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By Gary Browning, Andrew Kilmister (auth.)

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Their condition is seen to be all the more disturbing because they are enmeshed within a system of extreme inequality, in which destitution is juxtaposed to immense wealth and consumption of luxury products. Hegel’s analysis of the reciprocal determination of poverty and luxury in the modern world invokes a notion of infinity with which he operates throughout his career (Hegel 1967, p. 150). Hegel sees the pursuit of more and more refined needs and the reciprocal inexorable increase of dependence and want as endlessly infinite, bearing the character of what his Logic terms a bad infinite of the ‘determinate void’, that posits infinity as what lays beyond the finite (Hegel 1969, p.

Hegel imagines the absolute ethical life of a people (Volk) to provide the encompassing structure of freedom, allowing individuals to act freely and to develop their particular skills in the economic sphere. Absolute ethical life is maintained in a political association, containing subordinated economic forms that are developed and modified. The absolute ethical life of a people achieves a marked advance in the freedom of its peoples. It is inclusive and independent in its establishment of norms and practices expressive of human freedom.

Firstly, the concept of critical political economy employed here does not require ignoring salient differences between writers standing in this tradition. Clearly, Marx does differ from Hegel in important respects. In particular, his engagement with the detail of classical economic thought was much closer and more sustained than that of Hegel. Further, while for Hegel the state is put forward as an institution which can, at least in part, resolve the contradictions generated within the arena of civil society, in which economic conflicts become manifest, this is not the case for Marx.

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