Instituting Love: Tolstoy and Hegel

  • Anna Katsman New School for Social Research
Keywords: Hegel, Tolstoy, Freedom, Love, Family


In this essay, I argue that Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina offers the experiential backdrop to Hegel’s account of the modern, bourgeois family as an achievement of freedom. Through a reading of the novel, I show how the three criteria that Hegel lays out in the Philosophy of Right for the family to be a sphere of freedom—love-based marriage, treating children as individuals in their own right, and the sharing of property between the couple—are determinate negations of previously limited forms of family life. Following the expanded framework for thinking about love offered in Paul Kottman’s Love as Human Freedom, I show how Tolstoy’s novel reveals a further condition for determining what a love-based marriage requires, which is unbinding female sexuality from the demands of sexual reproduction.