ABSTRACT

Property has signal importance in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. 1 Hegel himself suggests property’s importance by beginning his substantive text with the issue of property and then raising it in each subsequent section. Later interpreters, from Marx to the present, sometimes focus on—and in any case can hardly avoid touching on— property and its implications. 2 In this Article, I examine Hegel’s treatment of property throughout the Philosophy of Right to explore several related political and legal issues that turn on one basic conundrum: Hegel’s juxtaposition of extensive private property rights in his chapter on “Abstract Right,” with limitations on and redefinitions of property in the major sociopolitical institutions of Sittlichkeit or ethical life. Or, to put the matter as a question: how and why can Hegel commence his political philosophy with a seemingly sweeping assertion of individual private property and freedom of contract rights, and at the same time present—in his discussion of the major sociopolitical 216institutions of Sittlichkeit—both limitations on private property and freedom of contract as well as different varieties of property and human relations, with different names and characteristics from the private property and free contract of abstract right?