Within the context of my present topic, it then only needs to be said, that I assume that State, wealth and the individual seeking self-enjoyment do not form a perfect dialectical figure that speculative logic can resolve into a higher unity. Reality is exceeding the logic with which it is described. Its excess does not fully escape description and logic, especially dialectics, is necessary to understand it. But that in itself does not amount to a negation of the negation in which the opposites are rendered purely illusory with respect to another reality -in a process that ultimately resolves itself into the concept of absolute Spirit. In short, the opposition Hegel analyzes may remain real and unresolved, producing the desire for resolution into a higher unity, even rhetorically being grounded on the notion of their higher unity, but without – metaphysically – being just the immediate form of that unity as the “higher” reality. The opposition and moral distinction between the State and wealth, the individual’s duality in clinging to both without resolving their opposition, might just be the real reality as it is.
Having said too much already by way of introduction – and at the same time too little – it is time to turn to some basic notions. Within his Phenomenology of Spirit Hegel has analysed a form of consciousness – by which he means a specific approach to the world, a way of understanding oneself and the world beyond – that is aware both of this role of the state and the notion of wealth.
With the understanding that our natural lives are not sustained by the direct use of natural means but imply an organized society with distribution of labour, a market, a system of mutually fulfilling basic needs, comes the understanding that the system that controls and directs all of this, the State, must be necessary for survival itself. We know that our survival depends on being citizens within a State. Our reality in a way is a suspension of the merely natural. In paradoxical fashion we can say, that our natural life now depends on a social reality that goes beyond the natural. What we need to eat and drink is not given in its raw state, but is available only as “consumer product”, in its very being characterized by a complex system of activities and exchanges that requires a social organization.
Though the State can therefore be understood as good thing, in our immediate experience, in our consciousness as individual freedom, the same State and all of its structures is experienced as its very opposite. In taxation and regulation we encounter the state as a limiting power that robs us from our individuality by treating us as citizens, i.e. as equal in an abstract sense. It prevents us from acting on our own self-interests, it requires us to accept a specific position within the activities of and labour of all people, i.e. in particular to participate in production, market and consumption according to rules we have not freely accepted. Paradoxically, my individuality as a citizen is something of a general nature. Though I am a single citizen, my being as such is equal to that of any other citizen. The State, that makes my individual existence possible, robs me of that same individuality, when I look at it from the perspective of my self-consciousness. I am “just” a citizen, “a” consumer, “a” resident, voter, member of the public etc. My individuality, to use a category introduced by Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Zizek, is not real, but symbolic. The Power that is the State, being itself a power of the universal, defines me as an individual, which at the same time denies my ability to define and express myself. That is paradoxical precisely because we assume that individuality must be, somehow, self-defining.