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Frank Ruda Hegel's Rabble: An Investigation into Hegel's Philosophy of Right

Frank Ruda, Hegel's Rabble: An Investigation into Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Continuum, 2011, 218pp., $120.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781441156938.

Reviewed by Adrian Johnston, University of New Mexico


In both his early Jena-era Philosophy of Spirit and later Berlin-period Philosophy of Right, Hegel highlights perhaps the sole problem for which he does not offer a solution. This arguably unique moment in the vast Hegelian oeuvre of a posed but not resolved difficulty goes by the name of "rabble" (Pbel). With his solid grasp of British economics and the modern political economies of his time, one of the many fashions in which Hegel paves the way for Marxism consists in his realization that bourgeois industrial capitalism inevitably creates, as one of its necessary byproducts, an ever-growing mass of immiserated people hurled into hopeless poverty. The objective alienation of this aggregate of dispossessed and disenfranchised poor, relentlessly produced without mercy by the mechanisms and machines of industrialization, creates the conditions for a subjective alienation embodied by the rabble, with its hostile attitude to the rest of society and brute sense of indignant entitlement. Hegel suggests that the economic and political dynamics resulting in poverty, itself functioning as a breeding ground for the rabble mentality, are inherent to the then-new political economies of modernity (of course, he also highlights how the steadily widening gap between poverty and wealth under capitalism creates a corresponding rabble mentality in the rich, who come to believe that their gains contingently gotten through gambling on civil society's free markets absolve them of duties and obligations vis--vis the public spheres of the polis). Moreover, on Hegel's assessment, no modern society (yet) appears to be willing and able adequately to address this internally generated self-undermining factor of rabble-rousing impoverishment. Without doing so, these historically youthful collective systems are at risk of destroying themselves sooner or later. Hence, rather than marking a pseudo-Hegelian "end of history," such societies, Hegel insinuates, have a very uncertain future ahead of them. As is common knowledge, the preface to the 1821 Philosophy of Right characterizes philosophy as "the Owl of Minerva" which spreads its wings solely at dusk, when the deeds and happenings of the day are done. In the same context, Hegel emphasizes that the philosopher is limited to gathering up materials furnished to him/her by the past and the present, constrained to conceptually synthesize his/her Zeitgeist and nothing more beyond this. Like the "angel of history" in Walter Benjamin's "Theses on the Philosophy of History," the philosopher -- Hegel doubtlessly includes himself here -- always has his/her back turned toward an unpredictable future (and this by contrast with the Marxist historical materialism soon to follow in Hegel's wake).

Given that the problem of the rabble is underscored in the text prefaced by these very remarks, the radical leftist Hegelian conclusion that, even for the author of the Philosophy of Right, capitalism faces the prospect of eventually doing fatal violence to itself at its own hands is hardly unreasonable as a defensible exegesis of Hegel's socio-political thinking. The defensibility of this is further reinforced substantially by the fact that Hegel, also in the preface to the Philosophy of Right, explicitly stipulates that the ability of philosophy to sublate the material of its times in thoughts signals the entering into decay and dissolution of the realities thus sublated; the sun must be setting when the wise owl takes flight. Consequently and by his own lights, Hegel's capacity to distill the essence of capitalist modernity heralds that the bourgeois social order of his age already is on its way off the stage of history. Taking into account the multiple connections between Hegel and Marx, the Hegelian Pbel might very well represent, within the confines of the Philosophy of Right, those who will unchain themselves one fine day in order to expedite capitalism's twilight labor of digging its own grave. Periodically in the mainstream Hegel scholarship of the past several decades, aspects of the above have received attention and commentary. Such scholars as Joachim Ritter, Shlomo Avineri, and Allen Wood have devoted serious efforts to pondering the questions and challenges raised by the Hegelian Pbel. However, a number of features of Frank Ruda's outstanding study set it apart from its predecessors. To begin with, instead of treating the rabble merely as a curious sub-component of the Philosophy of Right, Ruda elevates it to a central position in Hegel's sociopolitical philosophy, inextricably intertwined with the entirety of the sprawling Hegelian system (even with such seemingly unrelated, far-flung moments as the depiction of matter in the Philosophy of Nature, the characterization of habit in the "Philosophical Anthropology" of the Philosophy of Spirit and the logical treatment of the modalities of necessity and contingency). Related to this, Hegel's Pbel, on Ruda's reading, represents the immanently (self-)determined limits of Hegelian political philosophy. Put differently, for Ruda, the rabble is a marker for a political problem irresolvable within the parameters of (political) philosophy. This thesis is of a piece with Ruda's quite convincing efforts to reduce the gap between Hegel and Marx by showing how the former, even in his particular blindnesses, already foreshadowed the latter more than is usually acknowledged by either Hegelians or Marxists. Marx's ostensibly anti-Hegelian recasting of the relations and priorities of philosophy and politics with respect to one another is, on this interpretation, actually a consequent extrapolation from Hegel's framing of these topics in the Philosophy of Right. Another distinctive feature of Hegel's Rabble is that Ruda's considerations regarding the transition from the Hegelian Pbel to the Marxian proletariat are profoundly informed by current perspectives in leftist thinking, especially the work of philosophers Alain Badiou and Slavoj iek (the latter wrote the foreword to Ruda's book). Before addressing the Badiouian and iekian aspects of this project, I should mention two other contemporary authors Ruda relies on (as do Badiou and iek) from time to time: Jacques Rancire and Giorgio Agamben. Ruda blends Rancire's notion of "the part of no part" (as a segment of society with no acknowledged shares and stakes in the very society of which this segment is a structurally integral component nonetheless) with Agamben's biopolitical figure of "homo sacer" (as "bare life" manipulated by the operations of biopower, a status to which all inhabitants of biopolitical poleis are, in virtual potentiality if not real actuality, reduced) in his elucidations of the status of the rabble. Although this sort of move might raise concerns about anachronisms (especially among more conservative

Hegel scholars), Ruda persuasively shows how such Rancirian and Agambenian motifs really are strikingly foreshadowed by Hegel's renditions of the rabble. Of course, Rancire and Agamben forge these ideas with their eyes on, among other things, Hegelian and Marxian backgrounds (a point to which I will return when raising some questions for Ruda). In particular, Ruda's interpretation reveals the Hegelian Pbel to be an apparently exceptional particular moment of modern bourgeois societies representing, in truth, a universal dimension cutting across the myriad distinctions and divisions of these otherwise highly stratified social systems. In collective orders organized around the casino-like anarchy of the marketplace, anyone is, at a minimum, virtually rabble. That is to say, under capitalism, everyone is at least potentially a member of this "part of no part," exposed to the permanent risk of falling into the darkness of this state of internal exclusion ( la Jacques Lacan's concept of "extimacy" qua inner or intimate exteriority). Related to this, insofar as the rabble is stripped of all distinguishing status symbols and denied social recognition within the hierarchized distribution of economic roles and political positions, it stands within modern societies for the zero-level of sheer, bare humanity. Ruda links the implicit, in-principle universality of mere, minimal human being to the "species-being" (Gattungswesen) of the young Marx's 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts. Based on this, he argues that Hegel's rabble, legitimately re-read without anachronism through the lenses of Marx and certain of his contemporary heirs (specifically, Agamben, Badiou, Rancire, and iek), (1) prefigures today's scattered populations of the diverse multitudes marginalized by late-capitalist globalization, and also (2) embodies a spur for the formulation of a new humanism supporting a radically egalitarian politics leading beyond capitalism (I will address Ruda's references to humanism below ). Badiou's theory of the event, particularly as it gets recast in his 2006 Logics of Worlds (the sequel to 1988's Being and Event), clearly provides Ruda with a platform for rethinking the odd position of the rabble in Hegel's philosophy as a precursor of the revolutionary proletariat of Marxism. On Ruda's reading and in Badiou's parlance, the Hegelian Pbel is the "inexistent" (i.e., that which neither is visible nor counts for something) of the "world" (i.e., the intrinsic structure and dynamics of an established context) of modern bourgeois societies as dominated by the capricious and chaotic free flows of capital. For Badiou, if and when a given world's inexistent, which ontologically subsists within its surrounding world without "phenomenologically" appearing therein, erupts above the threshold of visibility, it inevitably brings about a reordering of the worldly "distribution of the sensible" (to borrow another turn of phrase from Rancire). Such eruptions are Badiouian events -- namely and in wording resonant for anyone familiar with the Marxist tradition: revolutionary upheavals changing the world thanks to those who are nothing demanding to count for everything. Likewise, Ruda, obviously with his mind on the Marxism situated in-between Hegel and Badiou, identifies the rabble of the Philosophy of Right as the potential locus (in Badiouese, an "evental site") for dramatic transformations of those societies Hegel hints are innately self-subverting and already on the wane. iek's influence, like that of Badiou, is omnipresent throughout Hegel's Rabble. iek is responsible for a sustained and sophisticated reinterpretation of Hegel turning many of the orthodox, textbook tenets regarding Hegel's philosophy on their heads. The iekian Hegel is a materialist philosopher privileging real contingency over logical necessity. Moreover, from

iek's perspective, Marx and the vast majority of his followers severely underestimate the size of the "rational kernel" of Hegelianism relative to its purported "mystical shell." Ruda's narrowing of the divide between Hegel and Marx, with the rabble of the former anticipating the proletariat of the latter, looks iekian in inspiration. From one angle, Hegel's Rabble can be seen as at the vanguard of a new kind of meticulous Hegel scholarship carefully deploying the insights and resources furnished by iek's innovative "return to Hegel." Finally, two lines of questioning: the first apropos Ruda's contemporary influences and the second apropos humanism. Agamben, Badiou, Rancire, and iek differ from (and often disagree with) each other particularly in relation to the topics of the economy and class as colored by Marx's legacy. Most importantly, whereas the first three, each in his own manner, take their distances from the more classical version of historical materialism as based on references to economic forces and factors, iek vehemently calls for a renewal of the historical materialist critique of political economy as per the Marx of Capital. Ruda obviously is aware of these differences. For example, in an endnote, he provides a remarkably succinct and lucid summary of the key incompatibilities between the philosophies of Agamben and Badiou. However, he does not clearly and directly confront the tensions between Badiou and iek -these two principal supports of his endeavor are in open disagreement about the rapport between economics and politics -- and thereby leaves unanswered a number of questions: How tightly tied, if at all, is the rabble, which itself arises from a contingent shift of attitude and can manifest itself amongst the rich as well as the poor, to a particular socio-economic class position? In a related vein, how is the Marxian proletariat prefigured by Hegel's Pbel to be understood (for instance, in relation to "the working class")? Is the rabble just the necessary or also the sufficient condition for revolutionary events? Overall, to what degree(s) are the objectively real dialectics of social history from Hegel's era to the present driven primarily by the economics of capitalism? In old-fashioned Marxist parlance, one of the main bones of contention between Badiou and iek is the base-superstructure distinction. I suspect Ruda is somewhat more sympathetic to iek's insistence on the continued tilting of the unevenness of dialectical social dynamics in late-capitalism toward the economy as being politically decisive (at least "in the last instance"). But, I am not one-hundred-percent certain of this. One thing I am sure of is that Ruda indeed has answers to these questions. His future work, I hope, will speak to them. As for the theme of humanism, Ruda, unlike so many theorists shaped by twentieth-century French philosophy, refreshingly rejects the Althusserian thesis positing a Bachelardian-style "epistemological break" in Marx's intellectual development allegedly occurring in 1845 with the "Theses on Feuerbach" and The German Ideology. In connection with this (and as noted above), Ruda seeks to press the early Marx's concept of Gattungswesen into the service of a Badiouian (in)humanism, namely, a humanism of human beings qua (self-)voided animals, of human nature as auto-denaturalizing through the subject-object interactions set in motion by social labor (itself initially dictated by natural circumstances and pressures). However, is this humanism really new, or is its apparent newness an effect generated by a failure to appreciate what already is contained within humanism's canonical sources? For example, Agamben, in his book The Open: Man and Animal, astutely highlights the extreme character of Pico della Mirandola's depiction of humanity's peculiarity in his 1486 oration "On the Dignity of Man." This founding document of Renaissance humanism arguably had already outlined the picture of human nature Ruda extracts

from his Badiou-motivated circumnavigation back to Marx's 1844 Manuscripts. Admittedly, Ruda quickly sketches all of this at the very end of Hegel's Rabble. I am eager to see how he will develop this and, in the process, narrate a convincing novel history of humanism in which the continuities and discontinuities from the fifteenth century through today will come sharply into focus. Hegel's Rabble succeeds marvelously at revivifying Hegel in the early twenty-first century. Ruda's carefully argued and well-supported reconstruction of Hegel's Philosophy of Right as embedded in the Hegelian edifice as a whole challenges received wisdom about Hegel himself and Marx's relations with him. It also brilliantly illuminates the main problems at the heart of contemporary leftist socio-political theorizing. Ruda has made a major contribution to both Hegel scholarship as well as current discussions of Marxism and post-Marxism. Hegel's Rabble is mandatory reading for anyone interested in Hegel and radical leftism today. Simon Critchley The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology Verso Books, London and New York, 2012. 302pp., $24.95 / 16.99 hb ISBN 9781844677375 Reviewed by Frank Ruda Dr Frank Ruda is researcher at the CRC 626 (Free University of Berlin), Visiting Lecturer at the Institute of Philosophy, Scientific Research Centre in Ljubljana (Slovenia) and at the European College for the Liberal Arts in Berlin. His most recent publication is: Hegels Rabble. An Investigation into Hegels Philosophy of Right, Continuum, 2011

Review
According to Marxs well known saying, religion is the opium of the people. This is also why the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism: first one needs to suspend its effect before starting the real business of critique, because comprehending the nature of religion leads to insight into why it acts as an opiate in the first place. Religion is a (contradictory) product of the contradictions of capitalism. On the one side, it functions like opium generating a delusion about the real state of things. Even if the real word is contradictory, high on religion we still feel good about it. On the other side, religion nevertheless bears the mark of this real world, since without it there simply would be no religion. Religion exists as Marx diagnosed because there is no true realization of equality, freedom and justice. Human beings create a fictional realization, lacking a real one. But religion functions like an opiate because it forecloses the very insight from which it originated. It exists due to contradictions, yet its existence obfuscates its own origin. Human beings create religion to deal with real contradictions, but it is only the fiction of resolving them without actually resolving them. This fictitious nature explains why Marx called religion an inverted consciousness which nonetheless entails a general theory of the world. It contains a theory of the world in which there is religion because there is religion. A world without religion would imply a different manner of treating contradictions. Religion comprises a general theory of a contradictory world

in which these very contradictions create a need to obfuscate them. Thus for Marx the believer knows that there are contradictions in the world (otherwise there would be no fictitious realm of religion) but he nonetheless does not know what he knows (religion is inverted consciousness or unconsciousness). The believer believes in a fiction that he does not know to be a fiction and this is why he believes in it. It is this fiction (that resolving contradictions of the world without resolving them in the world is still a way of resolving them) which enables him not to believe in what he knows but to repress it. Religion is a way of believing (in a fiction) without truly believing (what one knows) it is a manifestation of a drive not to know. This is why for Marx we first need to believe what we know. After Marx and the recent renaissance of interest in Saint Paul (by Agamben, Badiou, etc.) Simon Critchleys new book is yet another that turns to something of and in religion. It attempts to argue for an emancipatory political potential of faith; for a faith of those who neither believe in God nor in any substitute for him; for a religion as that force which can bind human beings together in association without God.(20) But Marxs analysis is still valid and the faith that Critchleys has in mind is not a faith in an unrecognized fiction. It is a faith in a fiction that we know to be a fiction, yet one in which we still believe. (10) Why do we need such a faith today? For Marx religion was a means to leave the world as it, for Critchley it becomes a means to change it. The recent return to Paul already indicated a vision of faith and existential commitment that might begin to [] face down the slackening existence under [] liberal democracy [] motivated by political disappointment. (157) But the problem with it is that despite its motivation it leads to a politics of abstraction forgetting the real world, i.e. to another kind of religion. For Critchley the criticism of religion is still a critical prerequisite but one needs to include in it all emancipatory projects with unacknowledged religious substructures. Is politics practicable without religion? ... I do not think so (24) but it has to be mobilized in a proper self-conscious manner. Now, what is Critchleys diagnosis of the world that in it emancipation needs such a religion without God? He argues that we live in a world in which dictatorship is the generalized form of contemporary government (66), there are new religious wars (24) and it has become a vast and spectacular surface of simulacra (53) with Obamas or worse everywhere (70). This catastrophe is also a subjective one, as we are living through a long anti-1960s (144) which makes most of us into passive nihilists (116) who believe that there is no need to believe in anything anymore and resign ourselves to liberal democracy (152), even without believing in it. The recent return to Paul is read as a symptom of this world, as faith always announces itself in a situation of crisis where a decisive intervention is called for [] in a situation of struggle (161f) It is a symptom of a struggle for the meaning of the future and the exact extent of the shadow that the future casts across the present (162). What is at stake is the question of whether the end of history has already come. Do we already live in our own future (having abolished the present), or can there be a true future (and thus a present)? But the re-reading of Paul is also symptomatic of the crisis as its proponents fight for the right thing in the wrong way, and become part of the problem attempting to resolve the contradictions of the world without resolving them (for example Critchley attacks iek for defending an all-or-nothing-politics, that represents the general subjective structure that holds us captive (236)). So, how to avoid the wrong way of conducting the right struggle? Critchley answers: All we possess to understand politics is history (82). What does it tell us?

The answer is one of the ideas structuring the book from a chapter on Rousseau and the link between popular sovereignty and religion, an analysis of Carl Schmitt, the mystical anarchism of Maguerite Porete, the nihilism of John Gray, the meontology(178) of Paul, a re-reading of Heideggers Being and Time, a criticism of Marcionite readings of Paul, up to a chapter on iek and the question of violence (defending Levinas and Benjamin) on its way through modernity the book deals in passing with Agamben, Badiou, Kierkegaard and others. The central thesis is: modernity is nothing but a series of metamorphoses of sacralization (10). That is to say that any modern political form(ation) makes use of something sacral, of a belief in divine sovereignty be it popular (God the monarch becomes God the people (55)) or anonymous (e.g., the markets are not satisfied) in its rituals (such as parliamentary elections), in the constitution (107), in the magic (85) of political representation (88)), etc. All this leads Critchley to claim that in the realm of politics, law and religion there are only fictions. (91) What this means is that our times are so dark because modern politics has been a gigantic misunderstanding of its own fictitious nature. Modernity is driven by a specific resistance to know (i.e. religion) and more dialectically by a religious drive not to see the religious dimension in politics (secularism, which denies the truth of religion, is a religious myth (111)). This is why these fictions need to be exposed for what they are (90) say: popular sovereignty is a lie (86) and the philosophical analysis of politics becomes a labor of demythologization (90). Against this background, Critchley argues that we need a new conception of the stuff that makes political communities stick together, a new conception of the fictitious, religious dimension which is found in the life of every people (68). This is why the main concern of the book is with the nature of faith (161). Its nature is fictitious but linked to a rigorous activity of a subject (18). These two theory of political fictions (faith) and subjective ethics are the elements of an ethical neo-anarchism (114). This anarchism, aiming at how one lives now (155), is not opposed to organization (232). It rather advances in the name of [] free organization, self-determination, collaboration, cooperation [], association (232). The basic claims behind it are that: 1) one needs to believe what one knows through history, i.e. that there are only fictions; 2) one needs an art of politics (92) to still believe in acknowledged fictions, i.e., believe in them although one knows (and one still believes what one knows); 3) if one still believes in them, one becomes radically responsible for (not) following them; 4) ethical responsibility is concrete and not abstract. Even the (fictitious) divine commandment not to kill, cannot be turned into an abstract principle: the responsibility to uphold ones faith in it takes place in concrete situations (even when one violates it) there are no pre-given answers. 5) The main aim of this ethics is to generate new associations (92). For, any association bound to a fiction has to renew its commitment in concrete situations and thus to renew itself. 6) This means: there is a subjective ethical responsiveness and responsibility for what is unlimited in a situation (244, my emphasis), i.e. for the association itself. 7) This is why for Critchley ethical neo-anarchism implies a politics of love (12). As love demands a transformation of the self (153), but also fidelity to ensure the consistency of the subject. This ethics is an ethics of infinite demands in which faith without love is a hollow saying (153). Ethical neo-anarchism relies on the faith that the world can be changed if we find something unlimited in it and if we accept the weakness of having nothing at our disposal but fictions.

Thereby the weakness becomes a possible strength (91), a powerless power (251) that enables the fictitious constitution (40) of a political collective endowed with an openness to the possibility (245) of always newly finding something unlimited in the situation. This procedure is immanently infinite structured by an infinite demand (117) and can never be realized once and for all. This ethics of overload (220) implies a guilty heroism (243) that accepts that the imperfect is our paradise (221), i.e. leads to accepting that every fulfillment is never truly fulfilling, as the very idea of fulfillment is a constitutive fiction. I want to end by articulating two series of questions: 1) Critchleys conception of a fiction we know to be one we still believe in is like a poetic fiction. For it is poetry that, according to him, has the critical task to show that the world is what you make of it (91), and that there can always be a work of collective self-creation (4), there can always be emancipation. For Marx, science generated emancipatory knowledge of the world, for Critchley it is art, poetry. Here he sides with thinkers that argue for a fundamental interrelation of aesthetics and politics. My question is: why does this art of creating self-conscious fictions not still follow a religious structure in Marx sense? Why do we not over and over again create the fiction that the world is what we make of it, because we know it will remain the same and the fiction is precisely what prevents change from happening? How to avoid the risk that the supreme fiction (23, 81, 91, 93) is the fiction of change itself one that we believe in only because we know it to be a fiction? Might not the danger of such Christianity without God (Badiou) be that the fiction of change turns change itself into nothing but fiction? 2) Critchley argues that a self-conscious collective fiction can have consequences. These manifest as collectively created interstices, spaces for political association and selfdetermination that work within the state against the state (233). These interstices are timely manifestations of something unlimited. They may be lost, then an infinite demand demands to generate new ones. And the fictions we believe in encourage us that this must be possible. Although these creations rely on demands that are impossible to fulfill once and for all, I wonder how to distinguish this practice from another practice relying on unlimitedness and unfulfillment: the unlimited expansion of the possible which is one feature of the contemporary market? How to avoid a nothing is impossible (Nike) position and the threat of what Badiou once called a disaster of unlimitedness? Does one not come dangerously close to the very operation of capital? Critchleys book presents a powerful and rigorously systematic argument for a renewal of political emancipation. The risks and dangers that I see are multiple and fundamental, and I have my doubts that faith alone will help here. 29 August 2012