Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Sebastian Rand

Second Advisor

Peter Lindsay

Third Advisor

Calvin Thomas


This thesis examines Hegel’s critique of abstract labor in the Philosophy of Right and the sections on objective spirit in the Encyclopaedia. Against both Frederick Neuhouser’s and Marxist interpretations, I argue that abstract labor, for Hegel, characterizes the specific kind of mechanical labor undertaken in the nineteenth-century factory. Such repetitive labor, Hegel claims, leads to the deadening (Abstumpfung) of the worker through the deforming of her ethical subjectivity, a social pathology he hopes will be resolved by machine automation. By developing two key aspects of Hegel’s social theory—that labor produces ethical subjectivity or education (Bildung) and that this education is the central locus of civil society’s ethicality—I argue that we ought to understand Hegel’s hope for machine automation as a critique of those forms of labor which prevent the worker’s rational participation in the totality of the labor process and thus fail to actualize her social freedom.