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The Concept of Master-Slave Dialectic


The concept of the Master-Slave Dialectic is mentioned in Hegel's book Phenomenology of Spirit under the section "Lordship and Bondage". At this stage of the book, human consciousness has reached a state of "auto-consciousness". The essence of dialectics is the question of "recognition" between two different autoconscious selves. This is what will look like to Hegel as a theoretical model of the concept of human "consciousness".

This process begins when two different and conscious selves encounter for the first time. Then, each self "Sujet" seeks to see itself "reflected" in the other self. And this is what indicates the desire of this self to be recognized (Desire to recognition) by the other opposite self, because the other self is "strange" and "foreign"

This mutual feeling of difference and alienation creates a "conflict of recognition" between them. The winner in this conflict controls and enslaves the loser, because he needs to be recognized by the loser, to declare himself as a master, victorious and dominant. As for the loser, he is subject to the winner, driven by the "fear of death", ie, being murdered by his master, and so he surrenders to his new role as a slave.

And so we get to the relationship of Master-slave, which will show that it is volatile, contradictory and developed over time, ie "dialectic." However, this relationship turns out to be "incomplete" and "impossible to become complete". The Lord wants to be recognized by the slave a complete recognition, as deserved by the victor who seeks a kind and honorable recognition of the other counterpart. But it is impossible to fulfill this need of the mastervictor by the slave, because the master always looks to the servant as inferior, less than Man, therefore, is unable to give his master full recognition. This applies to the slave as well. He wants his master to fully acknowledge his self-existence, but this is never going to happen to him, because the his Lord sees him as "less than human."

Thus, this eternal struggle is faced with the barrier of "imperfect recognition" between two unequal selves. Neither the master nor the slave will be fulfilled with a full recognition of the counterpart , as fully counscious human beings.

© 2019 Oussema Ben Romdhane

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