Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in the Philosophy of Right begins his section on Ethical Life with an articulation of the notion of freedom as he conceives it. This freedom, what Hegel termed ‘substantial freedom’ is different then what he termed ‘abstract freedom’ in that to Hegel, who conceives of his state and civil society as composed of a fundamentally ethical spirit, and not abstract subjectivity or atomized individuals. Hegel notes that obligation and duty are only limiting if freedom is considered solely in terms of undetermined subjective desires and goals. The strain of choosing one's ends for themselves, and directing one's own will and desire is elevated by working in consideration with the obligation and duty to the ethical society. The individual acting in indeterminate subjectivity gains no freedom as their attempt to attain the subjective end is stifled and limited by the necessity of living in a community of self-conscious subjectivities.
This abstract freedom is freedom as a concept not freedom in substantial actuality. It is arbitrary in that it places the idea beyond the contingent and communal reality and subordinate’s relationships to the concept itself. Alternatively, it may be noted a civil society built from the atomized conglomerate of subjectivities is not ethical life, but rather this is Rousseau’s particular will, where the ethical life to Hegel is a rational construction and actualization of freedom built common spirit and contingent ‘accidents’ these are expressed as moments of an independent and universalizing whole. This is of particular importance to Hegel’s discussion of ‘the rabble’ as a concept because he defines the rabble in part by its characteristically impoverished spirit, and its propensity to find its affirmation in its abstract subjectivity actualized in the form of unabashed desire, entitlement, and anger. The rabble to Hegel is not a material poverty, rather it is a characteristic of the mind that defines itself through its disjunction and alienation from civil society as a whole.
It is in this relation, of individual abstract subjectivity that is indeterminate, and actualized only through immediate action and possession, that the corporation finds much of its utility, not only as a solvent for tensions between alien subjectivity and the police and estate, but rather, in that individual sublimation to the authoritative universal is the imperative of the corporate body.
To Hegel when the individual is extracted necessarily from the family and into Civil Life, it is in terms of the individual as unconscious subjectivity, these individual subjectivities then find themselves divorced from the whole, of which they unconsciously participate both through the means of exchange and acquisition of necessity and participation in the universal right actualized by administration of justice. However, when the individual finds themselves abstracted, they are placed into a relationship with the whole that leaves them as conscious and unconscious participants of the Civil Society’s mechanisms of exchange, the police, and mechanisms of jurisprudence, it is the contention then that if the individual is not substantially united in universal relation to these three bodies the individual cannot perceive the freedom in the existence of these bodies in and for themselves, but rather treats them solely as abstract concepts, the individual can only conceive of these structures as actualized arbitrary restrictions both destructive, obstructive, and tyrannical in character.
The corporation, to Hegel, is any association of persons recognized by, but not part of the state itself. In this broad definition, one could insert community leagues, churches, schools, businesses, and labour associations and trade unions. Likewise, it is important to note that to Hegel the corporation exists primarily in the formal estate, whereby it serves to assimilate its members and generate a sentiment of unity with the universal through mediation between subjectivities and common aspiration. In turn, it must also be noted that the corporation is an instance or moment in substantial reality, it is not a label like its counterparts’ class and estate.
The corporation acts as a second family to its members after they are abstracted and made into particular subjectivities after being inexorably removed from the substantial unity of the family. It is due to this extracted, that the corporation inherits certain duties and privileges from the pre-political family. The corporation may admit members, vet them, and train them, as well as furnish them in the capacity necessary to function within the corporate body. The corporate association serves as the place for the fulfilment of the potential of its members. In this sense the individual can move beyond his particular estate and into new and related elements of the same trade; for example, moving from labourer to engineer over time and actualizing the potentiality to the subjectivity in relation to the common goal of the corporation. Furthermore, this is advantageous in that it provides the justification for such movement through and on behalf of the corporate system because the individual interest is sublimated into the universal interest of their corporation. In this way, people do not associate in a corporation only for particular and immediate advancement or acquisition, but rather for actualization in the sense of subjective potentiality.
Once the scope of the corporation has been outlined it is necessary to proceed to situate it within the means of exchange, which is likewise where the formal or reflective estate finds its primary function: in trade and the means of acquisition through work. The Formal estate then works to fulfill the needs of others through exchanging or creating from the natural abundance cultivated by the substantial estate; it sells primarily to own estate and the universal estate. It is reflective because it reflects on the needs of others and its art in subordination of the interest of the immediate moment of exchange; in addition, the reflective estate functions based upon a critical relationship between the individual, estate, and right in protecting its conditions and interests.
This is the estate most deeply vested in the exchange of civil society, whereby as Hegel argues ‘In civil society, each individual is his own end, and all else means nothing to him.’ However, in this relation the individual through his abstract and arbitrary will, still exists in service to the universal. All safety and well-being are conditioned upon the well-being and condition of others through the mutually beneficial exchange of necessary goods, and in civil society each is their own ends, but each takes on the shape of universality when expressed through cooperative and competitive relation. Each particular end being legitimized through its unintended benefit to others within the civil society.
This is not, however, the sole relation between individuals and the exchange of civil society, the process whereby, civil society generates a rabble begins early in that civil society constantly grows both commodity and technology ensuring growing specialization and increasing alienation behalf of those who work as industrial labour; this is the endless multiplicity of human desires and needs, something Hegel notes as a uniquely human phenomenon. Furthermore, an unrestricted civil society will seek to expand its population and commodity without regard to the welfare of the whole or contingency of those who cannot actualize their acquisition of necessity. As civil society expands and industry multiplies and specializes the estates become more dependent on a singular means to acquire their necessity. For example, if one were to specialize in automobile-manufacturing only to find the plants are being filled with machines at the expense of workers then it is not the fault of the individual that they find themselves placed, due to unforeseen contingency, or what may be referred to as externality, into a position of suffering. This movement is of ultimate benefit to the universal and the corporation, otherwise, it would not be made, but in this sense, the well-being of universal is at the expense of the subjectivity and their contingent well-being. This is the danger of growing industry and technology in civil society; dependence upon specialization, in turn, limits my freedom and narrows the opportunities to both find honour and value and generates a sense of apathy and listlessness. This occurs because not only does an estate find itself wronged at the expense of the universal, but it finds no simple means to re-engage with the productive system through the actualization of its theoretical capacity to move to, and engage in new work. In the system of industrial specialization, the estate is heavily invested in its means of work and cannot easily take advantage of any of the new opportunities that will permit them to re-engage with the universal or common interest through their own particular interest.
The question then becomes how does the corporation serve to reconcile the individual to the tendencies of the system of modern exchange and manufacture, to make the individual obsolete, and secondly, how does the corporation provide the means to limit the physical and moral poverty of the individual subjectivity abstracted from work.
The corporation firstly, serves to provide new opportunity within it by assistance in the vetting and training of its members and working on behalf of the common, yet particular to it, interest, in this way it has a vested interest in making the potentiality of its membership concrete, and does so through its capacity to train and direct resources towards its shared end. In this way, it's conceivable that the corporation can limit the hardship and suffering imposed on those who experience irrelevancy due to externality imposed by the refinement of the industrial process, and alternatively direct them consciously towards new ends within the corporate interest of, which the corporation is best suited to facilitate. Secondly, as a surrogate family, the corporation like the police has a certain, and imperfect obligation limit the physical hardship of its members. In this fashion, the universal embodied in the corporation consciously integrates the abstract subjectivity within itself and reconciles this individual to the means of exchange in such a way, that their distress does not become isolation; nor does this distress become, as is the case of the rabble the initiation of a sentiment whereby in individual no longer conceives of themselves as actualized in itself within the universal, but rather finds themselves in subjective opposition for themselves. This tension is limited by the investment of the corporation in its own membership.
The relation between the individual, the transition to the rabble, and the unification with the individual within the civil society, is itself, captured in part, by the relationship between the abstract subjectivity and the court of law. The court in Hegel’s civil society is the expression of universal right, not abstract subjectivity as right in itself, the court reconciles the right and duties to one another. The protection of the law of civil society is reconciled with the duty to uphold within the universal. ‘the law, which restores and thereby actualizes itself as valid through the cancellation of the crime.’ In the court, the law intended to protect the individual, and for his benefit is consciously applied to him as a subjective abstract consciousness on behalf of the universal both legitimizing itself turning subjectivity for itself in relation to the whole once again. However, this relation is not necessarily one that will prevent the individual subjectivity from finding itself estranged and abstracted from the system by, which it should be consciously rectified with the universal reason as expressed through law.
Hegel conceived of the law being effective in two particular ways: firstly, he noted that the law had to be constructed upon a rational and intelligible foundation, not one obscure or inarticulate, and such laws had to be promulgated in such a fashion as to be universally intelligible by those who are governed by it; secondly, the law court itself, ought to be representative through a jury, whereby the individual is not abstracted from the universal or impinged upon by an outside estate for this would lead to dissolution between the individual and the court of law. All in Civil Society have the right to stand in court and recognize its authority in disputation. Meanwhile, the court is protection on abstract freedom and partial universalization because to receive its protection one must be in self-conscious relation with the law and capable of understanding it. In this way, the court is an actualization of the abstract freedom of civil society coming into universalization.
The court itself, however, is necessarily limited in its capacity to render judgment accurately, this is solely a human factor and an expression of the limitation of both judge and jury in interpreting the crime itself based upon evidence provided before it; this is because the judge and jury must interpret not only what happened, or the positive evidence, but must likewise interpret the intention of parties partial to the dispute. When the judgment is rendered, and the outcome is not in the fashion perceived as legitimate by the litigators or the charged then this may become an instance of disunity between the subjective particularity and the whole.
Some rectification of the individual with the substantial whole actualized in right as interpreted and applied via the court can potentially originate in the court. The jury, as Hegel conceives it should ideally come from one of the estates similar in its identification with the abstract subjectivity put before it. In this case, the corporation has already facilitated the relationship of the individual, who it seems can be a member of multiple corporations, with the universal and provides numerous bodies in concept, from which the court can derive its jurors. This creates a substantial relationship between the subjectivity and those who assess the evidence presented in the case, those jurors who have their origin in similar or related corporations and estates, and interpret the intention and consciousness of similar common interest, in this way the corporation can serve to facilitate the relationship to an otherwise abstract institution in civil society. In addition, the advantage of the corporation is that the individual when called before the court, and yet recovering an inadequate verdict upon an assessment of the subjective moment of action, and the empirical evidence under consideration, need not feel complete estrangement. The identification between the court as the abstract universal in civil society is not the only universals or common with which the individual identifies and therefore not the only relationship, which the subjectivity shares with the whole. Implicit in this is a web of identifications whereby the individual is not completely divorced from civil society when judgment is impaired or rendered inadequately due to the contingencies of human reason.
Yet to be considered is the corporations’ relation with the Police, as Hegel terms them, the police being the collection of authorities and structures, whose duty it is to assess and provide for the public welfare. An instance of the police is the departments responsible for things like public works, hospitals, business and licence regulations, and assistance programs for the very poor. The very broad definition of the police shows that they are in fact invested in the abstract subjective interests of all subjectivities within the sphere of civil society. This is a tendency Hegel recognized but found difficult to restrict. Hegel recognized that the civil society and its components cannot properly understand every instance of civil relations between people. Therefore, all assessments of harm or externality are necessarily circumstantial and not absolute. We cannot have right in the absolute for it may always come at the expense of others particularity in its actualization. However, to Hegel, it was likewise important to note that for example, in times of war certain things that were harmless for example free expression or buying as much food as you please become harmful due to contingencies of the moment of actualization. Because judgment and the universal actualization is always contingent the police can seem predatory or malevolent to those affected by the restrictions placed on the interventions into their abstract subjectivity and goals.
For Hegel, the police have the obligation to supervise the interconnected exchanges of the universal as all transactions are done in itself on behalf of the universal whole through the subjectivity of the individual and therefore cannot be totally abstracted from the universal welfare. Or as he states ‘[F]reedom of trade should not be such as to prejudice the general good.’
To Hegel, however, there were two arguments for the intervention of the police in the civil society: firstly, the marketing of goods is implicitly to the public, not the individual; therefore, the public authority is justified in preventing the corruption of the public welfare and utility through manipulative transaction, in this case, the purview of the police is generally, limited to necessity; secondly, to prevent disruption due to the diversity of natural contingency acting upon the products or inputs of industry. For example, the police have a duty to regulate the substantial and formal estates in their utilization of common resources due to the inability to perceive long term and collective damage caused to natural resources; a potential instance being the need to regulate forestry because deforestation would have a negative impact on the public good. For Hegel, the police are advantageous to the civil society in that they exist to mediate between individual interest and the universal by providing the potential framework for the actualization (freedom) of the abstract subjectivity or the sphere of right in its functional form. In these examples then it is evident that Hegel did not perceive political economy in the civil society, as necessarily having a positive outcome, or one free of harm, to Hegel there is no certainty that the laisse-faire system will necessarily find an equitable equilibrium in all cases.
However, the police are not alienating solely in their regulatory capacity, but also have potential to create disunity between the individual and universal in their obligation to provide for the subsistence of the civil society, this is part of the obligation of the police to provide the framework by which abstract subjectivity can come into its potentiality, but it is not a perfect apparatus, and this is to a large degree the impetus to colonization. Rather, the police will necessarily fail to some degree in this capacity, and individuals will not be able, due to contingency and lack of resources, to acquire the necessities of life and personal well-being. Hegel permits some degree of alms giving to rectify this, however, it is clear that he does not see alms as the best way to provide for the necessity of impoverished individuals in civil society because it necessarily creates a dependent relationship.
In the case of the police, it is obvious that the corporation, in their particular common interest, may prejudice the general good, and then the corporation will necessarily on occasion find itself incompatible with the police, but this is different than the police coming into conflict with abstract subjectivity itself. Alternatively, the corporation can remediate the tensions between the individual subject and the police through its own obligations and assistance one example facilitating the exercise of trade apart from is particular prior means to a new means of work within the common interest of the corporation. Hegel gives a description of the worker who works outside the corporation, and this is the individual who is least likely to achieve conscious unity between himself and the universal as embodied by the police.
To Hegel, those working outside the corporation are an unstable instance of their trade not fully invested in its totality and advancement, but rather acting only in themselves for the fulfilment of abstract subjectivity. To the individual outside the corporation, the purpose of the trade does not become advance and acquisition in the name of common interest, but rather, the accumulation of commodities for its own sake. Alternatively, in a corporate association, one who earns excessive wealth does so in relation to a conscious acquisition in and for itself on behalf of the association and in that sense, is not avaricious, but rather exhibiting the excellence of his association. Nevertheless, those without recognition in an association seek recognition by other means, for instance, ostentatious displays, which are themselves alienating to others; however, this is not the only problem, instead these outside individuals who cultivate wealth for recognition are themselves most likely to feel prejudiced by the police in that their well being a recognition is conditional on the commodity they attain. In this way, anything extracted or regulated by the police on behalf of the universal is not interpreted as an immediate moment of unification with the common interest, but rather, a personal imposition on the consciousness of the self and is recognition of itself for itself. This imposition then becomes alienating to the independent worker. Therefore, it is necessary, that the individual unite themselves to corporations, and in so doing transform their relation to the commodities they acquire. In this way, the slight, or the regulation and extraction by the police, is to the common interest of the corporation, and not a personal and alienating slight, that leads to the decline of the subjective consciousness of that which is characteristic of the rabble.
Furthermore, in the corporation the obligation to provide for the membership a place to exercise their work in lieu of the family is also an effective supplement to the necessarily inadequate provisions of the police. In that, the police can only ever ameliorate natural hardship in the form of universal aspects of material poverty. However, the individual who’s well-being is contingent upon actualization of natural faculties, or as Hegel notes the individual’s capacity to concretize their potentiality through the will is necessarily subject to natural contingency and vicissitudes of the individual subjectivities, proclivities, and capacities; these are evident both as subjective existence and in themselves by nature produce inequities, and though seeming irrational and arbitrary and subject to necessary inequalities can find a context for his own actualization of potentiality, once more in the corporation; this is due to the fact that the corporation provides the assistance, education, and framework, in a more precise and immediate fashion than the police are capable and therefore provides further inoculation against the tendency to lapse into subjective estrangement from the universal in itself as civil society.
In the section of the philosophy of Right on the rabble Hegel makes an inauspicious pronunciation ‘despite an excess of wealth, civil society is not wealthy enough . . . to prevent an excess of poverty and the formation of a rabble.’ This crippling tendency must in some way be rectified, and as the civil society gives birth to the rabble consciousness it is, in turn, the civil society which furnishes in part the solution to the tension present in industrial manufacture, resource exchange, actualized governance (through the police and the court), and the individual. Hegel saw freedom in the ethical life part as composed of being (the individual) as the in and for itself as its objective. This sense the individual is sublated to move beyond its in itself, in favour of its expression and mediation through the whole on its own terms. However, the rabble is an expression of alienated abstract subjectivity, which necessarily arises out of tensions involved in the unification of the particular subjective consciousness to the whole. The failure of the civil society to provision the individual adequately is the initiator of the rabble consciousness but does not characterise it in totality, rather the habits of mind common the rabble are the result of alienation from the mediating structures of civil society. Hegel’s inability to furnish an absolutely effective means for the amelioration of this alienation leaves the corporation as an effective, though partial response, to this condition. The corporation aids the in the prevention of the rabble in that in furtherance of the police, and the court, provides the conditions of the abstract subjectivity to actualize itself within the civil society, and in generating an alternative to the family. It does this by providing common interest on behalf of the unmediated subject while providing additional barriers to its destitution in material and spiritual poverty.
 Georg F. W. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, trans. H. B. Nisbet, ed. Allen H. Wood (Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 192, 220.
 Hegel, Philosophy of Right, 192.
 Ibid., 192-193.
 Ibid., 197.
 Ibid., 266.
 Ibid., 266.
 Ibid., 263, 265.
 Ibid., 454.
 Ibid., 270.
 Ibid., 270.
 Ibid., 452.
 Ibid., 271-272.
 Ibid., 270-271.
 Ibid., 271.
 Ibid., 236.
 Ibid., 237.
 Ibid., 220.
 Ibid., 229.
 Ibid., 266.
 Ibid., 266.
 Ibid., 266.
 Ibid., 271.
 Ibid., 226, 271.
 Ibid., 252-253.
 Ibid., 252.
 Ibid., 252-253.
 Ibid., 257-258.
 Ibid., 253.
 Ibid., 255-256.
 Ibid., 257-259.
 Ibid., 260, 450.
 Ibid., 262, 450.
 Ibid., 261.
 Ibid., 261.
 Ibid., 261.
 Ibid., 261.
 Ibid., 261-263.
 Ibid., 263.
 Ibid., 262.
 Ibid., 262.
 Ibid., 265-266, 267-268.
 Ibid., 265, 452.
 Ibid., 272.
 Ibid., 273.
 Ibid., 273.
 Ibid., 453.
 Ibid., 265.
 Ibid., 227-228.
 Ibid., 267.
 Ibid., 190.
 Ibid., 266, 453.