It has taken a while to get some research together about this topic... and while I have seen the Hegelian Dialectic mentioned in passing a number of times (for example, here, here and more recently here,) haven't found a direct discussion on it anywhere. If I have missed anything, please redirect it as needed. (Boy is Cluesforum big, it has enough material to publish an encyclopedia!)
I know that to start with this may sometimes deviate a bit more into philosophy than is usual, but I'll do my best to keep it directly tied in to real world events as much as possible.
Hegel's Thought and Ideas
First off, one should ask: who was Hegel and what was the basic concept he was trying to get across? A survey of philosophy shows that he came on the scene during the culmination of German Idealism, and tackled logic itself as a subject. He found that the very structure of logic was something that had become largely mathematical, having its ground in the philosophy of the Greeks (mainly Aristotle and his Laws of Logic). This involved the method of thinking that uses the principle of contradiction: either something IS or it IS NOT, there is no in-between. This requirement was felt as too restrictive by Hegel, not simply because of its natural boundaries, but also because it failed to encompass transformations, particularly living organisms.
In comparison, Hegel identified the boundaries and defined the famous dialectic:Hegel, in [i]Preface to the Phenomenology of the Spirit[/i], 1807 wrote:The bud disappears when the blossom breaks through, and we might say that the former is refuted by the latter; in the same way when the fruit comes, the blossom may be explained to be a false form of the plant’s existence, for the fruit appears as its true nature in place of the blossom. The ceaseless activity of their own inherent nature makes these stages moments of an organic unity, where they not merely do not contradict one another, but where one is as necessary as the other; and constitutes thereby the life of the whole.
Seeing no way to tackle the organic process using static concepts, which can only conclude that BUD is not FRUIT, he added on to the logical process by including not only IS and IS NOT, but also BECOMES: BUD becomes FRUIT. The very process of reasoning was extended, and he tried to find the thought that lies behind the opposites. Since the time of the Greeks until the modern time of the Lawyer, logic dictated that there have to be two categories, and social life adapted to it by arguing the two sides to everything. Hegel tried to tackle it at the level of thought itself, so that people can 'grow up':Hegel, in [i]The Science of Logic[/i], 1812 wrote:Philosophy, if it would be a science, cannot borrow its method from a subordinate science like mathematics.
Dialectic is here understood in the grasping of opposites in their unity or of the positive in the negative.
This is similar to the legend of navigating between Scylla and Charybdis by Odysseus. So what he was saying was to first see the origin of logic (in IS and IS NOT) understand the existing process (dialectics) and now consciously apply the idea to get at the truth of the matter instead of its rigid opposites. In this he pushed beyond most of the attempts of previous philosophers and mathematicians, who implicitly assumed the applicability of the usual laws of logic to all questions. His approach leads to a Science of Becoming, that is particularly relevant to living beings, and especially to man and his social forms. Viewing history in the same way that one views a plant in development, Hegel connected the successive transformations as further development of the Ideas, calling history the 'clothes' of the ideas.Hegel, in [i]The Short Logic[/i], 1830 wrote:It is the fashion of youth to dash about in abstractions – but the man who has learnt to know life steers clear of the abstract ‘either‑or’, and keeps to the concrete.
And just as the "plant" is the concept that unifies seed, sapling, bud, blossom and fruit, for human society Hegel identified the State. And there, as the saying goes, lies the rub.
Hegel's giant mistake
Although there may be several mistakes, this was probably the biggest. After going so far as showing that an entirely new thought process is required, in the actual application of his understanding, Hegel seized upon the Nation-State:
In this he ignored the good advice of his own fellow countryman, Wilhelm von Humboldt:Hegel, in [i]Philosophy of Right[/i], 1821 wrote: The nation state is Mind in its substantive rationality and immediate actuality — the absolute power on earth.
The state is the actuality of the ethical Idea.
The march of God in the world, that is what the state is.
The state is the actuality of concrete freedom.
National communities and cultures have to do with individual choices and identifications, and especially coercion-free cultural development that pursues morals is more central to human development. Additionally, culture by its very nature has global access, any one can pick up cultural elements like language and music of any other culture. However, possibly there was a lot of confusion between the two concepts nation and state, so Hegel failed to distinguish between them and made the State almost holy. This meant he left the door open to the violence of the State military apparatus:Wilhelm von Humboldt, in [i]Limits of State Action[/i], 1792 wrote: The state constitution and the national community, however closely they may be interwoven with each other, should not be confounded together.
That was the Achilles' Heel, and the corruption wasn't far behind.Hegel, in [i]The Philosophy of Spirit[/i], 1830 wrote:Although the state may originate in violence, it does not rest on it; violence, in producing the state, has bought into existence only what is justified in and for itself, namely, laws and a constitution.