine will (or rather willed by God) insofar as the State can be conceived as the Spirit that gives itself a real shape and is present as an organized world. The identification of the State and the divine will is placed under a limit. Not everything that happens in the State is as such willed by God. Hegel writes that the State is not a work of art; it stands in the world ,which means that it needs to exist in the sphere of arbitrariness, of coincidences and mistakes, and it is possible that it becomes disfigured by evil conduct on many sides. Hegel remarks in this context, that even a criminal remains a living being. In the same manner a State should still be recognized as State despite its flaws.
It also important to keep in mind that not everything that happens in a spiritual sense is primarily a reality of the State. According to Rosenzweig the limit is here expressed by the phrase "in the world." Above the world of social morality, above the visible organization of the social order, there is a final kingdom that is no longer an organization; there is an ultimate being-with-it-self of the soul, in which she is lonely like she was before she developed herself to a world of objective Spirit. Above the State are the spheres of art, religion and science (philosophy) that together constitute a kingdom of loneliness. We can certainly derive from this that to Hegel the State is only the highest principle in the sphere of objective spirit and history. The existence of the state, however, is a part of God's dealing with the world. The remark must be made that all of this does not define any given State in an empirical sense. Hegel speaks about the real, i.e. rational state. It's not about the State as it appears to be in history, but about its rational foundations on the basis of which we recognize the State despite what she is in actual fact. In certain instances Hegel speaks about the idea of the State to express this.
The relationship between the State and the absolute or divine can also be understood differently. The spiritual or rational nature of man, becomes a visible only in the state, but according to Hegel its appearance is still fragmentary, provision and limited. Only in the State does man live in an organized world, in a social order that allows him to expresses his spiritual nature. This intrinsic connection between man and the state seems to be the most important insight that Hegel wanted to discuss. Even if the state in practice seems to be nothing but a system of force and violence, even then the state must in principle be coherent with the subjective will of the individual. The most striking feature of the modern state according to Hegel is, that the exercise of state power cannot be understood ultimately as mere violence or as a foreign intrusion. That is why Hegel can define the state as "the reality of concrete liberty. " (Paragraph 260)
More accurately the state appears in this respect in a twofold manner. Over against the ways of existence of family and civil society it appears as as an extrinsic coercion, external and foreign to particular interests. At the same time, the state is the inner goal of the exercise of particular liberties. Because of the state the concern with private interests becomes possible. Within the social or other one can only prosper by advancing one's own interest, in so far as this order is recognized as such. The social order is a product of the state that requires the exercise of force, but needs no violence. The state organizes the social order most often by nonviolent coercion. What holds a society together is a fundamental feeling of a shared social order. Violence therefore does not define the essential function of the state. Violence is only the ultimate means at the disposal of the state, with which she can defend itself, i.e. the social order as such, that is a necessary prerequisite of the exercise of private interests. The state is defined more by this shared feeling of the necessity of a common social order, then by the external violence that the state sometimes needs to apply in order to defend that social order.
The political attitude, basic to all political points of view and in coherence with this basic solidarity amongst the citizens of the state, is called political patriotism. The qualification "political" implies the exclusionary of nationalism. Hegel does not identify patriotism with the willingness to defend the state by force and to sacrifice one self in that endeavor. Political patriotism is based on the insight that the state even when it acts in conflict to my own immediate self interests, remains the expression of a positive relationship between myself and others: guaranteeing the social order is ultimately in my own best interest. In other words, ultimately my private interests coincide with others in the area of the general conditions that allow me to pursue my own. A pure individualistic self interest is not really possible in the modern state, despite the fact that subjective freedom is its founding principle. Unrestrained freedom ignores the necessary interconnection that binds my life with those of others. The principle of liberty, if understood concretely, makes it a visible that my liberty is not just restricted by the liberty of others, but it is dependent on the exercise of liberty by others. This connection is the reality of the state.
Although the modern state is ultimately dependent on the principle of subjective freedom, there is a conflict between the exercise of force or violence by the state and the exercise of private interests by individuals. In modern theories of the state since the 16th century, it is assumed that state violence is grounded on the freedom of the sovereign, or any other institution that exercises ultimate sovereignty within the state. The justifications of the exercise of violence based on a particular freedom against all. Is the the idea only in this manner the eternal conflict of interest of all against all can be avoided. The modern state is not about restraining this conflict of interest by force, but about creating a real coherence of individuals in a common social order, excluding the eternal struggle of private interests.
Hegel was of the opinion that this reality of the modern state was reached in a historical development, in which the Reformation and the French Revolution were decisive moments. political history according to Hegel began with the kind of theocracy that was characteristic of ancient China. The state exercised its sovereignty both in the legal and in the moral sphere of life. Justice and morality are confused. The Monarch rules as a patriarch, in the sense that he and he alone acts for the common good. In Greek democracy the unity of individuality common well-being was a principle, Nevertheless the individual was treated to a large extent as something that belonged to the life of the community, the polis. In Greek democracy a free citizen did not have to deal with his own corny and particular interests, because he did not have to perform labor. A free citizen of a Greek democracy, was also a carefree citizen. In the Roman Empire the opposition between the consciousness of a particular individual and the state being no more than the abstract universality of common interest, led to a real opposition between state sovereignty and individual existence. A typical modern antithesis appears here: individual interests are at odds with the power of sovereignty. In medieval feodalism an individual could exercise stately power. The Lord of the land was the absolute ruler of a peasant population. The universality of a people was subservient to the particularity of a nobleman.
Hegel's depiction of the history of political structures, in particular his understanding of Greek democracy, is important in understanding that the modern character of the modern state does not rest on the analogy between the Greek democracy to our contemporary Western form of government. The fact e.g. that Greece, or rather Athens, could be considered as a state of justice, because "its laws were understood to be valid because they were a given", or because the exercise of power was seen as something that had to be legitimized both legally and morally, or the fact that all men were seen to be equal before the Law (in the Athenian Constitution by Solon), or the idea that true democracy should have a foundation in political patriotism, all of this is not Constitution of the modern state, but of the classic polis.
In the classic polis, the individual is seen as a subject of positive rights, nevertheless the essential feature of Greek society is the common, public cause. The public cause is the "substance", i.e. the essence and the objective reality, that preceeds all other elements of society. The citizens of the polis are not required to approve or affirm the public cause. Hegel speaks about the ethos, or "natural social morality" or of the objective will, to describe a this relationship between individual and public cause. In the realm of social morality the law is valid, simply because it is there. The validity of laws is analogous to to what is necessary by nature. In this concept of the relationship between individual and state, the reflective consciousness, that allows the individual to understand both his participation in the community and his being, separate and on its own against the community, is lacking. The tension between individual conscience and the universal community is not yet adequately expressed. The state can still be seen as an organism, a that exercises its own interest through each of its constituent members. The democracy of Athens is precisely that Constitution in which we find the immediate connection between common and private interest, the abstract unity of political will.
In modern characterizations of democracy this assumption of an immediate harmony between particular and universal interests, is lacking. To a modern consciousness there can be no such thing as an objective social morality. What we mean by democracy is precisely the subjective procedure of debate among citizens about their common interests. Everybody should be heard concerning the issues that affect his own interests, both immediately and with regard to the intermediate social order. Hegel however makes it clear, that this notion of democracy remains abstract, in so far as the particular will is not focused on the general and objective interest of the social order. It is possible for a private citizen to represent nothing else but his own interests, i.e. political patriotism might be a rare commodity. This notion of a private morality, the possibility that personal convictions and evaluations constitute an inner and subjective freedom that ignores the social order even though it depends on it, makes it impossible to rely on an objective social morality. It is no longer the existing social morals, nor the positively given Law that is the highest principle, but in this modern age of liberty it is the individual positions, appreciations, convictions that represent the highest principle. Greek democracy, as a way of unifying the universal and the particular in one single "social nature" can only be effective in small cities and is completely dependent on slavery. Only an economy that gives its citizens the possibility to devote a large portion of their time to political activities can hope to achieve such a high standard of democratic decision making.
Hegel does not understand the modern state primarily as a system of democratic government. It is not democracy that makes the state modern. The modernity of the state is the balance between private will and social order based on political consciousness, i.e. the inner coherence of state-power and individual liberty. The true state will in some manner reflect the self-consciousness of individuals. It all depends to a high degree on the way in which the institutions of the state have been organized. Only if state institutions are the visible reflections of the particular will and only if they include private interest, can the social order claim to be recognized as such. Then and only then it is the highest duty of every citizen to be a faithful member of the state: political patriotism. It follows the that according to Hegel the problem of the modern state is not becoming undemocratic, but the danger that the state, even if the execution of sovereign power is organized as a democracy, does in fact cut off the intrinsic connection between the exercise of power and the liberty of the citizen. It is obvious to Hegel that the can be something like a Democratic positivism that defends the social order as it happens to be with the ideology of democratic decision making. If it becomes impossible to criticize the rationality of social structures, then it becomes obvious that even in a democracy power is a identified with justice.
In general Hegel indicates that all states have come into being by an exercise of violence. We might call this a right of power, to constitute a social order by force. As soon as the state is there, it can only protect its social order by instituting an exclusive power of justice. The right of power, though it can appear within the actual exercise of sovereignty in the state, cannot be its constitutive principle. The legitimacy of the state is grounded by the power of justice.
What does this power of justice actually mean? If justice is defined as the system of Law as it is given, that can be no difference between the right of power and the power of justice. According to Hegel that evil state belongs exclusively to the realm of existence. It is there, but it does not express the rational nature of the state. In a democratic positivism the irrationality of the state is being camouflaged by its appeal to the formal correctness of decision making. Not the rationality but the legitimacy of such a decision is the issue. If a democracy, that wants to be more than the modern equivalent of the polis, would focus on the rationality of the political will, then it would be the content of decisions and not the formal procedure that shows it. The procedure of decision making than the becomes accidental to the rationality as a property of the decisions. This means that a good democracy comes to decisions on the basis of the quality of its institutions and not on the basis of the formal correctness of its procedures. To demand that a state is democratic implies the assumption that all of its individuals have such an inner and free devotion to the common interest, that procedural legitimacy can be a sufficient principle.
That is why to Hegel not democracy, but constitutional monarchy is the exemplary form of the modern state. This of course implies first of all, that the modern state is the result of a historical process of emancipation from an absolutist or authoritarian tradition. It seems probable that a republic is equal to a constitutional monarchy because in both cases sovereignty as such is represented by a head of state. And more difficult issue is the implication of the system in the United States in which the president is at the same time the head of state and the head of government. For Hegel however, the separation of sovereignty and government, is essential to the modern state. The constitutional monarchy Express's a relationship between the visible representation of sovereign power and the reality of the individual citizen. It makes it evident that the execution of power should ultimately be consistent with the individual consciousness of the citizen from which it receives its ultimate legitimacy. The king in this system is no longer the head of government as it was in the classical and early modern era of political philosophy. Government is no longer the exercise of a particular prerogative. The political execution of power does not coincide with the principle of sovereignty that is expressed in an individual. To Hegel all of this is far more important than the formality of democratic procedure.
In a constitutional monarchy three different powers should be politically separate, albeit in such a manner that each of them has an organic connection with the others. In paragraph 273 Hegel distinguishes between the legislative power that creates justice of the governmental power, that applies the law all, and the royal power that symbolizes the principle of sovereignty.
For our purpose it's important to see how Hegel ascribes to the monarch the function to represent the principle of subjectivity. Freedom remains abstract if it can only be understood as a principle of the sovereignty of the state. The truth of subjectivity is shown concretely in a specific person. That idea would be lost if one would say that the freedom of the modern state is a formal principle, i.e. the abstract principle of individuality. We could say that the equality before, the basic rights of individuals are the expression of the modern ideal of civil autonomy. To Hegel that would only be formal, because this individuality would know where become concrete, whereas concrete existence belongs to the determinacy of individuals. In a paradoxical manner an abstract principle of individuality, meaning that each of us should be treated as an individual, cannot express real individuality. we should remember that in Hegel's view the state should give an expression to concrete autonomous subjectivity, i.e. at least reflect it.
The modern King is the concrete subject in which sovereignty, i.e. the autonomy of freedom, appears concretely in a self conscious person. in this single subject becomes a visible that our individuality might have become part of a social order, but nevertheless remains in itself autonomous. The king has no real power that would make him a particular person over against the people. His power is the possibility to be the symbol of an autonomous freedom all, because that freedom is the property of every one; and not in an immediate sense, but within the mediation of the social order. The signature under a law represents the necessity of a subject giving his consent and affirm the objective contents of the law. Because the King in his individuality does not represent itself, but symbolizes our common individuality, his specific character is not immediately relevant.
In this transcendence of the kings individual will toward a political will that focuses on the common good as such, the king has become a symbol. Sovereignty in the modern state is not an external force outside individual citizens, but the symbolic expression of the coherence of a social and political order, in which individuals can achieve their own autonomy. Such a symbol is necessary in the modern state to make the difference between sovereignty and government.
Hegel's concept of war
In our reconstruction of Hegel's theory of the modern state we have emphasized the role of sovereignty. The specific character of the modern state is connected to the specific principle of modernity. The modern state is grounded on the principle of freedom; state power and individual autonomy should be harmonized the modern state cannot be identified with the theocratic form of state in which one institution of sovereignty defines both the moral and legal order. It cannot be identified with the Greek democracy, in which the individual is conceived as a free citizen, but on the other hand this individual is completely absorbed into the common interest by way of a natural social ethics, and furthermore, that system is dependent a separate class of non-citizens, i.e. slaves. The Democratic moment in the Athenian Constitution is concerned with a limited number of free, male citizens, the relatively small size of the state and on the presence of an enslaved working class.
In our discussion of the in their organization of the state we have emphasized the role of sovereignty. When we turn our attention now to the relationship between states we will emphasize Hegel's theory of war.
The notion of independence is the most immediate given in the relationship between separate states. The principle of sovereignty in the inner structure of the state is constitutive of something like an absolute separation. The positive relationship between state base on their separateness is called a recognition. Every state has an absolute right to recognition. Such a formal acknowledgement of the existence of the state does not express its particular nature, i.e. that it is the sovereign independence of the social order of a particular people. Of the specific nature of a people as it is expressed formally in the relationship to other states, is called the substantial well-being or good by Hegel's in paragraph 337. Every state has a particular interest to stand in a specific relationship to other states - through commerce and diplomatic consultation - , because it is also, just like individuals, dependent on other states. Now of course a perfect independence of states is unthinkable but there is no social order in which the particular interests of separate states are harmonized amongst each other. This lack of a social order implies that there must be a continuous conflict between the substantial interests of separate states that sometimes needs to be resolved. After all, the state can do nothing else but serve the common good. It has to oppose other states when and if its people's interests are in danger. And that implies that in a resolution of the conflict, that cannot refer to the sovereignty of a higher social order, can only be achieved by means of warfare.
This position on the necessity of war has profound consequences in ethics. Those who want to fight for the survival of the state, are not merely acting in their own self interest but do so to defend the interests of civil society. In a war unity of the nation, a people organized in a state, is being expressed with such clarity, that the question may be asked whether the unity of the nation might not be caused by war. In a war self interest is put aside. Under conditions of great need a degree of altruism is the chief, that is unthinkable a conditions of peace. In a war it is shown to be true that the values of the social order are relative. The power of self interest and the conflict between private interests can be set aside. Self interest turns out to be something else than the foundation of coexistence. The social order turns out to be less than the highest viewpoint of political life. The coherence of citizens in the state is more than their interactions in the realm of civil society. That is why war has two major justifications. On the one hand it is the only adequate means of resolving a conflict of interest between independent states, on the other hand it is an interruption of the process in which the social order pretends to be complete and a goal in itself. The latter constitutes a motive for with a socially moral value and that is why war cannot be seen as an absolute evil. The necessity to disrupt the necessity of the social order implies that war cannot be considered as an unnecessary, random occurrence. Along these lines Hegel can conceive of war as a power of negativity, that appears as a necessary results of a conflict of interests and at the same time as a necessary interruption of the power of self interest within the social order.
Hegel fully understands that the violence of war must be exercised, ultimately by individuals, that brings the sacrifice of their safety and life. The bravery that is asked of soldiers is a consequence of their identification with the community. And Hegel's view this quality is part and parcel of the military establishment, it is the "willingness and readiness to sacrifice in the service of the state." (paragraph 327, zus.) obviously a gold did not take into account that civilians might become involved in the violence of war.
Avineri maintains that Hegel speaks about a sacrifice made by civilians. This is only correct insofar any war would imply a solidarity between the military and the civilian population. In Hegel's view the civil society is being represented by a military class. Avineri quotes the relevant passage from paragraph 272, that we have referred to above that he leaves out the opening sentences: " the military class is the universal class to which the defense of the state is entrusted etc." The idea of war becomes a concrete reality in the military alone, because it has the duty to sacrifice itself for the common good.
However, precisely modern warfare is a cause in which all members of a state are involved. If the citizens of a state the not appreciate their political freedom and the state is therefore not a expression of the general free will, and if those citizens prefer their lives above a life in freedom then a nation will submit to external force instead of waging war. Any state that submits to another, shows itself to be no longer a state. We might ask whether a Hegel's theory of the modern state is being connected with a pre modern theory of war. The notion that war has an element of peace and is necessary because of the nature of the state, is not meant to be a glorification of the violence of war. Hegel was thinking about the limited wars of his era, in which civilians were not directly involved. The violence of modern warfare has become impersonal to a high degree; the machine gun that was introduced to the battlefield after Hegel's death, is the modern weapons par excellence. In the use of that weapon it is clear that war is a conflict between collectives and not individuals. Even so, Hegel does find that warfare brings out the worst in a human being. Because of that it is Hegel's firm belief that war cannot be a goal in itself. The only target of a war is simply that it will be ended. Any war should ultimately be a means of restoring a positive and mutual recognition between states.
To Hegel war does not represent a limit of thought. It is not a completely irrational explosion of violence. That is why the concept of nuclear warfare does not fit into this theory. A total and mutual annihilation cannot serve a social and moral purpose, because it does not disrupt self interest but destroys civil existence. It is meaningless because in such a war of the common interest of the state is not being expressed. In the light of modern armaments there is a common interest between conflicting state in the prevention of a war. The real conflict of interests between states is not resolved with the means of a total war. The fact that in our day and age war has become the possibility of a total mutual annihilation, does not imply that Hegel's concept of war is no longer relevant. Violence as an external means of political action against other states can have different shapes: police actions, covert operations diplomatic missions under military threat the removal of hostile regimes, all these forms of limited warfare have appeared in the second half of the 20th century. In all these cases there is a denial of the order of justice (Rechtlosigkeit) and a political will that uses force to realize itself (Gewalt). At the same time, armed conflict in Europe became an unthinkable option, because there was no longer a necessity to enforce the recognition of the state. Treaties and common institutions presuppose a formal sovereignty of member state, s but at the same time they express a commonality of norms and values, social morals and culture through which Europe seems to have become a social community. A social order of nations, though unthinkable in Hegel's time, seems to have been established after the Second World War. The necessity of war has been lifted; or war has been split up in a plurality of acts of violence. The only thing that has really changed is that war is no longer the natural means of the expression of the absolute sovereignty of the state.
In that respect something has become apparent, that has already been understood by Hegel. The sovereignty of the state is essentially limited. Any state has a specific historic origin and is bound to disappear at one stage. World history, as Hegel puts it, is a court of law in which the state is judged, a "Weltgericht." (paragraph 340) the state is a particular individual, is finite. The state is a unity unto itself, but precisely because it needs recognition this unity unfolds as a plurality or particular states. The formal particularity leads to the absolute opposition one state stands against all others. Of the material particularity makes all states finite and relative: every state is dependent on all others. In the process of world history both movements can be detected. Nations are finite both in their mutual exclusions as in their positive connections. That is not a denial of the importance of the state.. To a citizen it is still the highest objective reality of his political will. Ultimately reality is concerned with something higher than the self realization of liberty.