Personhood and property in Hegel's conception of freedom

Pólemos (1):68-91 (2019)
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For Hegel, personhood is developed primarily through the possession, ownership, and exchange of property. Property is crucial for individuals to experience freedom as persons and for the existence of Sittlichkeit, or ethical life within a community. The free exchange of property serves to develop individual personalities by mediating our intersubjectivity between one another, whereby we share another’s subjective experience of the object by recognizing their will in it and respecting their ownership of it. This free exchange is grounded the abstract right to property which is defined by the liberal institution of private property. Like all legal/juridical rights, the abstract property right and its related institution are productions of the state, which can also claim priority over them. This prioritization reveals the dialectic inherent in the both the conception and exercise of the right, in which the private right to property at the level of civil society confronts the public right of the state, resulting in both the preservation and uplifting of the right, and, at the same time, its cancellation or annihilation.



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M. Blake Wilson
California State University, Stanislaus

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