Apotheosis of the state

By Michael J. Smith on Monday September 17, 2012 04:32 PM

The state is the actuality of the ethical Idea. It is ethical mind qua the substantial will manifest and revealed to itself, knowing and thinking itself, accomplishing what it knows and in so far as it knows it. The state exists immediately in custom, mediately in individual self-consciousness, knowledge, and activity, while self-consciousness in virtue of its sentiment towards the state, finds in the state, as its essence and the end-product of its activity, its substantive freedom.

The state is absolutely rational inasmuch as it is the actuality of the substantial will which it possesses in the particular self-consciousness once that consciousness has been raised to consciousness of its universality. This substantial unity is an absolute unmoved end in itself, in which freedom comes into its supreme right. On the other hand this final end has supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the state.


I suspect that few of my liberal friends would be willing to sign off explicitly on this formulation. Yet I think that many of us act unconsciously on this basis.

This notion has been simmering in my head for a long time. What brought it to a boil was a recent email exchange on one of my lists about pedophile priests in the Catholic church -- of all things.

Everybody nowadays deplores pedophilia, of course, and quite right too -- though Socrates might have had a slightly different take on the topic. But the hell with him; I have even less use for Socrates than people generally have for pedophilia.

What strikes me about the secular liberal's response -- and even the secular lefty's response -- to buggery in the rectory is that everybody seems to agree that the big scandal is that the bishops didn't call the cops. Not that the bishops didn't get the guy away from kids; not that they didn't drum him out of the priesthood; but that they didn't call the cops.

Now one of the amiable things about the Catholic Church, I have always thought, is its wonderfully mediaeval sense of standing outside the State, and maybe even above it. A certain skepticism about the State seems well-justified, to me.

Curiously, the Church's view of the State as a ramshackle, derivative, provisional, purely instrumental affair rather coincides with the Marxist/Leninist view, to the extent that I understand the latter. MLs certainly want to take the State over and use it for their own purposes; but they also see themselves as standing outside it and over against it.

The State has its uses -- I have called the cops myself, a few times, though the only time I was at all impressed by their response was the time they arrested me. But okay: purely as an instrument, the State may occasionally serve a constructive purpose. I grant the point. Theoretically.

But it seems sad to me that so many of my friends -- who were great skeptics about the State when we were young, and subject to the draft -- have fallen back into vulgar Hegelianism; to the point where calling the cops, more or less metaphorically, is more or less the answer to everything.

(Lemma: electoral politics is of course a special case of calling the cops -- to wit, calling the good cops, and hoping, hoping that they turn up instead of the bad cops.)

One of the interesting results of this mentality is that most liberals, as far as I can tell, strongly approve of all the laws we have now which turn certain classes of wage-laborers into ex officio police informants -- schoolteachers, for example, who are required, under severe penalties, to report all kinds of things pronto to the local precinct. This seems to me a rather startling abridgement of the citizen's liberty to exercise his own judgement and hold his tongue if he chooses; yet as far as I know, nobody objects to it.

Comments (20)


That middle-class Englishman was on to something:

One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty. In certain circumstances it can break down, at certain levels of civilization it does not exist, but as a positive force there is nothing to set beside it. Christianity and international Socialism are as weak as straw in comparison with it. Hitler and Mussolini rose to power in their own countries very largely because they could grasp this fact and their opponents could not.

Here is a comment from a proud Israeli on a technical forum not long ago about those who tend to morph into the most patriotic citizens of his (Holy) State:

The front lines are CEOs, lawyers, scientists, mathematicians, accountants and what not. The middle+ class are the people that go to war. The most leftist and liberal leaders were always the best generals.

Little wonder either given the heavy dose of toxic ideas from MittelEuropa in which lie the wellsprings of Zionism. Another bunch of fun-seekers who also believed in an "organic community"--and woe betide those who were to be driven out as enemies of the Volk--used to refer to it as the "sacralization of politics":

An old Prussian saying goes "Der Soldate ist der beste Mann im Staate"--the soldier is the best man in the state. Adulation of the army became a cult, almost a religion....The lack of homogeneity of the Prussian lands, composed as they were of diverse and unconnected areas, gave birth to the main Prussian creation: the "state." This was the factor that was to unite all the different populations, each of which stuck to its local patriotism and traditions. The "state"--Der Staat--became a sacred being, transcending all other loyalties. Prussian philosophers saw the "state" as the incarnation of all the social virtues, the final triumph of human reason.

I learned at a very young age the you never, ever, fucking not ever, call the fucking cops. I don't care what is going on, what has happened, who got whacked, who is getting beat or mugged...


They'll fuck everything up even worse than it already was.

That's just me though. I have issues with authority figures as you may imagine.

anne shew:

i was being kept by a crocked\ bad cop in the back of a car , after being involved in something of .. that was very very good of my behaving , as i was .. . there .. . over a radio came .. a wave of what was just then happening down in new orleans ,the first of all hearing about up here , i felt that flooding in so many ways , with and of the disbelieve on what was happening to me there , and that man /cop became very still in that with a sense of what he was doing with me there be very wrong i could see that it was physically overwhelming him of what he was then hearing and his avoiding the ocean of my eyes ,he stopped and let me go , said an extreme of grounded of sane ,sensible


Paintings like the illustration here always make me feel like I am looking up from the bottom of a giant urinal, at my betters, of course. Much prefer domes to be decorated is geometric motifs.


One glaring typo per comment. Batting about .980


Poor old Hegel ever the victim of his vulgarizers
Even more then his enemies

Why not put dear Hobbes
in the dunking stool here father ?

At least he speaks English and can yell back
at his would be
if feckless

"read the fine print in your contract citizens "


Updated Hegel

Actuality of the ethical ideal department:

Gosplan 2.0

Nice passage in Kap III on this

Maybe I'll try to find it


Trouble with authority
the trouble with trouble

Once travelled a bit of Salazar's Portugal with a horse meat eating Goan

Cutting to the climactic scene in Lisbon bar

Goan as he raises his fists
--- in oddly expert looking fashion---
a blow hard pair of Brits

" gentleman could I trouble you for some trouble "

Peter Ward:

As with Hegel, I believe the liberal worship of the state--in this case--is an artifact of privilege. Liberals are people who the state has been pretty good to. It's foolish; the state will turn on them in a flash if it suits its interests--like the antisemitic intellectuals Hitler rounded up--but liberals feel flattered Uncle Sam loves 'em specially and flattery puts up one of the most impenetrable barriers to wisdom.

Re: the Church. I see the Catholic church's suspension of the state more to do with the threat the state poses to its own power. Remember the early church did everything it could to shut up the Gnostics, who basically declared human intermediaries--e.g., a priesthood--in divine matters an impiety.

Peter Ward:

! -- suspension=suspicion

I don't think this reads the Vatican properly at all. The Vatican is a state. The oldest continuously operating one on the planet.


Church != Vatican

"Trouble with authority
the trouble with trouble"

OK, a bit of both OP. I'll take the 5th.

anne shew:

boink, 1,22, ? i meant crocked as i said , of the crock of out of something untrue .. of a setting me up and of drunk on meat pudding his words from the front driving seat before

anne shew:

crock may not be the right word for my telling of .. . as some of you are hearing it ,perhaps it is more of a made up for me,from , with my voice and mind being as they are of some exacting that most can not hear here , and of the crock that those here might be familiar with not being fitting to my own voice , but my mind was stuck on something of thoughts of his being drunk on that meat pudding that he stopped to have with me hand cuffed and feeling the levee coming in the back of .. . when i was writing what i did above , of calling on .. of cops or not ,


The RCC and the Vatican are one and the same. (I went to Jesuit and Franciscan schools, as a kid. And was groomed for the priesthood, with an invitation to Steubenville.) There is no distinction between the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church. It isn't even that the RCC and the Vatican overlap, but are somehow distinct. The RCC is the hierarchy and population base of the Vatican state.

anne shew:

it also looks like i left.. be and not.. being .. there in my moving the wording around as i do here,in a flut' of looking for what is best fitting .. ,of comment earlier today up there


Thanks Boink, I was hoping it wasn't just me who was having a vivid visceral reaction to that image.

It actually made me physically nauseous (seems it was a pretty good choice of portrayal, Michael).

(off topic: I haven't forgotten, Save the Oocytes (I've added a tad ...not done yet), and thank you Brian.)

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