The Russian People and State in the Future: A Hegelian Perspective
by Alexander Dugin
Alexander Dugin examines Hegel’s concept of the state, suggesting that contemporary Russia may be approaching the historical moment for establishing a true Hegelian state.
In Hegel’s political philosophy, there is a fundamentally important transition concerning the establishment of the state (der Staat). In his notes on a course about Hegel, Heidegger focuses on the terminology of Staat — stato — status. The Latin root is stare — to stand, to establish, to set up. In the Russian language, the state (gosudarstvo) comes from the word государь (gosudar), meaning lord or master. Where Latin and its derivatives emphasise the act of establishment — the state as something artificially established, instituted, built, created, erected — Slavic languages indicate only the fact of supreme — lordly — power. And as the ruler was simultaneously a judge in Slavic tradition, there’s a reference to judgement in the word — go-sud-ar, which is evident in the derivative polite Russian address — сударь (sudar). Power judges, and the one who judges is the power. The state is the realm of his dominions, what lies in his power, what he, as an autocrat, retains and upholds. Hence, the term derzhava (power).
The very distinction between concepts corresponds to a much deeper difference in Hegel between the ‘old state’ (‘imperfect state’ — unvolkommen) and the ‘new state’, the ‘authentic state’. The old state is precisely about possession, domination, and, in its negative extreme, tyranny. It is built around the actual element of power, around the vertical axis of command-obedience. However, there are certain nuances here.
Among the ‘old states’, he identifies several types:
The Eastern type (rigid despotism, ossification);
The Greek type (the first attempt to give a philosophical unifying meaning to power in Alexander’s Empire, but still leading to despotism);
The Roman type (ultimate formalisation of private law, separation of powers, and alternating cycles of despotism of powers and the mob).
Staat in the proper sense is something else. It is the ‘new state’. What is essential here is the fact of its establishment, its constitution, its creation. Staat is a moment of Spirit, fully conscious and self-aware. Another definition is ‘the state is the march of God in the world’ (der Gang Gottes in der Welt).
In the Hegelian system, the state is conceived as a product of self-consciousness. The state as Staat is an expression of the degree of concentration of consciousness, that is, a philosophical phenomenon. Here one can see a resonance with Plato’s Republic. Staat is the Platonic πολιτεία, but not quite the res publica, although this translation holds something important for Hegel. The state is established only by philosophers, that is, those in whom the self-consciousness of society reaches its culmination. But philosophers express the very movement of God in the world, manifested through a series of dialectical links, including through moments of the people’s self-consciousness.
According to Hegel, the state belongs to the realm of ethical life (Sittlichkeit). This sphere as a whole breaks down into two series of dialectical moments:
Thesis: Family — Antithesis: Civil society — Synthesis: State
Thesis: State — Antithesis: International relations — Synthesis: Universal Empire
The state is a common element for both series, their centre. In the first series, it corresponds to the synthesis, and in the second, to the thesis. The synthesis of the second series becomes a superstate — empire, where Spirit reaches the stage of the Absolute (the universal, world idea). At this point, history — as a sequence of the unfolding of Spirit and becoming-for-itself — ends. Thus, the state is the intermediary between the family and the ‘end of history’.
In the ‘Philosophy of Right’, this is preceded by two more series — abstract right and morality. Right establishes the notion of the individual, and morality that of the subject. However, a person becomes a spiritual being only in the realm of the ethical.
The spiritual subject realises itself through the theory and practice of the family. In the family, the conscious Spirit first becomes itself. A person in the family is revealed as an expression of a concrete idea. He is more than an individual, and his morality (Hegel understands this as the ability to critically distance oneself from formal right) is expressed in practice in the care for the whole, which is the family.
But a society that lives based on the family (agrarian, patriarchal) is not yet a people or a state in the Hegelian sense. The family cannot be linearly scaled up to a family of families, that is, to a state, until it has gone through the entire path of dialectics. Only in the ‘old state’ (not in Staat) does there exist a society of families. Usually, it consists of lower classes living in the conditions of a life-world. But this life-world is not animalistic but ethical, as the family is driven by Spirit, and it expresses itself in it. However, power belongs not to the projection of families upwards but to representatives of the elite, who find themselves in their position through a completely different logic. Ludwig Gumplowicz describes this as the result of a ‘racial struggle’, understanding ‘races’ as bearers of different ethnic cultures. The stronger subdue the weaker. This is how old states, despotisms, tyrannies, and principalities (not Staat) are formed. In such systems, families and rulers live in parallel worlds, not understanding each other, not clearly comprehending the nature of their connection and what unites them.
In practice, such a distinction between families and power is especially characteristic of Eastern Europe and, to an even greater extent, tsarist Russia. Ernest Gellner generalised this type of society under the name of the hypothetical country Agraria. In Western Europe, in the modern era, the balance begins to change. Hegel summarises the nature of these changes with the term ‘Enlightenment’ (Aufklärung). This is the most crucial moment in his dialectics.
In the Enlightenment era in Western Europe, a new form emerges — civil society (bürgerliche Gesellschaft). This phenomenon corresponds to bourgeois democracy and capitalism. Gellner generically refers to this country as ‘Industria’. According to Hegel, the main foundation for this phenomenon is the disintegration of the family, individualism, and the acquisition of acute social self-awareness. This is the antithesis phase, the negation of the family. Civil society itself is an evil, but it is necessary in the dialectical structure of the unfolding of Spirit. The Spirit must pass through this stage to reach a new level. The family dissolves as a collective unit, giving way to the citizen. In him, the person of abstract right, the moral subject, and the family member are present but in a sublated form. They do not define him. What defines him are his socio-political rights and freedoms. This is liberalism.
And only now do we approach the ‘new state’, that is, the Staat, as Hegel understood it.
Most importantly, according to Hegel, the state is the moment of overcoming, of sublating civil society. The true state cannot be bourgeois but is always supra-bourgeois. Its aim should not be to serve the individuals of civil society, nor to ensure or protect their well-being or freedoms. Hegel writes:
One must not begin with individuality in freedom, not with the singular self-consciousness, but only with its essence, for this essence, whether the individual knows it or not, is realised as an independent force in which individual beings are merely moments.
The state becomes itself when civil society is completely overcome (shown to be sublated), and the citizen (Bürger) is finally and irreversibly abolished, transformed into something else. Historically, the state was created not by families or the bourgeoisie (industrial or commercial or its prototypes) but by a special estate — the estate of bravery (der Stand der Tapferkeit), as Hegel calls it.
Unlike the emergence of old states, this occurs not because one more powerful and martial people subjugates another, weaker and more peace-loving one, or as a result of some other mode of usurpation of power by a tyrant or oligarchic group, but because members of civil society, in whom the movement of self-knowing Spirit has passed, recognise the impasse of liberalism, but not simply return to the family (to the thesis), but overcome the antithesis (themselves as liberals) through synthesis. Such a synthesis is the establishment of the state as Staat. Here, as in the family, the individual sacrifices his formal and moral freedom in the name of higher ethicality. But now he is united not just with the family, but with the state, which is his mission, his being, and his destiny.
At this moment, civil society transforms into a people (Volk). A multitude of families is not yet a people. Nor is a civil society of individuals (this is the demos) a people. Society becomes a people when the Spirit in it reaches the moment of overcoming liberalism and is ready to establish a state (Staat).
It is important that in such an understanding by Hegel, the category of people (Volk) is very close to the term λαός, which I use in Ethnosociology. Volk is a people constructed into a rational order. It is not a mob; it is an army. Hence, the Slavic word полк (polk) is formed precisely from the German Volk. Civil society ceases to be the chaotic movement of the bourgeoisie seeking individual gain. The society of traders transforms into a society of heroes (according to Sombart), into the ‘estate of bravery’. The people, as a society of heroes, create the state. Hegel specifically emphasises the ‘right of heroes to found states’  (das Heroenrecht zur Stiftung von Staaten).
If we strictly follow Hegel, we come to an interesting conclusion that there have never truly been states in his understanding (as Staat). Everything we have dealt with in history is just varying degrees of approximation to Staat, and more often states as tyrannies or despotisms, or conversely chaotic republics, dispersed by civil society, the demos, revealing nothing about the spiritual nature of power.
Thus, the state belongs to the future.
Let us apply this model to Russian history. Obviously, in the strict Hegelian sense, the Russians never truly had a state (in the sense of Staat). Historically, there was the Slavic ‘world of families’ on one side, and the political elite (almost always predominantly foreign — Sarmatian, Scythian, Varangian, Mongolian, European, Jewish, etc.) on the other, which exercised power over the Slavic ‘families’. There was not really a civil society in Russia either.
Nevertheless, from the nineteenth century, we see certain attempts to build such a civil society. This project began as European Enlightenment ideas penetrated Russia, but until the nineteenth century, it only affected the elites. In the nineteenth century, both Westernisers and Slavophiles joined this project. The Slavophiles were largely oriented towards Hegel, as were the Russian Westernisers — both Marxists and liberals. Hence the notion of ‘civic-mindedness’. However, when translated into Russian, the German Bürgerlichkeit ceased to be firmly associated with bourgeoisness, which is the same in meaning and etymology, and acquired a more ‘elevated’ but less accurate meaning. The goal of the Enlightenment was to transform the world of families into alienated individualistic capitalists, to create a society of traders. Families and peasantry, as the territory of families (and communes), had to be destroyed, turning them into an atomised proletariat. This is what Hegelian Marxists believed. Russian liberals thought that the emancipation of the peasants would turn Russia’s population into the middle class. And the Slavophiles believed that the Russian people should assert their integrity and their spiritual-moral self-awareness. This too is Enlightenment, but a Russian one.
According to the Hegelian schema:
Russian Marxists aspired to civil society with a class interpretation adjustment;
Russian liberals simply to civil society;
Slavophiles directly to the next phase — to the status of the people (Volk), precisely where the state as Staat should be created (some Slavophiles — Golokhvastov and Aksakov — proposed to Alexander II and then to Alexander III to re-establish the Russian state through the convocation of the Zemsky Sobor1).
Liberals sought Hegel’s classical antithesis — the destruction of families (communities) and the promotion of capitalism. Marxists believed capitalism already existed and had to be overcome through the proletarian revolution. Slavophiles thought the antithesis should be immediately related to the synthesis, and the Russian people — already sufficiently processed by liberal Enlightenment ideas — should move as quickly as possible to the third phase — the creation of Staat.
We know how everything happened in Russian history. Liberal ideas did not linger in pure form for long, but instead of their overcoming in the people (Volk), the October Revolution occurred, initially seen as the first phase of the transition to world communism — i.e., to the ‘end of history’ in the Marxist (left-Hegelian) understanding — without a state, in pure proletarian internationalism.
When the revolution occurred in a single country, and moreover in agrarian, under-capitalist Russia (with minimal civil society), Lenin and Trotsky accepted this, while Western Marxists, striving to remain orthodox to Marx, did not.
Here comes an interesting twist. It is one thing to conduct a proletarian revolution in a country where there was hardly any proletariat, and then begin to support the workers’ movement in Europe and the world from the positions won, which Lenin and Trotsky inclined towards, and quite another to build socialism in one country — this contradicted Marxism, however, you interpret it. But Stalin embarked precisely on this path. And here he was very much in tune with Hegel himself, not his Marxist interpretation. In practice, Stalin began to build the Russian state by overcoming civil society (which existed, admittedly, nominally). This historical moment coincided with the emergence of a new entity — not so much peasant families and communities as the Soviet people, who were thought of in close unity with the state. According to Marx, Hegel’s new state (Staat) should not exist at all, and if it does, then only as a by-product of early capitalist societies creating temporary nations within the framework of ‘industry’ (Gellner). Lenin also believed that bourgeois states transition into the stage of imperialism and are doomed to disappear. Capitalism is a universal and planetary phenomenon. The end of history as the victory of communism throughout the world will occur regardless of the creation of states and the emergence of international relations between them, which are of little significance and are just inconsequential details.
In this, the communists agreed with the liberals with the only difference being that liberals were convinced that at the stage of global capitalism, everything would end, whereas communists believed that this would be followed by a global proletarian revolution, which, based on bourgeois internationalism, would affirm proletarian internationalism.
But Stalin and the Soviet state he built fell out of this schema (both communist and liberal). Essentially, the USSR was something similar to Hegel’s Staat and the Soviet people (specifically Soviet, not Russian — as a world of families) — to Hegel’s Volk. In the USSR as a state, it was indeed believed that civil society (bourgeois identity) was overcome.
And international relations, in this case, acquired a genuinely Hegelian character, as the future of the World empire (Reich) — communist, Nazi, or liberal — depended precisely on the confrontation between the USSR and Western countries.
The Hegelian subtext is even more evident in Italian Fascism, where it was conceptualised by one of its theorists, Giovanni Gentile, and in German National Socialism (Julius Binder, Karl Larenz, Gerhardt Dulckeit). It was through the prism of Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Right’ that Martin Heidegger understood National Socialism.
In the liberal camp, the state emerged along with the influence of Keynes’s ideas and in the American experience of Roosevelt’s politics — the New Deal, but it did not receive theoretical development (British fascists like Oswald Mosley not counted). Later, during the Cold War, the liberal Hegelian Alexander Kojève theorised about the ‘end of history’ as the victory of the global civil society. After the collapse of the USSR, the American political philosopher Francis Fukuyama, developing Kojève’s ideas, writes a programmatic manifesto about the ‘end of history’ and the planetary victory of liberalism. But this has no relation to Hegel’s state, which should be founded on overcoming civil society, that is, capitalism.
It is important to trace the fate of Soviet society, where, according to Stalin, civil society was to be completely overcome. This was the essence of the Soviet state (if viewed through a Hegelian lens). However, the collapse of the USSR and the abandonment of communist ideology showed that this overcoming was an illusion. Stalin, on one hand, indeed facilitated the formation of civil society in a proletarian shell in the USSR (the world of the peasantry and the oikoumene of families were fundamentally undermined, and most of the population moved to cities — thus becoming ‘townsmen’, ‘citizens’), but on the other hand, this civil society, which barely existed before the revolution in tsarist Russia, was not overcome by the state. This should happen (according to Hegel) in the next turn. For now, Soviet society collapsed directly into capitalism; the state was maximally weakened and nearly disappeared in the 1990s, and liberal ideas triumphed in post-Soviet Russia.
Because the Stalinist state was not a true overcoming of capitalism, it was forced to return to the preceding — purely nihilistic, liberal — phase to start over again from the liberal bottom.
But — and this is crucial! — the integration of post-Soviet Russia into the general liberal globalist context and its transformation into a post-Soviet civil society became a crucial element of the realisation of the Hegelian scenario. Only now has Russian society truly become bourgeois, meaning that now is the historical moment for the overcoming of the bourgeoisie in favour of establishing the Staat.
Meanwhile, Russia, contrary to everything, retained its political sovereignty, which Germany, for example, previously claimed with no less, if not more, grounds for creating a full-fledged Hegelian state, lost after World War Two.
From such analysis, it follows that in the full sense of the word, the Russian people as a Hegelian Volk can become a reality only in the future, which we are closely approaching. The opposition to the liberal West, which does not intend (at least for now) to become a state and people, disintegrating families at the ultimate stage of an extreme version of globalist civil society, adds internal spiritual energy to the Russians.
Hegel himself believed that at the ‘end of history’, the mission to become the expression of the universal human idea, i.e., the World empire, belongs to the Germans. He anticipated the creation of a German constitutional monarchy based on the Prussian state, which happened under Bismarck and the Hohenzollerns. Then, through a system of international relations with other Staats and most likely through the metaphysics of war, the Germans are destined to become the ‘world-historical people’, concluding the chain of four historical empires (already mentioned — Eastern, Greek, and Roman). This idea of the world-historical significance of Germany and its Spirit, its geographical and anthropological place in world history, was later developed in the twentieth century by conservative revolutionaries Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and Friedrich Hielscher. However, this prospect was removed from the agenda or postponed for an indefinitely long time after the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War Two. After 1945, the Germans were again thrown into civil society, essentially without the right to engage in politics. No more talk of a heroic establishment of the state in their case. Thus, Germany exited the Hegelian horizon of struggle for world-historical meaning, for the course of God in the world.
It is evident that the countries of the liberal West, due to their radical dedication to bourgeois ideology, capitalism, and civil society, also contain no prerequisites for establishing the Staat and embodying the Spirit.
Therefore, among the contenders for this role on a global scale, only Russia and China may currently be considered. And both Russia — especially in recent years — and China have already made certain steps in this direction. Decisive will be the will to fully overcome civil society in these countries, recognising the necessity of a new establishment of the state (Staat), as well as the ability to do this and the presence of a critical mass of the ‘estate of bravery’. Society becomes a people, outgrowing bourgeois norms, structures of everyday consciousness, transforming into an army, into a regiment (Volk).
For Chinese society, the ideological support for this could be the Confucian tradition of the ethical state and Maoism with its rejection of capitalism. For Russia, the metaphysics of the Katechonic Empire and a certain experience of Soviet Stalinism, building a solid non-bourgeois and non-liberal state, can be considered a prerequisite for becoming a great people. Whoever manages to do this has a unique historical opportunity to become the vessel of the world Spirit. Russians have always suspected that they are the moment of ‘God’s passage through the world’. Hence the idea of the Russians as the ‘God-bearing people’. Now is the time to fully realise this and act accordingly.
(translated by Constantin von Hoffmeister)
The Zemsky Sobor was a significant deliberative assembly in tsarist Russia from the late sixteenth to the seventeenth centuries, akin to a parliamentary body. It consisted of representatives from various social classes, including nobility, clergy, and merchants, convened by the tsar to discuss vital national issues like law enactment, war, peace, and the election of new tsars. Its most notable session was in 1613, electing Michael Romanov and establishing the Romanov dynasty. However, as the tsars centralised power, the Sobor’s influence waned and eventually became obsolete.