Leveling Negativity: On Received Views of Spinozist and Hegelian Theories of Institutions

Olivier Surel

For anyone who wants to explore the tension that persists between the two major figures of political thought that are Spinoza and Hegel, there is an easy albeit misleading way: characterizing the former’s philosophy as one of affirmation, and the latter’s, as one of negativity. In my presentation, I will first attempt to characterize such a gesture as the inflation of the content of historical conceptual schemes to “tropes” defining sets of contemporary political attitudes. In a second moment, I will isolate the latter gesture in the framework of contemporary social ontology, in order to give hints at a fine deployment of the theories of institutions emanating respectively from the Political Treatise and the “Ethicity” chapter of the Philosophy of Right.