In his introduction to the collection of Hegel's political writings published by Oxford University Press in 1964, Z. A. Pelczynski declared boldly that "Hegel's political thought can be read, understood and appreciated without having to come to terms with his metaphysics" and its quietistic "loftiness".
The texts chosen for Pelczynski's collection were selected to support this point of view: The German Constitution , the pamphlet The Magistrates should be Elected by the People , the essay on the proceedings of the Estates Assembly in Württemberg, and On the English Reform Bill .
In their exemplary new edition of Hegel's political writings, Laurence Dickey and H. B. Nisbet have set out to redress the balance. They include not only three out of the four works of political commentary selected by Pelczynski (they omit the Wurttemberg essay), but also other texts that he had excluded, such as extracts from the Philosophy of History and Philosophy of Religion , as well as the Natural Law essay, Hegel's inaugural address at the University of Berlin, and his Address on the Tercentenary of the Submission of the Augsburg Confession (where the last two have not been translated previously).
As a result, we get a much more rounded view of Hegel's conception of the relation between philosophy and politics, as it is clear that his metaphysical speculations, far from being "lofty" and outside the practical domain, were intended to contribute towards, and were informed by, the political and social concerns addressed more directly in the "non-metaphysical" writings.
Robert Stern is reader in philosophy, University of Sheffield.
Political Writings. First Edition
Author - G. W. F. Hegel
Editor - Laurence Dickey and H. B. Nisbet
ISBN - 0 521 453690 and 459754 3
Publisher - Cambridge University Press
Price - £37.50 and £13.95
Pages - 414