Spirit and Social Death: Hegel, Historical Life and Genocide

Tom Bunyard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay proposes that the interpretations of Hegelian philosophy advanced by Gillian Rose and Robert Pippin may be relevant to the theorisation of genocide. This argument is presented via a discussion of Claudia Card’s contention that genocide can be understood as a form of ‘social death’. According to Card, genocide damages or eradicates what she calls ‘social vitality’: inter-generational social relations that animate, articulate and characterise social groups, and which give meaning and context to individual lives. The essay points out limitations in Card’s claims and proposes that Pippin and Rose could help to respond to those problems. It argues that Pippin’s reading can develop Card’s ideas regarding the collective ‘life’ of groups, and that Rose’s interpretation can remedy difficulties posed by Card’s conception of evil. The essay suggests that, when taken together, this combination of ideas may point towards a means of thinking about Hegel that serves to foreground the pertinence of past disasters to any critical assessment of the present.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-427
Number of pages18
JournalEthics and Social Welfare
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am very grateful to Robb Dunphy, Eugene Michail and the two anonymous reviewers of this essay for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Claudia Card
  • Robert Pippin
  • Holocaust
  • Hegel
  • modernity
  • Gillian Rose
  • social death
  • Genocide


Dive into the research topics of 'Spirit and Social Death: Hegel, Historical Life and Genocide'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this