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G.W.F. Hegel on Self-Determination and Democratic Theory


  • Jeffrey Church is Assistant Professor of Political Science, 447 Phillip G. Hoffman Hall, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204 (

  • Thanks to Rick Wilson and the four anonymous reviewers for the AJPS for helpful guidance in improving this manuscript.


This article claims that the major alternative models of contemporary democratic theory—the aggregative, deliberative, and agonistic models—are grounded on a norm of self-determination, but each conceptualizes this self-determination in a different, and one-sidedly narrow, way. G.W.F. Hegel provides a conceptual scheme in which to understand the development and synthesize the insights of these three articulations of self-determination. He also argues that the political embodiment of a complete self-determination must be founded on economic self-interest, though a self-interest expanded to a concern for the common good through the experience of self-government in one's economic and political associations. Thus, rather than separating economic and political spheres, as contemporary democratic theorists do, Hegel makes a case that modern self-determination requires a structural harmony between these spheres.