Hegel and the Fourth Political Theory
by Alexander Dugin
Alexander Dugin explores the influence and inherent distortions of Hegelian philosophy within various political theories, advocating a purer understanding that transcends ideological interpretations and aligns with the Fourth Political Theory and the concept of a multipolar world.
Marx's Left Hegelianism
The Fourth Political Theory, upon recognising its preliminarily outlined structures, could become more systematic and detailed by examining some fundamentally important doctrines, schools, and figures for political philosophy. For instance, let us consider Hegel.
Firstly, it should be noted that Hegel’s system received a quite developed interpretation within the context of three political theories, which the Fourth Political Theory aims to transcend.
The most detailed (yet at the same time most distorted) development of Hegel took place in the context of the Second Political Theory, in Marxism. Marx created his own system based on Hegel, adopting foundational steps and methods to justify his own political philosophy. In a sense, all of Marxism is an interpretation of Hegel. Therefore, Hegel’s philosophy is not just an external object to be considered in the optics of the Second Political Theory but constitutes an essential dimension within it. Marxism is left Hegelianism.
However, a principal difference here is the rejection of Hegel’s main assertion about the subjective spirit, about the original — still concealed and unknown (not yet actualized) — Idea. By this, the Christian Hegel means God. And precisely this original entity (the main thesis of the entire system) explains everything else in Hegel’s general theory.
The atheist and materialist Marx discards this ‘idealistic’ moment and proclaims as the first principle what was second for Hegel himself — Nature. For Hegel, Nature is the result of the negation of the Idea, an antithesis. And all the ontological content of Nature is that it is the negation of the subjective spirit, its sublation. But sublation is not complete destruction. The spirit slumbers in Nature, and this explains the very becoming (das Werden). It is precisely by the work of the spirit in Nature that Hegel explains the transition from the mechanical level to the chemical and organic. Life is a manifestation of this spirit — sublated in Nature (as itself) but present as another. Moreover, Hegel specifically understands the key phases of historical existence, from the development of civil society to the final phase of forming new kinds of states like constitutional monarchies, as the awakening of the spirit.
According to Marx, the ‘end of history’ is a communist society, envisioned as entirely international.
With Marx, everything begins with Nature, and like Spinoza, he is forced to attribute primacy to it in relation to consciousness. Darwin’s theory of evolution assists Marx in this. No transcendent beginning is asserted anymore, although Marx borrows the logic of describing becoming and the transition from Nature to history from Hegel. However, the distortion of the main model of Hegel’s philosophy affects not only the beginning of his system but also its end. For Hegel, world history is the awakening of the slumbering spirit. And this awakening intensifies, reaching what Hegel calls the realm of morality (Sittlichkeit). Here, he again distinguishes a dialectical triad: family — civil society — state. And in the state, he sees the approach of the unfolding of the world spirit to its absolute form. The state, as Hegel expresses it, ‘is the march of God in the world’.
Obviously, for the materialist Marx, the state cannot possess such ontology and such a teleological status. Therefore, Marx stops at civil society, and by ‘state’ he understands what Hegel considered ‘old states’ as opposed to the new states, constitutional monarchies, which, according to Hegel’s logic, should be established after civil society reaches the moment of self-awareness and decides on self-overcoming. Hegel’s civil society is the negation of the family as the first moment of entry into the realm of morality. The establishment of a constitutional monarchy is the negation of negation, that is, synthesis. At the moment of self-overcoming and readiness to establish a state, civil society in Hegel turns into a people (Volk).
Marx does not conceive of such an ‘ideal’ state — he remains focused on civil society. On this side of it, Marx introduces the concept of class, which Hegel does not address, and prioritises ‘class struggle’. While Marx again borrows from Hegel the role of conflict (Widerstreit, Kampf) as a driving force in history, he envisions civil society (equated with capitalism) becoming global. In this process of globalisation, old states will be abolished. As capitalism becomes a global phenomenon, the accumulated class contradictions will lead to a systemic crisis and a world revolution. The proletariat will seize power, and the structure of civil society will be inverted from a class perspective — power will no longer be in the hands of the capital (bourgeoisie) but in the hands of the workers, after which a classless society will be established. However, there will no longer be a state as such, nor will there be nations. According to Marx, the ‘end of history’ is a communist society, envisioned as entirely international.
In this left-Hegelian picture, there are many nuances and currents, but in general, Hegel, in the context of the Second Political Theory, appears precisely in such a distorted, truncated, and, compared to the thought of Hegel himself, perverted form.
Stalin and Hegel
Another aspect is the refraction of left Hegelianism in historical practice. Here, it is essential to consider the historical experiences of the USSR and Communist China separately. Stalinism and Maoism, while formally built on the templates of Marxism and proletarian ideology, represented political systems much closer to Hegelianism itself in practice. Without waiting for the final victory of capitalism on a global scale and the spread of civil society, Soviet Russia under Stalin and then Communist China under Mao began to build post-civil states, where the focus was on state-building, and class theory merely facilitated accelerated (and often forceful) industrialisation and urbanisation of the previously agrarian population.
Thus, Soviet Russia and Communist China followed a path closer to Hegel and more in line with the Third Political Theory than classical Marxism.
Hegel and Liberalism (Civil Society)
The First Political Theory offers two different relations to Hegel. Since Hegel considers it necessary to overcome civil society, that is, liberal democracy and capitalism, several liberal thinkers propose radically rejecting Hegel altogether as an unacceptable and irrelevant author. Karl Popper believed this and developed his thought in detail in The Open Society and Its Enemies. Here, Hegel is recognised as an ‘enemy of the open society’ and a figure calling for the overcoming of the Enlightenment. The liberal view, however, considers civil society the apex of the historical process. The state here is just a temporary phenomenon. Hegel himself called such an interpretation of the state Notstaat, ‘a state of necessity’ or an external state (äußerer Staat). It has no significance, no ontology, and is a transitional state between the ‘barbarism’ and ‘darkness of the Middle Ages’ and civil society. As society becomes enlightened, the need for such a state will fall away. This is the main thesis of liberalism in international relations. Popper and those who follow him (as well as positivists like B. Russell) dismiss Hegel in all interpretations, leaving his philosophy to be interpreted by the left and the right.
The second liberal approach to Hegel attempts to interpret his system and, above all, his teleology in a liberal key. This is most evident in Alexandre Kojève, who took an interest in Hegel among Marxists but proposed a liberal interpretation of his philosophy. According to Kojève, the end of history will be civil society, not the state (which he considered an intermediate state). But Kojève abandoned Marx’s class approach, resulting in the triumph of capitalist civilization as the goal of the historical process. Francis Fukuyama borrowed this concept from Kojève, interpreting the collapse of the USSR and the beginning of the ‘unipolar moment’ in this light. Essentially, a grossly distorted Hegelian dialectic was put at the service of globalism. Obviously, such an interpretation of Hegel in the context of the First Political Theory was only possible through violence over Hegel’s system itself, no less (if not more) than in the case of Marx. It is also an atheistic interpretation based on the denial of Hegel’s main thesis about the subjective spirit. Notably, such liberal Hegelianism (characteristic of some Trotskyists and American neoconservatives) was formulated by former communists, genetically linked to the left interpretation of Hegel.
Separately stand the liberal Hegelians, such as Benedetto Croce, who proposed a purely aesthetic version of interpreting Hegel, rejecting his doctrine of the state. In Russia, in the nineteenth century, there was a school of liberal Hegelians (K. D. Kavelin, B. N. Chicherin, A. D. Gradovsky, etc.) who understood Hegel’s philosophy as justifying constitutionalism in opposition to the then-existing autocratic system in Russia. They were not interested in the ontology of the state itself.
The interpretation of Hegel within the context of the Third Political Theory was much closer to the original. Specifically, Hegelianism was foundational to the political theory of Italian Fascism. Giovanni Gentile, a Hegelian, was the principal ideologue of Mussolini’s regime. In this case, the doctrine of the state acquired its own ontology. Fascist theory recognized the necessity of overcoming civil society in favour of a political nation. The Roman symbol of the lictor’s fasces, representing a bundle of rods, i.e., solidarity and unity of different strata of Roman society, symbolised this new state.
However, capitalism during the Fascist twenty-year period (Ventennio) was not overcome. Fascism continued the tradition of Risorgimento, started by liberal-left nationalists such as the Jacobin Mazzini and practically implemented by the liberal monarchist Camillo Cavour. The idea was to build a unified state in Italy based on disjointed political entities, principalities, autonomies, etc.
In Fascism and Gentile’s theory, these tendencies reached their culmination and, in the spirit of Hegel, transformed into overcoming civil society and creating a corporate state.
However, Hegel’s main idea was the conscious establishment of a constitutional monarchy by civil society through overcoming itself. The monarchy was a principal moment here, as the singular monarch occupied the top of the hierarchical state, replacing the liberal triad of powers — judicial power. Hegel — in the spirit of Cicero — believed that in a real state all three political forms of power identified by Aristotle should be present:
Monarchy (the power of one, in which the Spirit is personified),
Aristocracy (which he associated with the government and executive power), and
Polity (represented by the parliament).
Hegel understood the constitution as the expression of the conscious historical will of civil society to freely and thoughtfully establish a monarchical principle above itself. The monarchy is specifically established, not merely preserved.
In Italy, the role of King Victor Emmanuel II was maintained out of inertia and was not burdened with any content. True power lay in the hands of Benito Mussolini, whose role was not dogmatically and constitutionally clearly defined.
Meanwhile, Fascist Italy largely retained the structures of economic capitalism and individualistic notions about the nature of man, characteristic of civil society. Hence, after the American occupation, the Italians easily reverted to the liberal paradigm. Italians never became a people in the Hegelian sense; bourgeois relations were preserved, and after 1945, they became dominant again.
Where bourgeois nationalism comes into play, which does not ascend to constitutional monarchy, and especially biological racism, which completely negates the moral nature of the state (a fundamental aspect for Hegel), the deviation from the Hegelian system becomes even more apparent.
In Germany in the 1920s and 30s, a school of Hegelians also developed, interpreting Hegel’s doctrine in the spirit of the Third Political Theory — Julius Binder, Karl Larenz, Gerhard Dulckeit. But the National Socialists’ turn to ‘race’ distorted the coherence of Hegelian thought, which conceptualized the people (Volk) without any reference to biology or genetics, as the people were, according to Hegel, a moment of self-awareness of the Spirit in the realm of morality, where any biological predeterminations were completely and irrevocably sublated. German Hegelians could not have misunderstood this but were forced to adjust their philosophy to the demands of the Nazi leadership.
Meanwhile, the German monarchy, led by Wilhelm II, was abolished during the Weimar Republic and never restored by Hitler after the Nazis came to power. His dictatorial powers and charismatic status as ‘Führer’ did not receive full legal and constitutional development — despite significant theoretical developments in legal and constitutional models by German philosophers, especially Carl Schmitt.
Thus, even in the context of the Third Political Theory, Hegel’s system and his understanding of the state and people were fundamentally distorted.
Our analysis leads to two important conclusions:
Hegelianism had a significant influence on all three political theories of Western modernity, most notably in the twentieth century;
However, in each of the three, it was fundamentally distorted, sometimes to the point of unrecognisability.
This is where the reading of Hegel in the context of the Fourth Political Theory should begin.
Such an interpretation could simply be a direct following of Hegel himself, without adapting his theory to any external ideological demands. Liberal and communist interpretations of Hegel should primarily be discarded because neither adequately values the state’s actual spiritual ontology. Instead, they operate either with civil society as such, ending everything with pure individualism (a radical approach that modern globalists have ultimately taken to destroy the family), or with a class-based version, which in practice leads to the same results as liberalism (cultural Marxism, hyper-internationalism). Meanwhile, classic leftists have discarded Stalinism or Maoism, where the state plays a more significant role.
Right Hegelianism is historically closer to Hegel but is diminished, distorted, and not fully developed to logical conclusions. Where bourgeois nationalism comes into play, which does not ascend to constitutional monarchy, and especially biological racism, which completely negates the moral nature of the state (a fundamental aspect for Hegel), the deviation from the Hegelian system becomes even more apparent.
Thus, renouncing all three classical political theories of Western modernity clears our access to the real Hegel — to the authentic and consistently logical Hegel that he was in himself — beyond ideological interpretations.
Thus, the Fourth Political Theory can rely on a pure reading of Hegel and easily discard all distorting interpretations.
At the same time, we have repeatedly emphasised that the subject of the Fourth Political Theory should be considered Heidegger’s Dasein or the people (Volk) in its existential expression. The people not as nations, not as a collection of atomic individuals (and we can add: not as an ecumene of families in the Hegelian sense), but the people as a moment of unfolding self-awareness of the Spirit. Here, Heidegger’s substantial and detailed structure of reading Hegel comes to our aid. Here, the starting point can be the general interpretation of Hegel in the context of Heidegger’s philosophy, but especially the materials for lectures and seminars on Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Right’, which Heidegger conducted in 1934–35. There, Heidegger actually gives an interpretation of Hegel’s doctrine of the state and law, trying to stay as close to the original as possible and recognising Hegel as the crown of Western European philosophical thought, completing a long journey started by the pre-Socratics, Plato, and Aristotle.
According to Heidegger, the Hegelian state is being (Seyn) in relation to what appears as Dasein, i.e., the people, in turn, being a moment of overcoming (sublation) of civil society. In civil society, realising oneself as an individual immersed in social interactions but acting and existing based on developed rational self-awareness, a person comes to understand his individuality not as freedom but as pure abstraction, and thus, one-sidedness and limitation. Then, the individual makes a conscious, volitional decision to reject this civil identity in favour of Dasein, i.e., the people. And in this very spiritual movement, the people establish (constitute) a constitutional monarchy. In this monarchy, the fundamental-ontological comprehension and expression, the action of being (Seyn), are manifested. Only authentically existing Dasein is capable of creating an authentic (Hegelian) state. Thus, Hegel’s metaphysical state of Spirit receives an existential foundation in the people, understood as Heidegger’s Dasein. Specifically through Heidegger, who can be considered one of the main authors leading to the Fourth Political Theory, we can approach such an interpretation of Hegel, which is excluded as long as we remain within the context of the three conventional ideologies.
It is precisely through Heidegger, considered one of the main authors leading to the Fourth Political Theory, that we can approach such an interpretation of Hegel, which is excluded as long as we remain within the context of the three conventional ideologies.
In this case, the emphasis Hegel himself places on his entire system becomes clear: that true freedom belongs only to the state. This means that serving the state is not a renunciation of freedom but rather a path towards it. Renunciation actually occurs from individualism, which is merely a semblance of freedom and even a dialectical obstacle on the path to it.
Thus, Hegel’s entire system, and especially his ‘Philosophy of Right’, correlates best with the Fourth Political Theory.
Heidegger, reflecting on different aspects of the substantive pole of various moments of society in ‘Philosophy of Right’, comes to a very important hierarchy:
The subject of abstract law is the person (persona);
The subject of morality (in Hegel’s Kantian understanding, as freedom from the rigid structures and roles of abstract law) — the individual;
The subject of the family — the family member, the householder in economics;
The subject of civil society — the bourgeois, the citizen.
But when it comes to the state and the people, the subject — for the first time! — becomes the human (Mensch). And never before has the nature of man — whose source is precisely freedom (=will) — been fully revealed, only links in the chain leading to man as the goal. A human is fully human only in the people and the state. Before this, we are dealing with the slumber of Spirit, though less deep than in Nature. But still, until the people have manifested themselves — and primarily in the act of establishing a constitutional monarchy — there is no human as such. Not yet. And it is here that Heidegger’s Dasein is located.
Thus, Hegel’s entire system, and especially his ‘Philosophy of Right’, correlates best with the Fourth Political Theory.
The only thing that should be separately mentioned is the organic and spiritual connection of both great thinkers — both Hegel and Heidegger — with the fate and ontology of German history, with the German people and German statehood. This determines their perspective on world history and the identity of other peoples — Western and non-Western. German history is intimately connected not just with Western European Christianity overall but particularly with Protestantism, a branch that regarded Catholicism as historically transcended, while Orthodoxy was largely unrecognized and not seriously contemplated by them. Everything Hegel and Heidegger write directly relates to the German people and the history of Western Europe. This ethnocentrism should simply be taken into account. Through it and with a certain foundation, they move to more general principles. The distinction between German (and formerly Greek, Latin, and broader Western) universalism and general universalism is often overlooked. From an external perspective, especially when considering non-Western civilisations that have been reinterpreted by Traditionalists like René Guénon, and particularly through the lens of Russian history that has moved in parallel, perpendicular, or even opposite directions, the German-centric view of these philosophers appears more relative than they presumed. Hegel was recognised and appreciated by Russian Slavophiles, Russian religious philosophers, and intellectuals of the Russian Silver Age, who suggested applying Hegel’s system to a different civilisation — Russia and its people and state. We have similarly reinterpreted Heidegger, requiring a shift from his Eurocentrism and Germanocentrism to a concept of multiple Daseins. By reassessing this ethnocentric stance, which is also supported by the historical trajectory of Germany after two failed attempts leading to the collapse of its civil society and loss of freedom and sovereignty, we create a more comprehensive model for political analysis within the Fourth Political Theory and the Theory of a Multipolar World.
(translated by Constantin von Hoffmeister)