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Lecture 8

SOC203H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Civil Society, Protestant Reformation

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Authority and Public Opinion: Lecture 8
1. Enlightenment:
A time
o 1700’s
o Period in Western Europe (London, Paris, Naples, etc.)
o A time of increasing scepticism by received ideas (religious ideas, the
idea that nobility is superior to other classes of society, enlightenment
is partly a product of the protestant reformation breakaway from
the catholic church)
Protestant reformation anti-institutional reaction which
puts a great emphasis on individual faith, individual
accountability to God, individual interpretation of bible
The individualism is seen into leading into the
Greater emphasis on individual understanding and
o The scientific Revolution in 1600’s
Formalization of scientific method
Need for evidence
o Institution accords with reason, society would function better
o Consisting of thinkers who trust reason (and believes it needs to be
A process
o Enlightenment project lots of scepticism
o Look at the consequences of industrial revolution (environmental
degradation) so environmental degradation is used against
o Reason being used excessively
o Phenomenon of bureaucracy the rational planning of work and
administrative (large corporations/governments) leads to alienation
that stunts human beings
A symbol of rationality carried too far
Against enlightenment
o Contested idea (enlightenment as a process)
2. ‘What is Enlightenment?’ by Immanuel Kant (1784)
Essay writing competition
Key document in political history
Going to treat person who has never heard of enlightenment is a child
(someone who hasn’t’ heard it, hasn’t reached adulthood) Someone who
hasn’t heard it is subject to the priest, the authority
Going to tell them to grow up by thinking for themselves
So how do we get people to do this? Argue very difficult to grow up
intellectually (think for yourself on your own)
When you get people grouped together and they have a chance to freely
exchange ideas, just their interaction, they’re more likely to exercise reason
Man’s emergence from self supposed immaturity (inability to use one’s
ability without guidance of another)
Others will readily think for me (ie. Doctors, pastors, authority figures)
Incapable of using own understanding
The public should enlightened itself (public= group of people who can debate
and discuss ideas)
o A pubic can only be enlightened slowly
Each person’s calling to think for themselves (The language of calling is
religious language and after point 7, talking about reading for next week, the
word calling is going to come up again)
Examples of pervasive restrictions on freedom which hinders enlightenment
and which does not? The public use of one’s reason must always be free and
this alone can bring about enlightenment on mankind. Kant’s last line
3. Public Opinion
o Emerges when public is able to talk freely
o We jump on each other if we hear what we don’t like, amend things
that we don’t understand, etc.
o Consensus eventually merges what is really the triumphant idea
o Public opinion for Kant publicly discussing issues that matter to
Institutional locations
o Civil society private realm economic organizations, religious
organisations, voluntary, family
o State public realm
o Parliament is an institution that is halfway into state and halfway into
civil society
Individuals come together (MP’s) and vigorously discuss
matters of collective interest (putting forth arguments,
defending them, criticizing them, persuade each other) The
ideal being that in the end, the one that lasts is the strongest
argument (the one that sways most people)
Reason is deployed to advance arguments and criticise
Places where laws are passed (rules emanating from above)
Kant was attacking authority (the priest, the military, the
medical profession, urging people to think for themselves)
Kant be ruled by two things:
1) Noble descent, who can impose the rules
2) Civil society to be ruled by reason
And this is why parliament is central to his theory (how
is reason achieved by giving people the opportunity to
discuss in public)
Parliament are made up of representatives of civil
society and they turn them into laws and it turns into a
loop (dual function of parliament)
Parliament is an important institution because it allows
civil society to orbit itself (and it can rule itself)
4. The authority of public opinion
For Kant, the beauty and appeal of parliament by mediating and
connecting the state and the civil society
o When a King rules, it’s top down (it’s his will, and agents follow his
rule but Kant has a problem with this what about the will of those
who are ruled?
o Kant would like to see parliament gaining public authority and there
are problems (Problem of arbitrary rule)
** Institutional locations, some of the description overlaps with the authority
of public opinion
5. Hegel’s antagonism
Hegel saw history as an unfolding of ideas
Marx wanted to replace his idealistic view with his own view of materialistic
The two resemble each other Hegel was completely sceptical of Kant
thinking that public could become wise
o Why?
If you get a group of people arguing, Parliament is arguing over
the question if country should go to war (Kant would believe
free and open discussion, pros and cons, and eventually, the
best argument would prevail and would be voted into action)
Hegel consider society divided into classes with different
interests; given that the different classes with the different
interests, it’s foolish to believe that a consensus can ever
prevail. (i.e. Bourgeoisie might want to go to war, boost
economy but not Proletariats because they identify the ‘enemy’
not as someone in the other country that’s of the same working
class as them, but can see bourgeoisie as the enemy)
Hegel doesn’t believe civil society has a lot of reason exercise
(he thinks most people are stupid) Civil society is a realm of
prejudice, ignorance, superstition, tradition, it’s not a place
where people think for themselves very much
If Hegel’s sceptical about the ability for consensus to be
achieved in the free exercise of reason; if he also believes that
civil society is a realm of intellectual backwardness, where is
reason in all this? Hegel advocate for an enlightened
monarchy (so he wants the king to be surrounded by
enlightened advisors, etc.)
Transcends the splits in civil society (the state from above can
have an objective overview in the state of society) and can look
out for the interests of the whole