Hegel’s Relational Organicism: The Mediation of Individualism and Holism

Critical Horizons 13 (3):317 - 336 (2012)
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This paper is concerned with organic conceptions of socio-political life and is concerned with the rehabilitation of organicism as a positive social ontology. It demonstrates that: organicism does not necessarily imply the negation of individuality by a monolithic society, and; that G. W. F. Hegel’s references to the state as organic do not imply social holism. With Hegel’s organicism, as with Idealist organicism generally, what is found is a relational rather than a holistic social ontology. This relational ontology is one that addresses the tension between individualism and holism by theorizing the reciprocal or recursive nature of social relations; thus neither society nor the individuals within it can be seen as either purely determined or purely determining, each contributes to the constitution of the other. In making this case the paper provides both: a conceptual articulation of relational organicism which shows that it is an instructive and coherent positive social ontology, and; a historical account of its emergence into Idealist thought in the work of Immanuel Kant and G. W. F. Hegel. Through developing this account of the organic relation this paper seeks to offer a conception of socio-political life that provides resources for thinking through both the tension between holism and atomism in social theory and the tension between liberal individualism and communitarian collectivism in political theory.



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Philip Andrew Quadrio
University of New South Wales

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Critique of the power of judgment.Immanuel Kant - 2000 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Paul Guyer.
Elements of the philosophy of right.Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel - 1991 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Allen W. Wood & Hugh Barr Nisbet.
The Open Society and its Enemies.Karl R. Popper - 1952 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 142:629-634.

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