Young Hegelians

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The Young Hegelians or Left Hegelians were a group of German intellectuals in the mid-19th century. The most important representatives were directly or indirectly pupils of the philosopher Hegel .


The Young Hegelians were a loosely organized group. It includes Strauss , Feuerbach , Bruno Bauer , Edgar Bauer , Echtermeyer , Ruge , Hess and Köppen , among others . But Rutenberg , Ludwig Buhl , Meyen , Nauwerck , Gustav Julius , Prutz and Stirner as well as Marx and Engels were close to this for a while. In October 1844 Stirner published The One and His Own , in which he criticized and mocked the theoretical heads of the group, Feuerbach and Bruno Bauer, as inconsistent (“Our atheists are pious people.”). Then Marx and Engels wrote a “settlement”, first with Bruno Bauer and his followers ( Die Heilige Familie , March 1845), then also with Feuerbach and Stirner ( Die deutsche Ideologie , 1845/46, unpublished at the time) and developed the ideas in the process of historical materialism , which continued to his later critique of political economy .

Around this core group, which consisted in part of exiled university scholars (Bruno Bauer, Feuerbach), there was an even larger group of people who spread the Young Hegelian ideas through personal contacts or through journalism . These included Herwegh and Bakunin . Young Hegelianism also influenced some younger intellectuals in its day, such as Ferdinand Lassalle .


The group was formed in the second half of the 1830s as one of the many discussion groups that arose as a reaction to the repressive intellectual and political conditions prevailing in Prussia at that time . The term young Hegelians was first used by DF Strauss for those from the Hegelian school who took sides in the controversy surrounding his critical-theological book Leben Jesu , published in 1835 , while he called the other side old Hegelians . The center was in Berlin with the so-called Doktorklub as a joint debating circle (until 1839). There were offshoots in Halle , Cologne and Königsberg . The most important publication medium was the Halleschen Jahrbuch für deutsche Wissenschaft und Kunst, founded by Ruge in 1838 ( German yearbooks from 1841 , which were banned in 1843). Initially tolerated under the liberal Prussian minister of education von Altenstein , the Young Hegelians were excluded from an academic career after his death in 1840 and under the reign of the conservative King Friedrich Wilhelm IV , which began in the same year . The group reached the peak of their activity between 1840 and 1843. During this time, the positions radicalized and politicized. After that it quickly disintegrated due to increasing internal theoretical differences (see above: Stirner's criticism, Marx's reaction) and in 1845 it was practically non-existent.

Philosophy, theory

The Young Hegelians took over dialectics from Hegel , understood as a principle of historical development and a method of criticizing the existing against the standard of reason. But they turned against the conservatism inherent in Hegel's system , according to which everything that exists is declared to be necessary and is fundamentally reasonable. With dialectical thinking they combined the goal of overcoming the political and social conditions in Prussia and in Germany in general. The radical criticism of religion formulated in their writings ultimately boiled down to atheism . The radical social criticism led to the demand for the abolition or death of the state.

The main point of Marx's criticism was that the Young Hegelians narrowed their criticism to criticism of religion, fighting ideas only with other ideas, but did not let them become practical-political. In contrast, Marx and Engels demanded starting from the practical life of people and from the real conditions that are determined by how people reproduce their material life. In comparison to the others, who were still dependent on the Hegelian system, Feuerbach was indeed a materialist, but he only knew sensual perception, not real practical action.


  • Schelling's philosophy of revelation and the religious philosophy of Hegel and the Young Hegelians, which he opposed. Three letters. Julius Springer, Berlin 1843. MDZ Reader
  • Hans Steussloff: The Young Hegelians. David Friedrich Strauss, Bruno Bauer, Arnold Ruge. Selected texts. German Science Publishers, Berlin 1963.
  • David McLellan: The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1974, ISBN 3-423-04077-7 ( The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx. London / Melbourne / Toronto 1969)
  • Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner : August Graf von Cieszkowski . A Polish social conservative, young Hegelian and future thinker. Verlag Deutsche-Europa Studien, Hamburg 1983.
  • Heinz, Ingrid Pepperle (Ed.): The Hegelian Left. Documents on philosophy and politics in the German Vormärz. Reclam, Leipzig 1986. (Röderberg, Frankfurt am Main 1986, ISBN 3-87682-337-4 )
  • Wolfgang Essbach: The Young Hegelians. Sociology of a group of intellectuals. Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-7705-2434-9 . MDZ reader
  • Lars Lambrecht : Center or periphery as a methodological problem in Marx research. Using the example of the development of political theory among the Young Hegelians. In: Marx-Engels research today 1. "Capital" interpretations - Vormärz research - formation theory. VVG, Neuss 1989, pp. 65-124.
  • Edda Magdanz: On the influence of the social question on the theoretical-political deliberations of the Berlin group of Young Hegelians, the so-called Free, in the context of the process of dissolution of the Young Hegelian movement around 1842/43 . In: Think alternatives. Critical emancipatory social theories as a reflex on the social question in bourgeois society. Published by the Central Institute for Philosophy. Central Institute for Philosophy, Berlin 1991, pp. 36–39. (Colloquium on the topic: Alternative Thinking, October 4th and 5th, 1991, Berlin).
  • Warren Breckman: Marx, the Young Hegelians and the Origins of Radical Social Theory. Dethroning the Self. Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • Warren Breckman: The Dethroning of the Self. Marx, the Young Hegelians and the dispute over the concept of personality. In: Dialektik: Encyclopedic Journal for Philosophy of Culture. 1, 2002, pp. 5-30.
  • Warren Breckman: The German Radicals and the Problem of National Character 1830–1848. In: Marx-Engels yearbook. 2009, pp. 176-207.
  • Martin Hundt : Keyword “Linkshegelianismus”, in: Historisch -kritisches Wörterbuch des Marxismus , Volume 8 / II, Column 1169–1179, Argument-Verlag, Hamburg 2015.
  • Helmut Reinalter (Ed.): The Young Hegelians. Enlightenment, literature, criticism of religion and political thinking. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-631-60385-7 .
  • Josef Rattner, Gerhard Danzer: The Young Hegelians. Portrait of a progressive intellectual group. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2005. Preview of digitized version

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Wiktionary: Young Hegelians  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations