I supsect that the real reason for Hegel's popularity is that his style allows intellectuals to read between the lines. When one gets to read between the lines, one can inject one's own random musings into the mix at will.
I've read several books by academicians about Hegel. Most of the interpretations I've read gave radically different views of what the highly influential philosopher was saying. As life is short, I gave up on Hegel, hoping that the rest of the world would have given up on the Hegelian/Marxist direction as a dead end.
I should preface that. I gave up on Hegel before American overwhelmingly elected a Hegelian style change agent into the Whitehouse.
As the Obama Administration has revived in full the Hegelian/Marxist approach to politics, I fear we might have to go back to reading Hegel and Marx to figure out how to get out the mess that the Democrats are making of our country.
Rather than reading source texts. I decided to take a short cut and start by rereading Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2: Hegel and Marx. As the title suggest, Popper dislikes Hegel ... even more than me.
The reason for this post is the following quote:
[...] it seems improbably that Hegel would ever have become the most influential figure in German philosophy without the authority of the Prussian state behind him. As it happened, he became the first official philosopher of Prussianism [...] Later the state also backed his pupils (Germany had [...] only state-controlled Universities)
The Prussian state was a reactionary state that was looking for a way to restore the monarchy and to stop all of the talk of Constitutions and liberty that came from the American and French revolutions.
In order to counter the new philosophies, Prussia elevated Hegel to the position of official state philosopher. Hegel then stitched together pieces from the Western philosophic tradition to create a new dialectical philosophy in which the state was the highest entity.
Since the schools of the restored Prussia were under state control, Hegel created a political structure of community activists that infiltrated and controlled the education system.
In other words, it is likely that, from the start, Hegel's philosophy was nothing more than sound that came from his mouth while politicos did the important work of capturing and controlling the schools.
The political structure is likely the real source of Hegel's influence and not his works. The structure had the state supporting of an official philosophy and a political structure in the schools that advanced the philosophy. The primary aim of the philosophy was the preservation and stregthening of the state.
The Hegelian ideas came to the United States and became the bedrock of the American public school system through John Dewey.
While Hegel's philosophy is mushy sentimentalism, the marketing of the philosophy has, from its inception, been a cold hard targetted system of organizing activists and infiltrating schools with the goal of strengthening the state.
Paulo Freire, Bill Ayres, Ailinsky and others have added very little to the debate, they are simply executing a political formula that was in the works centuries ago.
The sad story is that the foolish conservatives have been so enthralled with the idea of centralizing power that Hegelianism has gone unchecked and is simply back to do more harm. I wish there were a way to challenge the ideas of Hegel and Marx. How to you challenge dialectical mush other than pointing out that it's pretentious mush and that it is in the classical liberal tradition (not the Hegelian inspired modern-liberalism) that people can find both the love of ideas and freedom.