Gillian Rose: Hegel contra Sociology

(Athlone Press, London, 1981)

notes by Erik Empson, 2004

This book's title is perhaps a little misleading as the reader gets a much heavier dose of Hegel than he does of sociology. Still what one gets of Hegel, is a powerful if unusual exegis of Hegel’s thought through the full range of its known textual instantiations. Rose’s aim is to resurrect the speculative dimension of Hegel’s thought, that involves treating his propostions from the point of view of non-identity, from their position within a phenomenological movement and not as solid standpoints. Marx qua critic of Hegel is taken up in this regard for falsely attributing to Hegel’s thought an identity with various ideological standpoints of the Bourgeoisie. Far from seeing Hegel as a concilliator and an apologist–-as Rose understands Marx’s critique to be--Hegel provides a powerful critique of Bourgeois property and law, and develops in a spectulative fashion the central contradictions that belong to the Bourgeois form of society.

Hegel is set up against Kant and Fichte, and these two thinkers of massive importance are considered the major points of reference for Hegel’s own critiques. This involves much more than the considerations in the Phenomenology of Spirit, much of the logic and the critiques of religion are treated in the context of their conflict with Kant and Fichte. This is the operative basis for Rose’s critique of sociology. Rose sets up a comparison between Weber and Durkheim that correlates to Fichte and Kant, which in broad terms pertains to the realm of values and validity or action and structure. Both Durkeim and Weber, the chosen points of reference for the critique of sociology are placed within the Neo-Kantian paradigm. The reading of Hegel’s criticisms of Kant and Fichte are thus brought to bear in a powerful criticism of sociological thought dominated by Weber and Durkheim.

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