Source: Originally published in the New Left Review, November-December 1983, pp. 67–75. Revised by the author for Marx Myths & Legends. Used with permission of New Left Review for non-commercial, educational purposes only, and no permission is granted to reproduce the text.
There is a widely held view that Marx was profoundly influenced by the Master–Servant (‘Herrschaft und Knechtschaft’) dialectic in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. This view was first popularized by Jean-Paul Sartre, who refers in his Being and Nothingness (1943) to ‘the famous Master-Slave relation which so profoundly influenced Marx’.[note]J.-P. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, London 1958, p. 237.[/note] Sartre does not explain how he knows this.[note]Marcuse in a review of Being and Nothingness says: ‘Sartre makes reference to Marx’s early writings …’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, March 1948. But in fact there is no such reference. Marcuse probably has in mind this remark about the ‘Master-Slave’ influence on Marx—a view held independently by Marcuse and which he had already linked to Marx’s early writings (see below).[/note] Probably this remark reflects the influence of Alexandre Kojève’s lectures on Hegel in the nineteen-thirties. Kojève presents a reading of the Phenomenology which centralizes the place of the Master–Servant dialectic in it, in a quasi-Marxist interpretation.[note]A. Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (1947), New York 1969.[/note] (Kojève may have assumed that Marx himself read it in the same way. However, it is one thing to read Marxism back into Hegel, it is another to generate it out of Hegel.) Three years after Sartre we find Jean Hyppolite again saying that the dialectic of domination and servitude is the best-known section of the Phenomenology because of ‘the influence it has had on the political and social philosophy of Hegel’s successors, especially Marx’.[note]J. Hyppolite, Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Evanston 1974, p. 172. Also: ‘the famous dialectic of the Master and Slave that became the inspiration of Marxian philosophy’. Studies on Marx and Hegel (1955), New York 1969, 1973, p. 29.[/note] As a matter of fact, despite the assertions of numerous commentators to the contrary, Sartre and Hyppolite did not attend Kojève’s lectures. The myth that they sat at the feet of the ‘unknown superior’ is now well-established, but the secondary literature concerned does not give any evidence for it.[note]A typical example is George L. Kline who says Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Hyppolite ‘attended some of Kojève’s lectures and doubtless read the mimeographed versions of those they did not attend’. See ‘The Existentialist Rediscovery of Hegel and Marx’, in Phenomenology and Existentialism, ed. E. N. Lee and M. Mandelbaum, Baltimore 1967, p. 120. He gives as his authority for this a book by Wilfred Desan: The Marxism of Jean-Paul Sartre, New York 1965. This says ‘early audiences … including Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Hyppolite …’ (p. 24); and again ‘Sartre learned to study Hegel in the classes of Kojève just before W.W.II’ (p. 50n). However, Desan gives no evidence. Mark Poster’s Existentialist Marxism in Post-War France, Princeton 1975 is more cautious: ‘It was even said that Jean-Paul Sartre himself was enrolled, although his attendance at the classes was not recalled’ (pp. 8–9).[/note] Let us turn then to first-hand accounts. Kojève’s disciple Raymond Queneau, who was responsible for collecting and publishing Kojève’s lectures in 1947, has given a list of participants which does not include Sartre or Hyppolite.[note]Critique nos. 195–96, 1963. The list is cited by Vincent Descombes in his Modern French Philosophy, Cambridge 1980, p. 10n. A full list of those registered for Kojève’s seminars is in the Appendix to Knowing and History, M. S. Roth (Ithaca 1988). However, registration was not a strict requirement for attendance, which explains divergencies between these two sources.[/note] As far as Hyppolite is concerned we have the additional testimony of Mme. Hyppolite[note]Interview with John Heckman. See his ‘Introduction’ to Genesis … p. xxvi. Heckman is under the impression that Sartre attended:– p. xxiii.[/note] that he did not attend ‘for fear of being influenced’.[note]This throws an interesting light on Kline’s judgment (op. cit. p. 120): ‘During the late 1930s Jean Hyppolite, under Kojève’s influence, began to publish articles on Hegel and the Phenomenology’; his 1946 commentary ‘draws freely on both Wahl and Kojève …’[/note]
However that may be, by the time Sartre and Hyppolite made their equations between Hegel and Marx a crucial document of Kojève’s was already in the public domain. In the 14 January 1939 issue of Mesures Kojève published a free translation, with interpolated glosses, of the section of the Phenomenology entitled ‘Autonomy and Dependence of Self-consciousness: Mastery and Servitude’. Still more interesting for our purposes is that Kojève includes as an epigraph the following words of Marx: ‘Hegel … erfasst die Arbeit als das Wesen, als das sich bewährende Wesen des Menschen’.[note]This throws an interesting light on Kline’s judgment (op. cit. p. 120): ‘During the late 1930s Jean Hyppolite, under Kojève’s influence, began to publish articles on Hegel and the Phenomenology’; his 1946 commentary ‘draws freely on both Wahl and Kojève …’[/note] (‘Hegel … grasps labour as the essence, as the self-confirming essence of man’.) No reference is given, but in fact this is quoted from Marx’s 1844 Paris Manuscripts, which remained unpublished until the nineteen-thirties. Kojève is the first person, therefore, to make a direct connection between this famous judgement of Marx’s on Hegel and the Master–Servant dialectic in the Phenomenology.
Today it is dogmatically asserted in numerous books that Marx was inspired by Hegel’s analysis of the labour of servitude.[note]H. Marcuse, Reason and Revolution (1941), London 1954, p. 115. R. Tucker, Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx, Cambridge 1961, p. 147. D. Struik, ‘Introduction’ to Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, New York 1964, p. 36. W. Desan, The Marxism of Jean-Paul Sartre, New York 1965, p. 34. M. Poster, Existentialist Marxism in Post-War France, Princeton 1975, pp. 13–16. Z. Hanfi, ‘Introduction’ to The Fiery Brook: Selected Writings of Ludwig Feuerbach, New York 1972, p. 42. R. Norman, Hegel’s Phenomenology, London 1976, p. 53 and p. 73. G. A. Kelly, Hegel’s Retreat from Eleusis, Princeton 1978, p. 30. J. Israel, The Language of Dialectic and the Dialectics of Language, Brighton 1979, p. 122. M. Petry, ‘Introduction’ to G. W. F. Hegel, The Berlin Phenomenology, Dordrecht 1981, p. lxxxix. Allen W. Wood Karl Marx, London 1981 pp. 242-3.[/note] This view is completely false. The present note attempts to show that this is so and to explain the real significance of Marx’s critical appropriation of the Phenomenology.
If we are to consider the influence of Hegel’s Phenomenology on Marx, the crucial text to examine has to be Marx’s manuscripts of 1844, in which he introduces his theory of alienation, and then devotes considerable space to a penetrating critique of the Phenomenology. In this latter section Marx praises Hegel for having grasped man as the result of his own labour. Nearly all commentators, innocently assuming that material labour is meant here, turn to the Phenomenology and find that there is indeed a fascinating discussion in the ‘Master–Servant’ section of the significance of material labour; in and through this the servant ‘finds himself’. Furthermore, the fact that this labour is seen by Hegel as actualized in the context of servitude, leads some commentators to make the more extravagant claim that in his theory of alienation Marx draws on this same section. Herbert Marcuse was probably the first to do so; he says in his Reason and Revolution (1941): ‘In 1844, Marx sharpened the basic concepts of his own theory through a critical analysis of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind. He described the alienation of labour in the terms of Hegel’s discussion of master and servant.’[note]See previous note. In fact Marcuse had already said in his 1932 review of the 1844 manuscripts that Marx’s critical concepts point back to the ontological categories of ‘labour’ and ‘domination and servitude’ developed by Hegel in his Phenomenology (From Luther to Popper, London 1983 p. 13, 39). Pierre Naville gives prominence to Hegel’s discussion but says that it is too simple to claim this was Marx’s source (De L’Alienation à la Jouissance, Paris 1957 p. 10).[/note]
The only difficulty with these presuppositions of the secondary literature is that Marx never refers to this section of the Phenomenology—never mind giving it any importance!—when, in his 1844 manuscripts, he embarks on a ‘critique of Hegel’s dialectic’. He discusses the Phenomenology as a whole and draws attention to its last chapter especially; he singles out three other sections for praise; but not one of them is on the master–servant dialectic.[note]K. Marx, Early Writings, Harmondsworth 1975, p. 385.[/note] This should make us suspicious, therefore, of the claims made for the ‘master–slave’.
Before considering Marx’s assessment of the Phenomenology let us rehearse the dialectic of Herrschaft und Knechtschaft. (Incidentally, although it is popularly nominated the ‘Master–Slave’, the correct translation of Knecht is ‘servant’.[note]That this choice of terminology was deliberate is seen when we find that in his Berlin lecture on Herrschaft und Knechtschaft Hegel draws a distinction between der Sklave and der Knecht. See: Hegel’s Philosophy of Subjective Spirit Vol. 3, ed. M. Petry, Holland/Boston 1979, appendix pp. 342–43 ( Phil Slater in a brief unpublished paper, ‘Objectification, alienation and labour: Notes on Hegel, Marx and Marcuse’ (1980), in the context of polemics against Marcuse’s early work for confusing ‘objectification’ in Hegel and Marx.[/note]) This section occurs early in the Phenomenology at the point where consciousness is to turn into self-consciousness. Hegel believes that the self can become conscious of itself only in and through the mediation of another self-consciousness. The first stable relationship that emerges in Hegel’s dialectical development of this topic is that of Lordship and Bondage. The master is acknowledged as such by his servant, and he achieves immediate satisfaction of his desires through goods and services provided by the servant’s labour. The dialectic moves forward precisely through the servant, however, because ‘through work … the bondsman becomes conscious of what he truly is’. Work forms and shapes the thing, and through this formative activity the consciousness of the servant now, in the work outside it, acquires ‘an element of permanence’; for it comes to see in the independent being of the object ‘its own independence’. ‘The shape does not become something other than himself through being made external to him,’ says Hegel, ‘for it is precisely this shape that is his pure being-for-self.’ He concludes: ‘Through this rediscovery of himself by himself, the bondsman realizes that it is precisely in his work wherein he seemed to live only the life of a stranger [fremder Sinn] that he acquires a sense of himself [eigner Sinn].’[note]Gesammelte Werke, Band 9, Phänomenologie des Geistes, Hamburg 1980, pp. 114-15[/note]
These terms are superficially comparable to Marx’s in that both Hegel and Marx see work not merely in its utilitarian aspect but as a vehicle of self-realization; thus they see the servant rather than the master as the locus of a more developed human existence. However, fundamental differences between Marx and Hegel become obvious when we notice that, whereas Marx holds that only a change in the mode of production recovers for the worker his sense of self and its fulfilment, Hegel thinks that the educative effect of work, even within an exploitative relation of production, is sufficient for the worker to manifest to himself his own ‘meaning’ in his product. Furthermore, at this stage in the phenomenological dialectic, the condition of ‘fear and service’ is stipulated as necessary to this end: that is, to the servant’s becoming objective to himself.[note]Phänomenologie p. 115[/note]
Hegel defines work as ‘desire held in check’: it involves putting a distance between the immediate impulses of self-will and formative activity grounded in objective principles. If you like, it is really the master who is a slave because his object is the ‘unalloyed feeling of self-satisfaction’: that is to say, he is a slave to his appetites, but his satisfactions are ‘only fleeting’, lacking the permanence of objectivity.[note]Loc. Cit.[/note] The servant on the other hand, in the work he creates, achieves mastery of his craft; it is he who rises to the level of universal human reason. However, Hegel introduces the notion that ‘fear and service’ are necessary to induce the check to desire and to ensure that consciousness rises above self-centred goals to the freedom that comes from a consciousness of the ‘universal power’ of human creative activity.[note]Ibid p. 116[/note] Quite arbitrarily, apparently, Hegel assumes everyone must undergo breaking of self-will through subjection to an alien power before being capable of rational freedom.[note]This is clearer in The Berlin Phenomenology, paras 434, 435.[/note]
Let us now examine the crucial passage in Marx’s complex discussion of the Phenomenology, in which Marx praises Hegel for grasping the importance of labour. ‘The great thing in Hegel’s Phenomenology and its final result—the dialectic of negativity as the moving and producing principle—is that Hegel conceives the self-creation of man as a process, objectification [Vergegenständlichung] as loss of object [Entgegenständlichung], as alienation [Entäusserung] and as sublation [Aufhebung] of this alienation; that he therefore grasps the nature of labour and conceives objective man … as the result of his own labour … The realization of himself … is only possible if man … employs all his species-powers … and treats them as objects, which is at first only possible in the form of estrangement [Entfremdung].’[note]Early Writings, pp. 385-86[/note]
Does such a judgement—as Kojève insinuates and so many later writers boldly assert—rest on Hegel’s discussion of the labour of servitude? The first thing that should give us pause is that immediately after this praise Marx qualifies it by complaining that ‘the only labour Hegel knows and recognizes is abstract mental labour’.[note]Ibid, p. 386[/note] The servant’s labour is clearly material, so this remark shows that not only has Marx not drawn on that analysis, but he has actually forgotten all about it and done Hegel a minor injustice![note]See David McLellan Marx before Marxism, London 1970, p. 197.[/note]
What Marx does refer us to is ‘the closing chapter of the Phenomenology … (“Absolute Knowledge”)’, which ‘contains the concentrated essence of the Phenomenology’ and its dialectic.[note]Early Writings, pp. 386.[/note] It contains the upshot of its whole movement. The ‘abstract mental labour’ to which Marx refers is the labour of spirit. The Phenomenology is a spiritual odyssey, or, perhaps, a Bildungsroman of spirit, in which spirit discovers that the objective shapes given to it in consciousness and self-consciousness are nothing but its own self-determination. Spirit comes to know itself through producing itself, in the first instance as something which stands over against itself. In the final chapter, Marx notes, the world of estrangement thus brought to life is overcome, or negated, in a peculiar way in that—as Hegel puts it—‘self-consciousness has sublated this alienation [Entäusserung] and objectivity … so that it is at home with itself in its otherness as such’.[note]Phänomenologie p. 422.[/note] Within this framework spheres of estrangement such as religion, the state, civil society, and so forth, are grasped as spirit’s own work. Hegel emphasizes that spirit can come to itself only through setting up opposition and then negating it. This is ‘the labour of the negative’ as he calls it.[note]Ibid, p. 18[/note]
When Marx refers to ‘the final result’ of the Phenomenology being ‘the dialectic of negativity as the moving and producing principle’, it is to this entire labour of spirit in the Phenomenology that he refers. Of course, in Marx’s view man produces himself through material labour. It would be a mistake, however, to assume therefrom that he praises Hegel for what he says about material labour such as that of the servant. When Marx says Hegel grasps labour as the essence, he is talking not about what Hegel actually says about material labour (hence the lack of reference to ‘Lordship and Bondage’) but about the esoteric significance of the dialectic of negativity in spirit’s entire self-positing movement (hence Marx’s claim that the only labour Hegel knows is abstract mental labour). Marx sees in Hegel’s dialectic of negativity the hypostatization of the abstract reflection in philosophy of the material process whereby man produces himself through his own labour, a process which (Marx concurs with Hegel) must pass through a stage of estrangement.
It is necessary to locate the ‘Master–Slave’ within this perspective of spirit’s development of its self-awareness. As we have already noted, and now stress, it is an early moment in the story of spirit’s recovery of itself. It is much less ‘concrete’ (in Hegel’s terminology) than cultural achievements such as law, art, religion and philosophy.[note]This point is stressed by Phil Slater in his unpublished paper ‘Objectification, alienation and labour’ (1980)[/note] Nonetheless, it is located at a turning point of some importance, for the problem Hegel faces is how to develop dialectically self-consciousness out of the mere consciousness of external objects. Consciousness cannot grasp itself in things. It must distinguish itself absolutely from them through their radical negation. The consumption of objects of desire accomplishes this in an evanescent way. To risk one’s life in forcing another consciousness to grant one recognition represents a more promising mediation. But the master finds himself frustrated in reducing the vanquished to his servant, his thing. Self-consciousness can only gain proper recognition through mutual respect such as that accorded to individuals constituted in the legal and ethical relations Hegel develops later in the story.[note]Jonathan Rée draws my attention to the fact that Hegel is not really discussing individuality here, and a fortiori not social relationships. Hence there is no discussion of master–master or slave–slave relations. We are concerned here with consciousness in general as against objects.[/note] At this stage the dialectic advances through the despised servant. As we have seen, he ‘finds himself’ through the negating action of work on things. However, it must be stressed that the point of this is that it brings about an advance in self-consciousness.
This does not have much in common with Marx’s interest in the realization of an objective being in forming the material world; but it is of a piece with the project of the Phenomenology as a whole. It is worth noting that in Hegel’s Encyclopaedia ‘Phenomenology’ no mention is made of the worker finding himself in his product; the emphasis in the outcome of the ‘Master–Slave’ there is on ‘community of need’ and ‘fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom’.[note]Op. Cit., paras 434–35. By contrast, in the Phänomenologie Hegel said: ‘Albeit fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom, consciousness is not therein aware of being self-existent. Through labour, however, it comes to itself ’ (p. 115). And on the next page: ‘For the reflection of self into self the two moments, fear and service in general, as also that of formative activity, are necessary… .’[/note] As far as the Phenomenology of Spirit is concerned, as it is a spiritual odyssey it is quite wrong to place special stress on this moment of material labour (as is the case with the overly ‘Marxist’ readings of Marcuse and of Kojève), for its importance lies not in the material result but in the spiritual one. The next stage in the dialectic is that, since self-consciousness lacks unity here in being split between different ‘selves’, it attempts to find its ‘freedom’ in ‘thinking’; objectivity is ‘negated’ in the pure universality of thought in the attitudes Hegel identifies with Stoicism and Scepticism.[note]Norman is particularly good on the lack of a ‘happy ending’ for the servant, and the further dialectic (op. cit., ch. 3). See also Kojève, ch. 2.[/note] This ‘freedom’ of inner life is compatible with any social position—as Hegel says.[note]‘Whether on the throne or in chains … its aim is to be free’. Op. cit., p. 117.[/note]
Does Marx, as Marcuse claims (above), follow in his theory of alienation the terms of Hegel’s Master–Servant relationship? We have already said enough to cast doubt on this. Furthermore, not only does Marx himself not refer us to this section, but Hegel’s own discussion in it does not mention alienation. It is obvious that immediately material labour is not as such a problem for Hegel just because it is material, as might be supposed.[note]Ernest Mandel says (Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx, London 1971) that for Hegel material labour is alienating ‘because labour is, by its nature, the externalizing (Veräusserung) of a human capacity, which means that man loses something that previously belonged to him’ (p. 155). Mandel seems to have in mind para. 67 of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right which deals with the Veräusserung (= alienation in the sense of sale) of human powers. If so, this is a complete misrepresentation of Hegel’s text. So far from labour ‘by its nature’ having an alienating import, Hegel again in the Philosophy of Right gives the ‘forming of things’ (para 56) a role in actualizing freedom. For Hegel, however, human freedom is more real in alienating things through contracts. When he faces the problem that freedom of alienation is used to sell human capacities—physical and mental skills inherent in the person—this is achieved ‘through the mediation of mind which reduces its inner possessions to … externality’ (para. 43). In virtue of the temporal restriction on such alienation in wage-labour, the labour-power sold acquires ‘an external relation’ to the substance of the labourer’s personality and he remains a free subject notwithstanding it (para. 67). It is clear, then, that Hegel does not say labour ‘by its nature’ as ‘externalizing’ is alienating; rather, he says complex social mediations achieve alienation through setting labour in an (artificial) external relation to the person. (For a full treatment see my ‘Personality and the dialectic of labour and property—Locke, Hegel, Marx’ Radical Philosophy 26, 1980.)[/note] Contrary to this, Hegel gives it an affirmative significance in the development of spirit. It is perfectly true, however, that Marx finds in Hegel the theme of alienation (Entäusserung) and estrangement (Entfremdung)—but he does not find it in the labour of servitude. Even those commentators who light on Hegel’s chapter ‘Spirit in Self-Estrangement’ (‘Der sich entfremdete Geist’) are only partially correct. It is true that Marx makes favourable reference to some of this material; he says: ‘these separate sections contain the critical elements—but still in estranged form—of entire spheres, such as religion, the state, civil life and so forth’.[note]Op. cit., p. 385.[/note] However, in these sections we are dealing with a realm of finite spirit, referred historically to the period from feudalism, through the Enlightenment, to the French Revolution. Marx mainly concerns himself, not with this so much, but with spirit’s movement of ‘absolute negativity’, and especially with the final chapter ‘Absolute Knowledge’ (and when he mentions the Encyclopaedia, it is the Absolute Idea and its alienation of itself in nature that he discusses).
A complicating feature in discussing these issues is that translations of texts by Hegel, and by Marx, may give either or both of ‘Entäusserung’ and ‘Entfremdung’ as ‘alienation’. However, in Hegel these terms are widely separated in the text and have different functions. We have just mentioned the chapter on Entfremdung. ‘Entäusserung’, as Lukács point out,[note]G. Lukács, The Young Hegel (1948), London 1975, last chapter. Incidentally, Lukács does not refer Marx’s 1844 Mss. to the ‘Master–Slave’.[/note] is the key concept in the upshot of the Phenomenology: spirit grasps the sphere of estrangement as the product of its own self-alienation. Entfremdung stands to Entäusserung as phenomenological result—a state of being—to the active process of spirit’s positing of itself in otherness.[note]As Marx says: ‘Entfremdung constitutes the real interest of this Entäusserung’ (op. cit., p. 384).[/note]
While Marx was impressed by Hegel’s phenomenological description of estrangement, what really excited him was the ‘metaphysical’ aspect of the Phenomenology—spirit mediating itself with itself in alienation (Entäusserung). This is the process of ‘absolute negativity’ and it is to this Marx refers when he says that, albeit in mystified form, Hegel grasps man as the product of his own labour, through alienation and the overcoming of alienation.
Nevertheless, Marx holds that Hegel’s discussion of the problematics of alienation is embedded in speculative illusions, and because of this it is a ‘merely apparent criticism’, shading over into ‘uncritical positivism’. In this connection one must draw attention to the sophisticated use of quotation by Kojève in the above-mentioned epigraph to the effect that Hegel grasps labour as the essence. The passage from which Kojève quotes is as follows (with Kojève’s ‘quote’ stressed): ‘Hegel adopts the standpoint of modern political economy. He grasps labour as the essence, the self-confirming essence of man; he sees only the positive and not the negative side of labour. Labour is man’s coming to be for himself within alienation [Entäusserung] or as alienated man.’[note]Op. cit., p. 386.[/note]
Why does Marx qualify his praise of Hegel in this way?
Firstly, despite the wealth of content in the Phenomenology, everything is treated under the form of consciousness or self-consciousness. This means that a change in consciousness abolishes estrangement because estrangement itself is understood only as an attitude adopted by consciousness. This ‘abolition’ leaves everything in reality as it is. Thus the critical apparatus issues in ‘uncritical positivism’.[note]Ibid., p. 385.[/note]
Secondly, since the ‘subject’ of the movement is ‘spirit’, Hegel cannot conceive of objectification except as resulting in estrangement—hence he substitutes for the category of objectification (Vergegenständlichung) that of alienation (Entäusserung—which, like Vergegenständlichung, has the connotation of positing as objective but which also implies the relinquishment of what is manifested, constituting therefore an alienation).[note]Lukács originated this understanding in The Young Hegel, p. 551. Hyppolite defends Hegel on this point—see the last section of his ‘Commentary on G. Lukács’s The Young Hegel’ in Studies … pp. 86–90.[/note] Nonetheless, Hegel sees something positive in this process[note]Phänomenologie, p. 422. See Marx, op. cit., p. 395.[/note] because in this alienation spirit becomes objective to itself. It is an essential moment in spirit’s self-actualization and self-awareness. Hegel is not, then, opposed to objectification, on the grounds that it leads to estrangement. He certainly thinks that it does lead to estrangement, but this does not mean that he thinks spirit should rest content in itself and avoid the misfortune of alienation from itself. However, instead of a real historical solution we are provided with a displacement of the problem into general philosophical reflection issuing in a solution posed exclusively within philosophy, which preserves estrangement (‘otherness as such’) as a moment in the absolute. This is his ‘merely apparent criticism’ (Marx[note]Op. cit., p. 393.[/note]). In truth, Hegel’s equation of objectification and alienation makes him uncritical of the estrangement brought to life in spirit’s self-actualization. That is to say, Hegel, in common with modern political economy, grasps labour as the essence of human development but not as alienated from itself in capitalist society because, if one is unable to posit a genuine historical negation of the negation, the existing conditions become the horizon which blocks off the possibility of a critical standpoint. In fact, these conditions which twist and distort the objectification of man in and through labour are endorsed as the necessary groundwork within which the coming-to-be of man for himself must occur. The world of estrangement is presented as labour’s absolute self-expression.[note]This paragraph is a condensed version of an argument developed at length in my ‘Objectification and Alienation in Hegel and Marx’, Radical Philosophy 30, Spring 1982.[/note]
In conclusion, one can say that focus on the master-slave dialectic reflects two biases. First: one must remark in Kojève, and Hyppolite, the beginnings of the ‘existentialist’ reading of the Phenomenology with its absurd over-emphasis on the ‘life and death struggle’, and its outcome in ‘Lordship and Bondage’—as if the remaining six hundred pages of the Phenomenology were merely an afterthought! Second: while Marxist discussion used to lean towards immediately political problems such as that of domination and class struggle, the diffusion of texts such as the 1844 Manuscripts, the German Ideology, and, more recently, the Grundrisse, has made possible a serious discussion of ontological questions; hence the influence on Marx of Hegel, and of his Phenomenology, must be differently interpreted.
Thanks are due to Jonathan Rée and to Joe McCarney.