Hegel and the Revolution Revisited: A Review of Rebecca Comay’s Mourning Sickness


by Terence Renaud




December 22, 2010







                  In the preface to his book on Hegel, Charles Taylor recognizes two ways that every Hegel commentator can go wrong: “Either one can end up being terribly clear and sounding very reasonable at the cost of distorting, even bowdlerizing Hegel. Or one can remain faithful but impenetrable, so that in the end readers will turn with relief to the text in order to understand the commentary.”[1] While it is hard to imagine ever turning to the Phenomenology with relief, Taylor’s cautionary remark draws attention to the basic connection between the form and content of Hegel critique: either one attains formal clarity at the expense of material complexity or material complexity at the expense of clarity. The task of the critic, according to Taylor, is to find a middle way between the two extremes. Rebecca Comay’s book, Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution, does find a third way, but it is surely not through the conciliatory middle.[2]

                  The French Revolution, declares Comay, is the “burning center” of Hegel’s entire philosophy (5). In addition to its biographical significance for all Germans of Hegel’s generation, the Revolution crystallized what would become the major themes of Hegel’s Jena and Berlin systems: the secularization of faith through reason, the dialectic of absolute freedom and terror, universal morality versus practical action, the dangers of abstract individualism, and the radical challenges of modernity. Struck by the disharmony between political backwardness and philosophical advancement in the German lands vis-ą-vis Revolutionary France, Hegel introduced “untimeliness itself as an ineluctable condition of historical experience” (7). This perception of temporal dissonance (Ungleichzeitigkeit) derived from Germans’ feeling of having achieved philosophical modernity through the work of Kant while having missed their opportunity for achieving political modernity. German thought existed as a modern anomaly in a premodern social order. The traumatic experience of the Revolution had brought the two non-synchronous dimensions of thought and reality into open contradiction.

Comay presents Hegel as a psychoanalyst avant la lettre who diagnosed both the French Enlightenment and the German Aufklärung with “melancholia,” a condition somewhat like a post-traumatic stress disorder that involves a displaced or “disavowed grief for the lost object” (67). For the French, that lost object was faith: in championing the secularization of society, unreflective Enlightenment “fails to register faith’s losses as its own” (65). “Pure insight,” or reason, is “devoid of all content,” wrote Hegel in the Phenomenology. When pure insight takes anything other than itself for its object—that is, when it gives itself a content like a positive political program—it compromises its formal, absolute negativity. Universal reason cannot abide particularity or partisanship. The only thing that reason has to criticize is therefore reason itself. Enlightenment without self-consciousness and without self-negation is “the negative of pure insight”: it is “falsehood, unreason, and . . . ill-intentioned, just as [it] regards faith as error and prejudice.” In declaring victory over the Church in the name of Reason, the French disavowed the lost object of faith. They deluded themselves by dismissing the necessity of spiritual legitimacy for the social order.[3]

For the melancholic (Protestant) Germans, who had reformed faith enough for it to survive the onslaught of reason, the lost object varied according to politics. Liberals yearned for the failed Revolution—the turning point where Germany failed to turn, as A. J. P. Taylor would describe 1848. Conservatives, on the other hand, yearned for the traditional culture of Germany’s medieval past as symbolized by the Holy Roman Empire. The Restoration of 1815 was only effective politically; conservatives thought that the cultural damage caused by the Napoleonic regime was irreversible. The identity of conservatism and Romanticism was not precise, but conservatives certainly shared with Romantics an elective affinity for some prerevolutionary past.[4]

Hegel was skeptical of such nostalgia. He charged German philosophy with the task of superseding melancholia through authentic mourning for the objects lost to modernity while still embracing modernity. For him, Enlightenment had lost its “spiritual world” and could not persist without replacing it: “we shall see whether Enlightenment can remain satisfied; that yearning of the troubled Spirit which mourns over the loss of its spiritual world lurks in the background.”[5] But he recognized that obsessive mourning occludes the lost object, deflecting it into a fetish. The pun “mourning sickness” of Comay’s title is not trivial: the solar “morning” was the “glorious mental dawn” of the Revolution, when man realized the principle that thought “ought to govern spiritual reality”;[6] modal “mourning,” on the other hand, is the consummation of the Revolution in German philosophy, the true sublation (Aufhebung) of the antinomy of faith versus pure insight. In both cases, “sickness” is a reified, fetishistic perversion of morning/mourning. Marx would later dub this complex of obsessive mourning die deutsche Misere, a foundational element of the German ideology. Noting the irony that Germany has “shared in the restorations of modern nations without having shared in their revolutions,” Marx would conclude that his Germans “always found [themselves] in the company of freedom only once, on the day of its burial.” The temporal dissonance and traumatic experience of Germany in the wake of the French Revolution consisted in the fact that “we Germans lived out our post-history in thought, in philosophy. We are philosophical contemporaries of the present without being its historical contemporaries. German philosophy is the ideal extension of German history.”[7] German philosophy, as ideology, was fetishism.

Comay agrees with the Marxian interpretation as it applies to Hegel’s generation as a whole (and presumably to subsequent generations of Young Hegelians), but argues that Hegel’s philosophy in particular includes a crucial reflexive, critical, and counterfetishistic element. Hegel in fact anticipates Marx’s critique of the German ideology. What we get at the end of the Phenomenology of Spirit, which Comay considers to be Hegel’s most advanced work, is not simply a “pacifying idealization” (as Marx, Adorno, Derrida, et al. would have it) but also an “aporetic self-deconstruction” (129). The moment of reconciliation with the past at the end of Spirit’s itinerary—that profoundly positive moment of forgiveness that “leaves no scars behind”[8]—is actually Hegel’s own self-critical work of mourning that preserves the past in a new beginning (essentially, Aufhebung). It’s a therapeutic formula for dealing with grief. The only way that Spirit can effectively “move on” is to renounce itself in a Christ-like moment of universal sacrifice.

How does Comay’s “counterfetishistic” intervention fit in with existing historiography and critique? Most obvious is her desire to rescue Hegel—or some version of Hegel—from the synoptic narratives of interpreters like Karl Löwith and Herbert Marcuse, who defined Hegel teleologically through his anticipation of later thinkers like Nietzsche or Marx.[9] Contrary to these interpreters’ method of presenting Hegel’s philosophy as underdeveloped or in need of revision, Comay insists that there “is no need to upstage or ‘dialectize’ Hegel by flushing out the unprocessed flotsam of a reified tradition [i.e. in this case, a Christian idiom]” (134). Hegel’s dialectic stands on its own two feet, and there is no need for it to “be turned right side up again” in order to “discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.”[10] Another trend that Comay rejects is the political labeling of Hegel as either a reactionary conservative or a pseudo-liberal apologist for the Revolution. Marcuse is again the guilty party, having referred to Hegel as “the so-called official philosopher of the Prussian state and the philosophical dictator of Germany,”[11] whose revolutionary hero was not Robespierre but Napoleon. Jürgen Habermas developed this position further by interpreting Hegel’s idolization of the Revolution as a neutralizing defense mechanism that allows him to revolutionize reality “without any revolutionaries.” According to Habermas, Hegel drew back in fear from the violence and popular democracy inaugurated by the Revolution. Philosophy was Hegel’s means of commemorating the Revolution from a safe distance: “Only after he had fastened the revolution firmly to the beating heart of the world did he feel secure from it.”[12] Labeling Hegel a pseudo-liberal has also had its proponents, most notably Joachim Ritter, who interpreted Hegel’s modern state from the Philosophy of Right as an ethical institution meant to actualize the freedom that only the Revolution had made possible: where the Revolution had failed (absolute freedom and the Terror, “the most fearful tyranny”[13]), the modern state, through its interaction with civil society, would succeed.[14]

Comay’s resistance to the various political interpretations of Hegel is well taken. It is impossible to categorize Hegel neatly as either “conservative” or “liberal.” He was fundamentally opposed to the abstract individualism of the liberals, but unlike most conservatives, he thought that the Revolution was a good thing. Freedom and progress were the linchpins of his political philosophy, but only when achieved through the authoritarian guidance of the rational state. If liberals pursued greater Enlightenment through subjective political will and revolution from below, then Hegel believed in reform from above and the free identification of subjective will with the interests of the state.[15] This might look like a philosophical justification of the Prussian state, but according to John E. Toews, Hegel’s politics are best understood when seen as a product of his early life in Württemberg. The Württemberger patrician-intellectual elite, of which Hegel and his father had been a part, partook of a long tradition of community spiritual leadership that was expressed as Ehrbarkeit, or respectability. When Hegel’s generation matured during the years of the Revolution, they rebelled against this respectability in favor of “radical cultural transformation.” While they rebelled against their fathers’ traditions, however, they could not entirely shake off the mantle of respectability; consequently, they preferred institutional reform to democratic revolution.[16] Moreover, this elite felt threatened by the rise in the number of poorly educated civil servants and, in reaction, tended to dignify civil service and the state as a way to portray the meaner sort as unqualified. From this perspective, Hegel’s call for the identification of individual wills with the will of the competent state in the Philosophy of Right is a lingering product of his former social class interests and not merely an apology for Prussian authoritarianism.

If neither a liberal nor a conservative, then what is Hegel’s political affiliation according to Comay? Is it perhaps her intention to rehabilitate him as an apolitical but critical observer of his time, one whose philosophical detachment from the world allowed him superior insight? In part, yes. According to her, Hegel’s theory of forgiveness indeed has a “contemporary edge”: “Its starting point is the surd of inexpiable finitude that both thwarts and stimulates every movement toward redemption. And it is disfigured by a traumatic temporality of delay” (128). One difficulty in reading her book, however, is discerning her actual intentions with any sort of precision. Her style betrays a frustrating disregard for clear exposition. She breaks away from Charles Taylor’s twin ways of error by rendering an interpretation of Hegel that is both impenetrable and unfaithful. In her account, Hegel becomes a sharp tool for cutting away the dissatisfying bits of Arendt, de Man, Foucault, and Derrida, while underscoring the validity of Badiou, Agamben, and Žižek. Comay has scores to settle and wades impulsively into contemporary debates. One cannot necessarily fault her for this. But the historian Thought Police will dwell on the question of whether such an instrumentalization (and distortion) of Hegel is justified. Comay anticipates this objection and preemptively shifts her ground from the “historical” to the “philosophical,” where presumably anything goes (4). She defends her stylistic and argumentative exaggeration with an appeal to an impressive set of authorities:

When Adorno writes, in his own typically exaggerated fashion, that “nothing is true in psychoanalysis except the exaggerations” [Minima Moralia], he could have been describing Hegel’s method. Freud looks to the pathological to illuminate the normal: by making things coarser, he forces us to linger on what might otherwise escape our attention. Hegel illuminates the pathological within the normal. Exaggeration reveals uncomfortable features of experience that would otherwise be invisible. (96)


Is it possible that exaggeration reveals the truth? When coupled with a philosophical aversion to making summary statements, causal connections, or affirmative syntheses (more things that Comay picks up from Adorno), at least, exaggeration tends to hide more than it reveals.

If such attention to Comay’s obscure style serves simply to expose the reviewer’s weak powers of understanding, then may the guardians of Theory rest assured in their high towers. After all, as Kant quips in the preface to the Prolegomena, “should any reader find [this work] still obscure, let him consider that not every one is bound to study metaphysics.” The dull, derivative scholar is humbled by the metaphysician’s rebuke. But Kant also writes that “the longwindedness of the work, so far as it depends on the science itself and not on the exposition, its consequent unavoidable dryness, and its scholastic precision are qualities which can only benefit the science, though they may discredit the book.”[17] With Kant’s advice in mind, let us take Comay at her word that she is not an historian and that her manipulation of Hegel is done with the best of intentions; let us not discredit her book without considering its benefit to the science. Do her philosophical conclusions, non-systematic though they may be, justify her account of Hegel and the French Revolution?

                  Hegel’s writings about the Revolution serve Comay as the starting point for the differentiation of his thought from the dominant philosophical and political trends of his time: idealism, liberalism, romanticism, and nationalism. Before Comay discusses Hegel directly, however, she devotes a chapter to Kant’s interpretation of the Revolution. Most important for Kant was the relationship between law and revolution, and for him the turning point of the French Revolution was the trial and execution of the king in 1792-93.[18] Strictly speaking, there can never be a lawful revolution, but revolutionary intentions can nevertheless be motivated by a universal moral maxim (37). Until the king’s trial, the Revolution of 1789 had been motivated by a good universal maxim: liberté, égalité, fraternité. But the sheer illegality of the show trial of Louis XVI betrayed for Kant an evil maxim, that is, an intention with only a particular purpose: securing power for the Jacobins. No longer was the Revolution motivated by a general principle. The feigned legality of the court proceedings showed that the republican leadership sought merely to perpetuate its own rule. The killing of the king itself was not so objectionable to Kant as the heinous crime of Louis’ “formal execution” under a contrived veil of legality. Drawing on Ernst Kantorowicz, Comay explains that Kant’s objection to the trial and execution of Louis was that the republicans sought not only to kill the king, but to kill the very idea of monarchy. This regicide, in contrast to that of Charles in 1649, collapsed entirely the duality of the “king’s two bodies,” one mortal and natural and the other spiritual and eternal (39).[19] Kant was not necessarily a monarchist, but he did care about the legitimacy of the revolutionary state. Without some eternal principle like a good universal maxim (law) or a king’s body politic, the revolutionary state would devolve into a selfish war of all against all in which power was pursued solely for power’s sake. Thus the regicide, with its abolition of both legality and monarchy, was the “real terror” that made the actual Reign of Terror an inevitable afterthought (40-1). Kant ponders the “genealogical paradox” of the Revolution: with the death of the king, the French people were witness to both the establishment of their own sovereignty and the total delegitimization of that sovereignty (40).

                  According to Comay, Kant’s “moral worldview” has a literal meaning: his ethics derive from a “theatrical image of the world,” in which cosmopolitan spectators judge events at a safe “aesthetic distance” (30-1). The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 provided Kant with the first opportunity to apply this spectator ethics to a major world event. In a 1756 newspaper article, Kant attempted to “demystify the disaster” by demonstrating how it could be explained by physical causality as opposed to divine causality: he purged “the natural catastrophe of its moral significance” and “secured in the heaving landscape of the earth a foothold for scientific investigation” (31-2). In 1798, Kant would apply the same method of analysis to the French Revolution in The Conflict of the Faculties. Transposing the Critique of Judgment (1790) into a political key, Kant here sets about “neutralizing the political actuality of terror . . . such that the French republican experiment can be sanitized of its founding violence, even if only in the eyes of its beholders” (32). In this account of the Revolution’s significance for the world, “terror is purged through a vicarious catharsis secured by aesthetic distance” (50). Comay’s presentation strangely coincides with Habermas’ characterization of Hegel’s philosophization of the Revolution: “the revolutionizing of reality without the Revolution itself.”[20] For Kant, the Revolution was an example of natural progress that proved the possibility for moral progress, and it is the external observer, not the participant, who has most to benefit from the event: “The idea of universal human rights and dignity is legible to the spectator of the French Revolution in a way blocked to the participants by virtue of their pathological self-interest” (34-5). “In a single blow,” Comay continues, “Kant absorbs revolutionary rupture into the continuous reform of the moral spectator, while dispensing with the need to import democratic principles onto German soil” (35).

The issues of revolutionary justice and of aesthetic judgment reveal for Hegel the central problem of Kantian ethics: both the action of individuals according to what their universal conscience dictates and the judgments of cosmopolitan spectators provide no basis whatsoever for political community or intersubjectivity. Kant is forced to revert to an empty version of utilitarianism to explain why people agree to a given social order: the individual wills happiness and realizes that the most reliable and constant form of happiness is universal, so he concludes that what is best for him is in fact what is best for all (and vice versa).

In contrast to Kant, Hegel considers the decisive moment of the Revolution to be the passage of the Law of Suspects and the beginning of the Terror in September 1793. Guilt by suspicion is the consequence of a social order predicated entirely on the self. This is where Hegel makes the counterintuitive leap from concrete individualism (Kantian ethics) to abstract individualism and the Reign of Terror. He connects abstract individualism to three phenomena: revolutionary decisionism, social contractarianism, and free-market liberalism (68-9). In fact, this broad definition of abstract individualism is why Hegel can dismiss Rousseau’s distinction between the will of all (volonté de tous) and the general will (volonté générale): both are fundamentally the same, with the latter functioning merely as a dominant majority; both are abstractions of individual will (69).[21] Hegel makes his most famous statements about the Revolution in the chapter “Absolute Freedom and Terror” (§§582-95) of the Phenomenology. The figure of Robespierre, the strict moralist, sits in for Kant, as Hegel anticipates Heinrich Heine’s famous identification of the two figures.[22] Absolute Freedom, the correlate of abstract individualism, is a universal principle that tolerates no particulars. When put into practice by Robespierre and the Jacobins, this pure formalism proceeded by extinguishing all heterogeneous particulars, all supposedly dissident individuals. As pure negation, absolute freedom has a deadly reaction to positive existence. The rule of a revolutionary government that is devoted to the purity of principle (contrast to Kant: the post-regicidal Terror marked precisely the absence of principle) means only one thing: death for the individual, utterly meaningless death. Hegel illustrates this conclusion in one of his better-known lines: decapitation by the guillotine is “the most cold-blooded and meaningless death of all, with no more significance than cleaving a head of cabbage or swallowing a draught of water.”[23] In this context, Hegel’s formulation of forgiveness at the end of the Phenomenology is a way to reconcile Absolute Knowing and meaningful death. It is a negation of a negation.

Throughout her book, Comay makes a series of general claims that bear on her philosophical and political intentions. Philosophically, her most salient claims are about the nature of historical experience. A great deal of effort is required of the reader to unpack statements like “experience is the experience of the impossibility of experience” (128), but suffice it to say that Comay extends her interpretation of Hegel and the traumatic experience of temporal delay—die deutsche Misere—to all human experience. “The German encounter with the French Revolution,” she writes, “is an extreme case of the structural anachronism that afflicts all historical experience. . . . [E]very epoch is a discordant mix of divergent rhythms, unequal durations, and variable speeds” (4). The foundation of human sociability is “traumatic dissonance,” and the “grinding nonsynchronicity” constitutes historical experience (5). History is a sort of gray zone—not a night in which all cows are black (the empty homogeneity of pure formalism), but the crepuscular gray on gray of absolute knowing: “The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering.”[24] Hegel “defines history as transgenerational trauma: experience is the belated and vicarious experience of the missed experience of others” (86). Do Comay’s conclusions about basic human trauma make sense in our world today, our world of 9/11 and persistent terrorist threats? At the heart of her book is empathy for Hegel. Does Hegel tell us something about life in the early twenty-first century?

A basic question that drives Hegel’s political philosophy—and to a large extent, Comay’s book itself—is this: “What are the normative grounds of human sociability in the absence of the transcendent authority of the divine?” (118). Comay agrees with Hegel that the greatest crisis of modernity is the conflict between ascendant reason and descendant faith. Authentic mourning for the lost object of faith means incorporating faith into the present and abandoning unreflective reason. Secularization must complete its work, but then a new faith must arise out of the secular world. In the most explicitly political lines of the book, Comay comments on Claude Lefort’s contention that “mourning” is fundamental to modern democracy: Hegel goes further by demonstrating that “[w]ar on terror is democracy’s way of abjecting [i.e. othering] what remains its own darkest secret to itself. Insight needs faith: modern democracy is just the unfolding of their violent symbiosis through the melancholic staging of an ungrieved loss. . . . Revolutionary purity brings into view precisely what it most denies: the emptiness at the heart of the symbolic order” (79). Counterrorism, embodied by Thermidorean regime of 1795, shows the “essential reflexivity of terror” (89). Traumatic terror is rewritten as “preemptive anxiety” (90). In this sense, we can see how counterterrorism bears within it the seeds of terror itself. As Bronislaw Baczko observed, the Thermidorean regime’s counterterrorist tactics were little different—and sometimes more intense—than those employed during the Terror.[25] And in this state of affairs, death seems to be a foregone conclusion: “[t]ransforming past into future, anxiety teaches us how to mourn in advance” (90). While Comay does not offer any solutions, her book is a useful meditation on the “continuing crisis of investiture that defines modernity” (97). The only hint at an answer to this legitimation crisis comes in Comay’s gloss on the final moment of reconciliation that concludes the Phenomenology: “[o]nly by submitting to its own disintegration through a spectacular act of self-divestment—an act that will need in turn to be purged of its own spectacularity and pathos—will Spirit declare itself to be officially, like Richard II, ‘undone’” (98).[26]

                  Religion and democracy, faith and reason, are certainly hot scholarly topics these days. Jürgen Habermas, for example, has devoted the twilight years of his life to opening dialogue between philosophers and theologians about problems in the contemporary world.[27] We might very well be living in the “post-secular age” that Hegel prophesied at the end the Phenomenology. Rebecca Comay’s contribution to current thought remains somewhat ambiguous due to the presentation of her book, but her ideas are provocative and her refashioning of Hegel as a thinker of contemporary relevance will doubtless spark a debate about the possibility of revisiting pre-Marxian thinkers in order to find new tools for critical theory. For the general purposes of accuracy, the historian delights in stripping the mystical Marxian shell from the Hegelian kernel. But perhaps we should prepare ourselves for the chance that what we recognize as Hegel has less to do with the kernel than with the microwave that makes it pop. It is unfair to Comay to conclude with such a silly metaphor, but some levity might be in order after a brooding therapy session with die deutsche Misere.

[1] Charles Taylor, Hegel (Cambridge UP, 1975), vii.

[2] Rebecca Comay, Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution (Stanford UP, 2011). All subsequent page references will appear parenthetically in the text.

[3] G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, Trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford UP, 1977), 332-4 [§547]. The crude, partisan version of reason is what Moses Mendelssohn earlier derided as “sham Enlightenment” (Afteraufklärung). Qtd. in What Is Enlightenment? Eighteenth-Century Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions, Ed. J. Schmidt (UC Press, 1996), 57n5. Hegel would critique Robespierre’s Cult of the Supreme Being as empty formalism: worship of a God without content.

[4] On the ambiguous politics of Romantics, see Frederick C. Beiser, Enlightenment, Revolution, and Romanticism: The Genesis of Modern German Political Thought, 1790-1800 (Harvard UP, 1992); on Hegel’s relationship to German Romanticism, see John E. Toews, Hegelianism: The Path Toward Dialectical Humanism, 1805-1841 (Cambridge UP, 1980), 30-67.

[5] Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 349 [§573].

[6] G. W. F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, Trans. J. Sibree (Mineola, N. Y.: Dover Publications, 1956), 447.

[7] Karl Marx, “From ‘Contributions to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction’” in The Portable Karl Marx, Ed. E. Kamenka (New York: Penguin, 1983), 115-24 (116, 118).

[8] Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 407 [§669].

[9] Karl Löwith, From Hegel to Nietzsche: The Revolution in Nineteenth-Century Thought, Trans. D. E. Green (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1964); Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory (Boston: Beacon, 1960).

[10] Karl Marx, Preface to the Second Edition, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 1, Ed. F. Engels (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 1906), 25.

[11] Marcuse, Reason and Revolution, 169.

[12] Jürgen Habermas, Theory and Practice, Trans. J. Viertel (Boston: Beacon, 1973), 121-41.

[13] Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 355-63 [§§582-95]; The Philosophy of History, 450.

[14] Joachim Ritter, Hegel and the French Revolution: Essays on the Philosophy of Right, Trans. R. D. Winfield (MIT Press, 1982).

[15] G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, Trans. S. W. Dyde (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada: Batoche, 2001), 194-8 [§§257-9].

[16] Toews, Hegelianism, 32.

[17] Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics that Will Be Able to Come Forward as Science, Trans. P. Carus & J. W. Ellington (Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett, 1977), 8-9, 7.

[18] On popular reactions to the flight of Louis XVI to Varennes and his forced return to Paris in June 1791, his official arrest in August 1792, and his trial and execution in December-January, 1792-93, see Timothy Tackett, When the King Took Flight (Harvard UP, 2003).

[19] See Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology (Princeton UP, 1997).

[20] Habermas, Theory and Practice, 123.

[21] Comay notes that Hegel misunderstands Rousseau’s distinction in Du contrat social, perhaps willfully. The general will is a transcendent source of legitimacy for political order, so long as the existing order convincingly speaks for the “nation.”

[22] “Immanuel Kant, the arch-destroyer in the realm of ideas, far surpassed Maximilian Robespierre in terrorism.” Heinrich Heine, “Concerning the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany,” Trans. H. Mustard, The Romantic School and Other Essays, Ed. J. Hermand & R. C. Holub (New York: Continuum, 1985), 128-244 (204).

[23] The translation of §590 is from http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/index.htm (accessed Dec. 21, 2010). On the provenance of the cabbage and water-gulp metaphors, see James Schmidt, “Cabbage Heads and Gulps of Water: Hegel on the Terror,” Political Theory, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Feb. 1998), 2-32.

[24] Hegel, Preface, Philosophy of Right, 20.

[25] Bronislaw Baczko, Ending the Terror: The French Revolution after Robespierre, Trans. M. Petheram (Cambridge UP, 1989).

[26] Shakespeare’s Richard II figures prominently in Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies.

[27] Jürgen Habermas, An Awareness of What is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-Secular Age, Trans. C. Cronin (Cambridge, U. K./Malden, Mass.: Polity, 2010); Between Naturalism and Religion, Trans. C. Cronin (Cambridge: Polity, 2008).