Hegel on Nation, Ethical Life, and the Modern State

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    This paper examines Hegel’s idea of nation and its significance for his theory of the modern state, namely, the role that ‘the national’ plays for his justification of right in the Philosophy of Right. It is argued that Hegel strikes a balance between historicism and a rational justification of state and law. He bases the state on a notion of Sittlichkeit (ethical life) that is both national and subjected to a world historical development toward rationality and universal right. Consequently, ‘nation,’ in the sense of a group of people invoking identity and rights based on a primordial common language, culture, and territory, does not cover what Hegel means by the modern nation state. ‘Ethical life’ is national, but it also constitutes a historically changeable community of values supported by citizens’ conscious participation in communal life (patriotism). Today, Hegel’s idea undermines the legitimacy of nationalistic invocations of primordial ethnic cultures within politics.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalDanish Yearbook of Philosophy
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)199-218
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


    • Ethical life
    • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
    • Modern state
    • Nation
    • Nationalism
    • Philosophy of history
    • Philosophy of right
    • Rationality
    • philosophy of history
    • nation
    • modern state
    • philosophy of right
    • ethical life
    • nationalism
    • rationality


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