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Wabash College

Mutual Recognition and the Dialectic of Master and Slave:

Reading Hegel against Kojeve

Richard A. Lynch

But to whom can I be responsible, and why should I be, when you refuse to see me? Responsibility rests upon recognition, and recognition is a form of agreement. (Ralph

Ellison, Invisible Man)l

I F HEGEL'S thought has had a significant influence upon 20th-century French philosophy-and we would be foolish to suggest that it has not 2 -then we must acknowledge Alexandre Kojeve as the one who first brought Hegel into the French tradition. His translation of and commentary on the dialectic of master and slave in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit-these are the texts I will speak of here-was one of the first Hegelian texts to be translated into French (preceding Hyppolite's translation of the complete work).3 His lectures were well attended. The influence of Kojeve's reading of Hegel was profoundly felt in the following generations of French philosophers4 and, through them, can be recognized in con- temporary approaches to HegeI.S However, as we shall see, Kojeve's presentation of Hegel was partial in two senses: it was incomplete, omitting critical sections,

'Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (New York: Vintage, 1972), from the prologue, p. 14. 2Alexandre Kojeve and, later, Jean Hyppolite taught Hegel to two generations of France's finest thinkers; Kojeve taught Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Lacan, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Hyppolite taught Michel Foucault; and Sartre's Being and Nothingness. to cite just one example. shows an obvious debt to the Phenomenology. 3"In Place of an Introduction," Kojeve's translation of and commentary upon chapter IV, part A of Hegel's Phenomenology, was initially published in the January 14, 1939 issue of Mesures. The first volume of Hyppolite's translation of the complete Phenomenology was published later that year, and the second volume in 1941. 4The case of Sartre's Being and Nothingness, mentioned above, is a particularly clear example of Kojeve's influence. Part 3, chapter 3, for instance, in which Sartre retells the Hegelian story of the struggle unto death, closely follows Kojeve's version of the story. We can anticipate the conclusions that I will draw viS-ii-vis Kojeve by noting Axel Honneth's assessment of Sartre's argument here: "the

conclusion which [Sartre's] theory of intersubjectivity must reach is obvious: a relation of communica- tive agreement between subjects is not possible, since one of the subjects must constantly find herself

in the objectified state of

once reached by Hegel in that he inconspicuously translates the model of an interactive 'struggle for recognition' back into the less demanding model of a mere struggle for individual self-assertion." Axel Honneth, The Fragmented World of the Social: Essays in Social and Political Philosophy (Albany:

SUNY Press, 1995) p. 162. 5Much of this influence is traced in Judith Butler's Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twenti-

eth-Century France (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1987).

the young Sartre undercuts the level of reflection already


34 LYNCH and thus it was skewed to give a one-sided reading. By omitting the
and thus it was skewed to give a one-sided reading. By omitting the key passages
where Hegel underscores the mutuality of recognition, Kojeve casts this dialectic
as much more confrontational, one-dimensional, and uni-directional than in fact is
the case in Hegel's story. Only one incomplete aspect of the encounter is brought
out in Kojeve's presentation, and his subsequent development of the consequences
of this dialectic (in terms of class struggle and the slave's eventual overthrow of
the master) thus mislead us, taking us away from its true significance. If we are
not to be misguided by Kojeve's reading, then it behooves us carefully to distin-
guish Kojeve's Hegel from Hegel himself.
Toward that end, I shall undertake two tasks in this paper. First of all, I want to
articulate an alternative reading of the dialectic of master and slave in Hegel's
Phenomenology of Spirit. Second, I will develop a critique of Kojeve's reading of
this Hegelian dialectic. 6 These tasks are intertwined: the lacunae in Kojeve's read-
ing serve to indicate the general outline and direction of my alternative reading;
and this alternative reading will then provide the standpoint from which I can
justify my critique of Kojeve. In the end, we shall also be able to identify, or at
least suggest, some further implications of my alternative reading, especially with
respect to the dialectic of desire.
To begin, then, let us get the skeleton of the argument out in the open. Kojeve's
"In Place of an Introduction" is a commentary upon and translation of the intro-
ductory material and part A of chapter IV of the Phenomenology of Spirit.7 He
begins with a discussion of desire, which was presented in the introductory mate-
rial (~~166-77 in Miller's English translation), and then turns to a discussion of
the struggle for recognition between the master and slave in part A (~~185-97).
Kojeve, however, elides the first seven paragraphs of part A.
This elision is significant. It is not merely an omission from the translation of
Hegel's text but also the key to grasping a critical lacuna in Kojeve's analysis of
Hegel. This is because the text that Kojeve has neglected contains Hegel's presen-
tation of mutual recognition. The dialectic of struggle for recognition which Ko-
6G. W. F. Hegel, Phiinomenologie des Geistes (Frankfurt-am-Main: Suhrkamp, 1991); in English:
Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977). See especially pp.
104-21 of the English translation (pp. J37-57 in the original German). Quotations from this work will
be indicated by paragraph number in the body of the text.
Alexandre Kojeve, Introduction a fa Lecture de Hegel: Lerons sur la Phenomenologie de ['Esprit
(Paris: Gallimard, 1947); in English: Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenome-
nology of Spirit, trans. James H. Nichols, Jr. (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1980). See especially "In
Place of an Introduction," pp. 3-30 of the English translation (pp. 9-34 in the original French). Quota-
tions from this work will be indicated by page number in the body of the text.
7Hegel employs several overlaid organizational structures in the Phenomenology of Spirit. First, there
is a tripartite division labeled A "Consciousness," B "Self-Consciousness," and C "Reason." Division
C is itself subdivided, with subdivisions AA, BB, CC, and DD. Running parallel to this, the text is also
divided into consecutively numbered chapters. Chapter IV, "The Truth of Self-Certainty," represents
the entirety of division B, "Self-Consciousness," and has three sections: an introductory section
(~11166-77); part A, "Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness: Lordship and Bondage"
(~~178-96); and part B, "Freedom of Self-Consciousness: Stoicism, Scepticism. and the Unhappy
Conscious" (~~]97-230). (Miller provides the paragraph numbers in the English translation, but they
do in fact correspond to the paragraph divisions in the original German text.)
Kojeve's commentary and translation runs from the beginning of the chapter (~166) to the first
paragraph of part B (~197). Kojeve omits, however, the first quarter of part A (11~178-84). except for
the very first sentence of ~178. This omission will prove to be critical for my argument.



jeve translates is, as Hegel explicitly noted, merely the one-sided view of this mutual recognition and cannot be grasped adequately without first understanding the mutuality of recognition. Hence, as we shall see, by eliding mutual recogni- tion, Kojeve has undermined his own interpretation of these passages. Even if he has chosen poorly in omitting Hegel's analysis of mutual recogni- tion, Kojeve has, I think, correctly identified the critical break in Hegel's text. The two pieces of part A-the omitted section on mutual recognition and the included section on master and slave-could be taken as autonomous wholes. But they are not autonomous in the text, and (I shall argue) neither one can be understood adequately in the absence of the other. This, then, is the backbone of my alterna- tive reading: mutual recognition and struggle for recognition must be mutually understood in light of each other. (Put in the language of Hegel's three-term dia- lectic, mutual recognition represents the individual moment of the constitution of the concept of self-consciousness, whereas the master and slave are respectively the universal and particular moments of the concept. 8 To anticipate, the individual moment represents a completion and "reconciliation" 9 -or in vulgar terms, a "synthesis" -of the universal and particular moments. It has, as such, a certain kind of priority. But I am getting ahead of myself.) In this paper, then, I shall take up three themes in turn. First, I will present this alternative reading of chapter IV, part A of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. A critique of Kojeve's elision and subsequent lacuna will be, I suspect, implicit in this reading. My second task, accordingly, will be to make this critique explicit. Appreciation of both the complete dialectic of mutual recognition (neglected by Kojeve) and the status of the master-slave dialectic as situated within it not only serves to reveal Kojeve's one-dimensional and "illusory" presentation but also bears on the significance of desire in both Hegel and Kojeve in such a way that desire and mutual recognition, appropriately understood, offer new promises for human relationships. And so, third and finally, we will be able to consider the implications of my reading of mutual recognition for Hegel's discussion of desire. In the course of this exposition, we will be able to pose a few questions about my reading and to anticipate a few of its consequences for contemporary philosophi- cal questions.

The Phenomenology of Spirit stands at a critical juncture in Hegel's philosophical corpus (as well as in his entire careerlO). Published in 1807, it marks the culmina- tion and conclusion of Hegel's earlier works, many of whose themes are re- presented in the Phenomenology. But it also stands "as a necessary forepiece to

'See G. W. F. Hegel, Wissenschajt der Logik II (Frankfurt-am-Main: Suhrkamp, 1986); in English:

Hegel's Science of Logic, trans. A. V. Miller (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1989), vol. 2 (subjective logic), sect. I (subjectivity), ch. I (the notion), pp. 600-22 for Hegel's analysis of the momentary structure of a concept. Miller translates the tenn "Begriff" as "notion"; "concept" is perhaps a clearer translation. 9For the teml "reconciliation" [ am indebted to John McCumber, Poetic Interaction: Language, Freedom, Reason (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1989). '"Tradition has it, for example, that, as Hegel was finishing the "Preface" to the Phenomenology, he could hear the cannon fire of Napoleon's approaching anny.

36 LYNCH [Hegel's later] philosophical system."!! The Phenomenology stands, then, at the end of Hegel's
[Hegel's later] philosophical system."!! The Phenomenology stands, then, at the
end of Hegel's early pre-systematic work and at the beginning of the later system-
atic work. As both end and beginning, as a transitional work, the Phenomenology
should be viewed in light of these larger philosophical contexts, which are framed
by the Phenomenology and serve to frame it. It has been said of Marx that "It is
impossible to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without
having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic."!2 One
could suggest something similar with respect to the Phenomenology: we must
look to Hegel's preceding and following works in order fully to understand it.
Hegel's first major publication after the Phenomenology, the Science of Logic
(whose two volumes were published in 1812 and 1816 respectively), gives us
Hegel's tripartite analysis of concepts and dialectic, which can already be recog-
nized in the Phenomenology, and, I shall argue, allows us to grasp the interrela-
tionships between the master's recognition of the slave, the slave's recognition of
the master, and their mutual recognition of each other. Mutual recognition repre-
sents the individual, or unifying, moment in this dialectic of recognition. On the
other side of the coin, when we look at the work preceding the Phenomenology,
we also find this notion of mutual recognition playing an important role in He-
gel's earlier thought. This suggests that we must look at Hegel's discussion of
mutual recognition in the Phenomenology carefully and, hence, that we cannot
understand the dialectic of master and slave without grasping the significance of
mutual recognition.
But we risk losing sight of Phenomenology IV.A in all this talk of Hegel's ear-
lier and later work. With this general outline of the argument before us, we must
first look at what he actually says in the Phenomenology.
Most importantly, we must look at the paragraphs that Kojeve elided. Recogni-
tion, Hegel tells us, is the process by which a self comes to exist in and for itself
through the recognition by and of another. The argument of IV.A is given in the
first sentence of ~178 (the last sentence which Kojeve translates before his omis-
sion!3): "Self-consciousness exists in and for itself when, and by the fact that, it
so exists for another; that is, it exists only in being acknowledged." One gains a
complete (in and for itself) self-consciousness only through the acknowledgment,
or recognition, of another. To anticipate, we will have to ask whether the recogni-
tion that the master receives from the slave, or vice versa, is sufficient to provide
this kind of completed self-consciousness. As Hegel tells us in the remainder of
~178, the moments of the concept of self-consciousness "must on the one hand
be held strictly apart," as they will be in the later discussion of master and slave,
"and on the other hand must in this differentiation at the same time also be taken
and known as not distinct," as in the first seven paragraphs. We can already see in
this first paragraph hints of the momentary structure (universal, particular, indi-
vidual) of the concept of self-consciousness, which is integrated in mutual recog-
llSee Phenomenology of Spirit, p. vii.
lOy' 1. Lenin, Complete Works (Moscow, 1963) vol. 38, p. 180; cited in Jean Hyppolite, Genesis and
Structure of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. Samuel Cherniak and John Heckman (Evanston:
Northwestern Univ. Press, 1974) p. xxii.
Kojeve does translate this first sentence of ~178, he elides the bulk of the paragraph,
which, as we shall see, provides a general overview of the argument in which mutual recognition is



nition. "The detailed exposition of the Notion of this spiritual unity In its duplication will present us with the process of recognition." Hegel notes that this spiritual unity must be duplicated. In other words, two consciousnesses are necessary to facilitate the formation of a spiritual unity of self-consciousness in either consciousness. This is because it is through the recog- nition of another consciousness recognizing oneself that one gains self-conscious- ness. Mutual recognition requires two participating self-consciousnesses. In the process of mutual recognition, each consciousness (in the process of becoming self-consciousness through this mutual recognition) recognizes the other as a con- sciousness. "This has a twofold significance: first, it [consciousness] has lost it- self, for it finds itself as an other being; secondly, in doing so it has superseded the other, for it does not see the other as an essential being, but in the other sees its own self" (~179). First, consciousness has lost itself; it is not aware of itself be- cause it sees the other consciousness. But the other consciousness simultaneously is seeing the first consciousness; it is "losing itself." This brings us to the second feature. Insofar as the first consciousness sees the other seeing itself, it "super- sedes" the other and recognizes itself as recognized by the other. Thus, it sees its own self in the other and becomes in this manner a self-consciousness. It is through this process of recognition that consciousness becomes self-consciousness. This recognition must be understood as a mutual recognition, for neither con- sciousness could become self-consciousness without the recognition of the other. Each consciousness needs the other's recognition of it as a consciousness in order to be able to recognize itself as self-consciousness. And this process occurs for both self-consciousnesses simultaneously. Looking ahead to the final section of this paper, we can note that for Hegel this process also contains the elements of the dialectic of desire. For, as Hegel has told us in the preliminary paragraphs of the chapter, "self-consciousness is Desire" (~1174). Hegel calls this process a "double movement of the two self-consciousnesses" since "action by one side would be useless because what is to happen can only be brought about by both" (~182). In this process of mutual recognition, each consciousness "must supersede [the] otherness of itself" (~180). First, each con- sciousness supersedes the other in order to recognize itself in the other's recogni- tion. But in so doing, it also supersedes itself because it is itself seen by and in the other. This constitutes, Hegel tells us, a "return into itself' (~181). This return into itself is only possible through the cooperation of both self-consciousnesses. "For first, through the supersession, it receives back its own self because, by su- perseding its otherness, it again becomes equal to itself; but secondly, the other self-consciousness equally gives it back again to itself, for it saw itself in the other, but supersedes this being of itself in the other and thus lets the other again go free" (~181, my emphasis). We see here that both self-consciousnesses play agentive roles in the process of mutual recognition. The first consciousness supersedes its otherness and "be- comes equal to itself" after each recognizes that the other recognizes itself. At this point, seeing itself in the other's recognition, the consciousness can now omit the other from this equation and recognize itself as itself (or as equal to itself). At this point it has become self-consciousness. But this is not possible without the prior recognition by the second consciousness, which plays a necessary, catalytic role and then also turns its attention from the first consciousness to the first's

38 LYNCH recognition of itself. Thus, each self-consciousness first makes possible the oth- er's recognition
recognition of itself. Thus, each self-consciousness first makes possible the oth-
er's recognition of itself and then, in recognizing itself, releases the other (or
gives the other back) from its recognition to the other's recognition.
In the process of mutual recognition, then, "each is for the other the middle
term, through which each mediates itself with itself and unites with itself" (~184).
Hegel tells us in the final sentence before Kojeve' s translation re-
sumes: "They recognize themselves as mutually recognizing one another" (~184).
But in this description of mutual recognition, no reference has yet been made to
the dialectic of master and slave. How are these two distinct stories to be recon-
ciled? "Master" and "slave" each represent, I shall argue, one-sided and incom-
plete, and thus illusory, versions of this process. We will then be able to situate
this dialectic within the logic described above, in light of Hegel's discussion of
the logic of concepts in the Science of Logic.
The struggle of master and slave, Hegel tells us in ~185 (the point at which
Kojeve resumed his translation), is the story of how this process of mutual recog-
nition "appears to self-consciousness." As such, the representation of this strug-
gle will be one-sided and incomplete, regardless of whether the side illustrated is
that of the master or the slave. As we saw above (in ~180), a consciousness must
first overcome the other independent being and will then thereby supersede its
own self in the process of becoming self-consciousness. These supersessions re-
spectively correspond, I suggest, to the two moments of recognition as it "appears
to self-consciousness": mastery and slavery. Mastery is, briefly, the supersession
of the other; slavery, the supersession of oneself. These two positions are, "as
extremes, opposed to one another, one being only recognized, the other only rec-
ognizing" (~185).
In the remaining paragraphs of IV.A, Hegel proceeds to consider these two in-
complete moments of self-consciousness as it appears to itself in turn. First, in
~n86-89, Hegel illustrates that self-consciousness cannot stand alone; rather, it
must realize that life is essential for self-consciousness. In death, Hegel tells us,
"the two [consciousnesses] do not reciprocally give and receive one another back
from each other consciously, but leave each other free only indifferently, like
things" (~188). In death, one cannot obtain self-consciousness; one is merely a
lifeless object.
Hegel then turns to the "master" in ~~190-93, the moment of self-conscious-
ness that thinks that it need only be recognized by the other, not recognizing the
other in turn. Kojeve, as we shall see, mistakenly sees this as the key to Hegel's
view; but we should already be able to identify it as one-sided and illusory. In
fact, Hegel specifies that the master's view cannot maintain itself and that "the
truth of the independent consciousness is accordingly the servile consciousness of
the bondsman" (~193). With this transition, Hegel devotes the remainder of the
passage (~~193-96) to the "slave"; and we see that this second moment, in itself
incomplete, brings us back to the union of both moments in mutual recognition.
I hope that my reading of the first part of IV.A and my brief sketch of the
remainder have already presented a good prima facie case that we must under-
stand the dialectic of master and slave in light of mutual recognition. Before look-
ing more closely at the second part of Hegel's discussion, however, we should
briefly review Hegel's analysis of the logic of concepts, presented in his Science
of Logic shortly after the Phenomenology. Each concept has three logical mo-



ments: the universal, the particular, and the individual. The universal and particu- lar moments, opposed to each other, are each incomplete, unstable, and ultimately illusory. They are integrated into a stable whole, however, in the individual mo- ment. I will argue that the moments of mastery, slavery, and mutual recognition correspond respectively to the universal, particular, and individual moments in the logic of self-consciousness in the Phenomenology. 14 The universal moment of a concept is self-enclosed, abstract, and determinate only in negativity. That is to say, the concept is considered only insofar as it is self-identical. This self-identity is completely abstract and, as such, is entirely without any specifying determinations (such as human, big, purple, etc.) or any reference to anything outside of itself. As universal, a concept is only self-identi- cal. But this universal emptiness is unstable and leads to a contradiction because the absence of any specific determinations is itself a specific determination. The universal concept is, so to speak, determinate in its indeterminateness. Thus we are forced to understand the concept as particular, as determinate. Once we see that a concept is determinate in its indeterminate self-identity, we can also recognize all the other determinations which make that concept particular and distinct from all others. Something is not merely x = x but also ~ (x = y, z, etc.). A self-consciousness is not just "self-consciousness" but this self-con- sciousness, with a particular embodied spatial position, particular memories, and other characteristics distinct from other self-consciousnesses, and so on. The totality of the notion is contained in these two elements. The universal moment highlights the self-referential and self-enclosed abstraction of the notion. The particular moment brings out the determinate characteristics of the notion which specify it in contrast to other notions. But the particular moment is also unstable and illusory. Once we understand a concept as entirely determined, par- ticularized, and specified, we must acknowledge that it is also self-identical, which brings us back to the universal moment. The universal moment, properly grasped, breaks down into the particular moment, and vice versa. In its universal and particular moments, then, the notion is unstable. The absence of determina- tion in the universal moment is itself a particular determination, while every par- ticular determination can be abstracted out of its situation until it is recognized as a universal potentially common to all situations. The moment of individuality brings the first two moments together and medi- ates between them. Since the notion as an individual displays the traits of both universality and particularity, Hegel identifies individuality as the middle term of this formal analysis. Logically, however, individuality is the third and last mo- ment of the notion. In the individual moment, the notion also becomes actual and concrete. It is easy to recognize this logic operating in Hegel's discussion of the master and slave in the Phenomenology. "Both moments are essential. Since to begin with they are unequal and opposed, and their reflection into a unity has not yet been achieved, they exist as two opposed shapes of consciousness; one is the in-

14Hegel himself identifies the logic described in the Science of Logic as that which he used in the Phenomenology: "It is in this way [the movement from universal to particular to individual moment] that I have tried to expound consciousness in the Phenomenology of Spirit" (Hegel's Science of Logic,


40 LYNCH dependent consciousness whose essential nature is to be for itself, the other is
dependent consciousness whose essential nature is to be for itself, the other is the
dependent consciousness whose essential nature is simply to live or to be for an-
other. The former is lord, the other is bondsman" (n89, my emphasis). Let us
begin with Hegel's description of the lord, or master. The master is "qua the
Notion of self-consciousness an immediate relation of being-far-self" (~190), i.e.,
it represents the mere self-identity of the concept. In other words, the master rep-
resents the universal moment of self-consciousness as it appears to consciousness.
But this moment is unstable and necessarily collapses into the particular moment.
Thus, "the truth of the independent consciousness is accordingly the servile con-
sciousness of the bondsman," the particular moment (~193). As soon as the mas-
ter tries to specify himself beyond his mere self-identity, the master must turn to
the slave, which provides all of these determinations and "consciousness in the
form of thinghood" (~189).
The slave, or bondsman, represents the particular moment because it is the mo-
ment of determinate specification of self-consciousness through work, which
"forms and shapes the thing" (n 95). But this particular moment too collapses
back into the universal moment. "[J]ust as lordship showed that its essential na-
ture is the reverse of what it wants to be, so too servitude in its consummation
will really turn into the opposite of what it immediately is; as a consciousness
forced back into itself, it will withdraw into itself and be transformed into a truly
independent consciousness" (~193). Two things are of note in this description.
First, we see that the particular servitude again collapses back into universality.
But we also can see that in this second transformation (from universal to particu-
lar and now back to universal) we have the foundations for a "truly independent"
consciousness, i.e., the individual moment of self-consciousness. "However, ser-
vitude is not yet aware that this truth [of individuality] is implicit in it. But it does
in fact contain within itself this truth of pure negativity and being-for-self [of
universality]" (~194).
In this manner we can understand the dialectic of the trial by death as the ap-
pearance to self-consciousness of the constant alteration and instability of univer-
sality and particularity. In coming to awareness, self-consciousness is shimmering
between these two moments; and thus a consciousness understands itself as in
battle with the other consciousness that it recognizes, such that the first is con-
ceived as universal, the second is particular, and vice versa. At this point, recipro-
cal recognition between the two consciousnesses is not yet established. Each self-
consciousness can be stabilized as a complete and stable individual (in the indi-
vidual moment of the concept) through the double recognition of itself in and
through the other. But as Hegel has already shown us in the passages Kojeve
elided, this double recognition must be a mutual recognition. 15
Thus self-consciousness is constituted through the mutual recognition of two
consciousnesses; and each consciousness perceives itself as in battle with the
other as its self-recognition proceeds through its immediate universal and determi-
nate particular moments. We can say, then, that the discussion of the struggle of
l5Jessica Benjamin, The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination
(New York: Pantheon Books. 1988), makes the related point that a tension must be maintained between
the two extremes of mastery and slavery for recognition to be achieved. (My thanks to Johanna Meehan,
who brought this book to my attention.)



master and slave is told from a "phenomenological" participant's perspective (jiir es), whereas the summary of the mutuality of recognition is told from an "objec- tive" observer's perspective (fur uns). Hence, the viewpoints of both the master and the slave are inadequate and incomplete in and of themselves, and we can understand how in mutual recognition "each [self-consciousness] is for the other the middle term, through which each mediates itself with itself and unites with itself" (~184). The opening sentence of IV.A summarizes very nicely the process which Hegel has described: "Self-consciousness exists in and for itself when, and by the fact that, it so exists for another; that is, it exists only in being acknowl-

edged" (~178).

I stated earlier that the significance of mutual recognition in IV.A is under- scored by Hegel's earlier and later texts, as well as in the Phenomenology itself. We have discussed at some length how the logic of concepts which Hegel outlined in his later work is implicit in the relation between mutual recognition and the dialectic of master and slave. When we turn to look at Hegel's earlier work, we discover that recognition already played a central role in Hegel's understanding of identity formation, reinforcing the view that mutual recognition is the key to the formation of self-consciousness in the Phenomenology. I shall treat his earlier work very briefly. Hegel specified the importance of recognition in his "Jena Lectures on the Phi-

losophy of Spirit" of 1805-06, given just before the publication of the Phenome- nology: "Man is necessarily recognized and necessarily gives recognition. This necessity is his own, not that of our thinking in contrast to the content. As recog- nizing, man is himself this movement [of self-generation], and this movement it- self is what supersedes his natural state: he is recognition." 16 As Axel Honneth glosses this essay, "Hegel conceives of love as a relationship of mutual recogni- tion, in which natural individuality is first confirmed." 17 In his earlier writings, Hegel views mutual recognition, the "reciprocal experience of knowing-oneself- in-the-other," as exemplified in love, which is essential for the development of

self-identity .I~ This recognition through love,

shows that "preliminary relations of mutual recognition

precondition for every further development of identity." 19 Although there are clear differences between the earlier and the Phenomenology discussions of mu- tual recognition-for example, the discussion of love is replaced by the story of

the trial by death in the Phenomenology2°-we can see that he had already recog-

as Honneth summarizes Hegel,

constitute a necessary

If'Hegel, "Jena Lectures on the Philosophy of Spirit (1805-06)" (formerly known as the Jenenser Realphilosophie IT) in Hegel and the Human Spirit, trans. Leo Rauch (Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press,

1983) p. 111.

17Axel Honneth, Kampf um Anerkennung: zur moralischen Grammar sozialer Konflikte (Frankfurt- am-Main: Suhrkamp, 1992); in English: The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts, trans. Joel Anderson (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995) p. 37. I am deeply indebted to Honneth for my discussion of the pre-Phenomenology work. Joel Anderson has stressed to me that Honneth finds the Jena discussions of mutual recognition to be more useful for critical theory today than the Phenomenology presentation. I think (as we shall see in the concluding section) that the Phenomenology version cannot be overlooked, however, precisely because mutual recognition and mastery and slavery are explicitly brought together there.

IXIbid. IOIhid., p. 39.

2°Although love has not entirely disappeared in the Phenomenology. insofar as desire (of which love is a species) plays an important role.

42 LYNCH nized that mutual recognition has a central role in the process of identity-forma-
nized that mutual recognition has a central role in the process of identity-forma-
tion, or self-consciousness.
In summary, then, when mutual recognition is looked at from within the text
itself as well as in light of the logic which followed and the lectures which pre-
ceded the Phenomenology, we have good reason to assert the importance-one
can even say critical importance-of mutual recognition in the constitution of
self-consciousness and the dialectic of master and slave.21
But Kojeve does not merely downplay the role of mutual recognition in the devel-
opment of self-consciousness; he entirely omits Hegel's discussion of it. We can
return now to Kojeve and make explicit the implicit critique of his interpretation.
Kojeve's text is roughly divisible into two thematic units: the first, a discussion
of desire, is a gloss of the introductory paragraphs IV.A (~m66-77); the second,
on the dialectic of master and slave and the struggle for recognition, is a transla-
tion and commentary of the last paragraphs (~~185-97). The point of division
between the two parts is clearly indicated in his text by a dotted line. 22 Concluding
the second part, Kojeve uses the dialectic of master and slave as a metaphor for
class struggle and as a harbinger of liberating revolution. 23 It is this second theme,
the theme that articulates a "politics of the slave," as it were, which is directly
jeopardized by his neglect of mutual recognition.
The divergence between Kojeve's reading and mine becomes immediately clear
when we look at ~185, where Kojeve's translation resumes. As I noted above,
when Hegel turns from mutual recognition to the dialectic of master and slave in
~185, he specifies that these viewpoints are only the opposed extremes, illusory
and incomplete. Kojeve fails to grasp the significance of this statement and takes
it instead-an indication of the direction his reading of the remainder of the pas-
sage will take-as pointing out the conflictual, non-mutual nature of recognition:
"To begin with, the man who wants to be recognized by another in no sense wants
to recognize him in turn. If he succeeds, then, the recognition will not be mutual
and reciprocal: he will be recognized but will not recognize the one who recog-
nizes him" (p. 10). First of all, we can note that Kojeve takes this passage as
explicitly denying the significance of mutual recognition. In so doing, he takes
this one-sided, incomplete, and therefore illusory participant's view of the process
as a complete and true description of the constitution of self-consciousness. In so
doing, Kojeve allows no room for mutual recognition (or any contribution other
than the struggle between master and slave) in the formation of self-consciousness.
The dialectic of master and slave appears, Hegel tells us, by "the splitting-up of
lIOf course, the significance of mutual recognition in the Phenomenology is not exhausted in this
discussion of the dialectic of master and slave. For example, mutual recognition plays a role in labor
(~~347ff.) and in language (~~652ff.). But a close discussion of these texts would take us far from the
argument with Kojeve.
220n p. 9 of the English text (p. 16 in the original French).
23As George Armstrong Kelly puts it, "The regulative idea oflordship and bondage runs like a golden
thread through much of Kojeve's analysis." G. A. Kelly, "Notes on Hegel's 'Lordship and Bondage'"
in Hegel: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Alasdair MacIntyre (Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame
Press, 1972) p. 192.



the middle term into the extremes which, as extremes, are opposed to one an- other" (~185). Hegel has just told us that "each [self-consciousness] is for the other the middle term, through which each mediates itself with itself and unites with itself" (~184). Thus, we should take "the splitting-up of the middle term" into extremes as a partial and incomplete understanding of the role of the middle term, the other self-consciousness. But Kojeve does not grasp this cautionary ca- veat. Kojeve translates as follows: "the expansion of the middle-term [which is the mutual and reciprocal recognition] into the two extremes [which are the two who confront one another]" (p. 10, Kojeve's commentary in brackets). Since he has omitted ~184, Kojeve does not see that he has already made two mistakes in his interpretation of ~185. Whereas, in mutual recognition, each self-conscious- ness is itself the middle term in the other's process of self-recognition, Kojeve takes the process of mutual recognition itself as the middle term. Second and more significant, Kojeve understands the two self-consciousnesses, the two hu- mans, as themselves the extremes in the expanded middle term. But Hegel indi- cates that the extremes of the middle term are the roles of master and slave, not the actual human persons. These extremes are only analytical entities, as per- ceived from the one-sided position of one consciousness; they are not (as Kojeve mistakenly takes them) the two consciousnesses that are mutually recognizing each other. Kojeve, then, in neglecting Hegel's discussion of mutual recognition, has in effect reified the roles of master and slave. They are in Kojeve's view not merely analytical categories which appear and disappear in the course of the process of coming to self-consciousness, but rather the actual social realizations of the proc- ess of self-consciousness formation. And these critical misreadings, which occur at the very beginning of Kojeve's second part, guide and direct the remainder of his interpretation. As the translation and commentary proceed, Kojeve's emphasis

moves further and further away from mutual recognition. "The truth of man, or the revelation of his reality, therefore, presupposes the fight to the death" (p. 12). Kojeve mistakes the one-sided, illusory appearance of this struggle as "the truth of man" and concludes that "man is human only to the extent that he wants to impose himself on another man" (p. 13).

Kojeve correctly perceives that "the relation between Master and Slave


not recognition properly so-called" (p. 19). Rather than seeing this as an indica- tion that the relation between master and slave is merely a Schein, Kojeve infers that society (as well as self-consciousness) is not founded upon recognition but rather upon force, hierarchy, and slavery. Given this view, Kojeve asserts that

"laborious slavery

is the source of all human, social, historical progress" (p.

20). It is thus through the slave's work, according to Kojeve, that it will become possible to overcome the dominance of the master. "In the raw, natural given World, the Slave is slave of the Master. In the technical world transformed by his work, he rules-or, at least, will one day rule-as absolute Master" (p. 23). And "in transforming the World by this work, the Slave transforms himself, too, and thus creates the new objective conditions that permit him to take up once more the liberating Fight for recognition" (p. 29). Having reified the Scheine of master and slave into actual social positions, Kojeve allows himself only one route to return to the real theme of Hegel's discussion: the mutual recognition that makes self-consciousness possible through further struggle, first through work, which

44 LYNCH then leads to revolutionary class struggle, which ends in the utopian victory of
then leads to revolutionary class struggle, which ends in the utopian victory of the
slave and opens into a promised land of liberated recognition.
In tracing this vision, however, Kojeve must tacitly acknowledge the signifi-
cance of mutual recognition in Hegel's account-in a passage which indicates the
direction of my critique: "In order that mutual and reciprocal recognition, which
alone can fully and definitively realize and satisfy man, be established, it suffices
for the Slave to impose himself on the Master and be recognized by him" (p. 21).
Kojeve himself must concede that mutual recognition is required to "fully and
definitively realize" human self-consciousness. (In part III we will see that mutual
recognition is also necessary to "satisfy man," i.e., to meet human desire.) But
since Kojeve has taken the struggle between master and slave as the founding and
defining event in human self-consciousness, the only way that a mutual recogni-
tion can be achieved is if the slave "imposes himself on the Master" just as the
master has done to the slave. This mutual imposition is not, however, a mutual
recognition; it is rather a reduplication of the cycle of dominance and submission
in which the slave "rules-or, at least, will one day rule-as absolute Master"
(p. 23). So, Kojeve's anticipated revolution will not, it seems, lead to a utopia of
egalitarian mutual recognition but rather will merely replay the struggle between
master and slave. This leads us to two conclusions. First, mutual recognition can-
not be obtained out of the struggle for dominance. And second, it follows from
the first conclusion that the struggle between master and slave is a dead end, a
one-sided illusion, a Schein, in the process of emerging self-consciousness. But
this is exactly what we had concluded from our analysis of the paragraphs of the
Phenomenology that Kojeve omitted.
It seems, then, that my critique of Kojeve is in fact immanent within Kojeve's
own text. Even though he tries to discount mutual recognition-even eliding
Hegel's own discussion of mutual recognition-the theme returns to give the lie
to his interpretation. Why, we might then ask, does Kojeve choose to ignore mu-
tual recognition in favor of the struggle between master and slave? I see only
one plausible explanation. 24 Because Kojeve wished to read these passages of the
Phenomenology in support of his Marxist commitment to a revolutionary social
vision, he chose to emphasize the struggle leading to a liberating revolution. Such
an interpretation holds out the possibility of immediate rhetorical and political
dividends. The oppressed and overworked masses become the engine for histori-
cal progress and have merely to fight to assume their well-earned right of mastery.
In contrast, according to this view, the story of mutual recognition would appear
merely to reaffirm the social and political status quo: since we all recognize each
other equally as human beings, the reasoning might go, there is no injustice in our
varied social circumstances.
But when we place mutual recognition in the foreground, we discoveflthat rich
possibilities for social criticism are implicit in Hegel's account of self-conscious-
ness. Axel Honneth pursues such a view in his Kampf um Anerkennung. JUrgen
Habermas also follows Hegel's emphasis upon mutual recognition; for Habermas,
this reciprocal recognition lies not only at the core of self-consciousness and
human identity but also at the basis of our linguistic interactions and, hence, at
24This explanation was suggested to me by Richard Kearney.



the foundation of what he terms "communicative rationality."25 For Habermas, these three elements (which are all ultimately grounded in mutual recognition) lay the basis for a profound critique of social injustice as well as for the articulation of both a universal morality and a democratic theory of the state. 26 Kojeve's anal- ysis of IV.A, then, is misleading in two respects. First, as we have seen, Kojeve misinterprets the text itself; and second, he fails to grasp the socially critical po- tential present within that text. Despite his apparent optimism for the revolutionary liberation of humankind, we must see Kojeve's vision as bleak: human sociality, and ultimately each per- son's own sense of identity, is founded upon domination and submission; and one's best hope-itself a tragic one-is to rise through work to the position of mastery. Hegel's account of mutual recognition and self-consciousness, however, even with the discussion of mastery and slavery, opens itself to a truly optimistic vision of human potential. Both Honneth and Habermas follow Hegel in this promising direction. But for Kojeve and Hegel, self-consciousness is closely re- lated to desire. We must now discuss this relationship.


The dynamic of desire raises an interesting question that could offer Kojeve a point to counter my argument. Kojeve' s interpretation has the virtue of emphasiz- ing the role that desire (to which the first part of his translation and commentary is devoted) plays in motivating the respective wishes and behaviors of both the master and the slave. Desire is, Kojeve correctly brings out, the "motor" that drives consciousness's advancement through recognition or struggle to self-con- sciousness. Hegel puts this in no uncertain terms: "self-consciousness is desire" (~174). Does the reading of IV.A that emphasizes mutual recognition over the struggle between master and slave marginalize, or even elide, desire-thereby un- dermining its own authority, just as Kojeve's elision undermines the authority of his interpretation? We must, I think, answer "No." Rather, mutual recognition recasts desire, in a way mirroring its refiguration of the dialectic of master and slave. Whereas the struggle between master and slave is understood as the struggle between two un- stable and mutually dependent moments of a concept that is stabilized as mutual recognition, mutual recognition is the phenomenologically necessary prerequisite for the realization, or satisfaction, of desire.

"See, respectively, Jiirgen Habermas's "Moral Development and Ego Identity" in Communication and the Evolution of Society, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979) pp. 69-94; his "Individuation through Socialization: On George Herbert Mead's Theory of Subjectivity" in Postmeta- physical Thinking: Philosophical Essays, trans. William Mark Hohengarten (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992) pp. 149-204; and his The Theory of Cmnmunicative Action, 1: Reason and the Ratiollalization of the Lifeworld, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984), esp. pp. 8-42. 20See, respectively, Jiirgen Habermas's "Discourse Ethics: Notes on a Program of Philosophical Justification" in Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholson and Christian Lenhardt (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990) pp. 43-115, and his Between Facts and Norms:

COlltributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, trans. William Rehg (Cambridge: MIT

Press. 1996). Jessica Benjamin also takes Hegel's notion of mutual recognition as the basis for her feminist critique

Although Benjamin recognizes the positive potential of mutual

of psychoanalysis in The Bonds of Love.

recognition in her application of Hegel, she too quickly follows Kojeve in her reading of Hegel.

46 LYNCH Desire first appears in the universal moment of self-consciousness, "the pure undifferentiated '1'
Desire first appears in the universal moment of self-consciousness, "the pure
undifferentiated '1'
But this immediacy is itself an absolute mediation, it is
only as a supersession of the independent object, in other words, it is Desire"
(~176). At first glance, this seems to support Kojeve's reading of mastery and
slavery, for this first moment of self-consciousness is the moment of the master.
But Hegel continues: "The satisfaction of Desire is
the reflection of self-
consciousness into itself" (~176). Only after self-consciousness has recognized
itself in the other and released the recognizing other for its own self-recognition
can desire be satisfied. "It is in fact something other than self-consciousness that
is the essence of Desire; and through this experience self-consciousness itself has
realized this truth" (n 75). Although desire initiates and motivates the develop-
ment of self-consciousness by motivating the initial "supersession" of another in
recognizing the other's recognition of oneself, it inevitably moves one away from
this supersession and is satisfied in its own self-recognition as a self-conscious-
ness. But this is no longer the original object of desire (which was recognition by
another). Thus we see both that self-consciousness is the satisfaction of desire and
that this satisfaction is itself something other than the essence of desire.
"Thus," Hegel tells us, "self-consciousness, by its negative relation to the ob-
ject, is unable to supersede it; it is really because of that relation that it produces
the object again, and the desire as well" (~175). Only the master, as an abstract
analytical category, could successfully and completely supersede its object. But
an actual self-consciousness is unable to supersede its object and, hence, is both
reflected into itself (as the satisfaction of desire) and releases (or "produces") the
object again. In tum, this releasing of the object, necessary for the satisfaction of
desire in self-consciousness, frees the other self-consciousness to satisfy its own
desire. And this, finally, reproduces desire itself.
Desire, then, as the "motor" of the development of self-consciousness, is not
unidirectional but bidirectional. One consciousness' s desire not only motivates
that consciousness's movement toward self-consciousness; it also frees another
consciousness to realize itself as a self-consciousness. This has important conse-
quences. First of all, desire is not an exclusively self- or me-oriented phenome-
non. One's own desire brings others within its scope and frees them in turn to
pursue their own desires. Second, as a consequence of the first, desire is very
much a part of a community of self-consciousnesses, not merely an individuating
Of course, the satisfaction of desire in self-consciousness is not the "essence"
but a redirecting of desire. Hence, Hegel tells us, desire is itself created anew in
this process. But since consciousness has already been realized as self-conscious-
ness, this new desire can never be satisfied.
For Kojeve, desire can be satisfied only by "destroying, transforming, and 'as-
similating' the desired non-I" (p. 4). While this gloss is not wrong per se, Ko-
jeve's emphasis on desire as destruction reiterates the bleakness of his vision of
human sources and possibilities. And Kojeve, already oriented toward the dialec-
tic of master and slave, does not acknowledge the opening and releasing aspects
that Hegel brings out in the satisfaction of desire. Desire does produce a transfig-
uration-of both the one consciousness and the other-but in the dialectic of
mutual recognition, it also constitutes a mutual giving and creating. As Hegel
later notes: "For first, through this supersession, it receives back its own self,



because, by superseding its otherness, it again becomes equal to itself; but sec- ondly, the other self-consciousness equally gives it back again to itself, for it saw itself in the other, but supersedes this being of itself in the other and thus lets the other again go free" (~1l81). Mutual recognition, then, is the process by which desire is satisfied in self- consciousness. This allows us to see desire in a much more benign light than Kojiwe did. Desire can motivate not only our struggles, our self-interested de- mands raised in opposition to others, and our wars (revolutionary or otherwise) but also our respect for others, our cooperation with others, and our community

and communal bonds to

others. 27


Desire seems to participate jointly in, or to transcend, the two perspectives of mutual recognition (for which I have been arguing) and of mastery and slavery (which Kojeve exclusively emphasized). This provides us with a useful reminder. If we will learn something from this reading, we must take care not to reproduce the same blindness to one side of this dialectic (of mutual recognition and mas- tery and slavery) that Kojeve illustrated.28 To do so would be analogous to the slave's reproduction of domination in Kojeve's faux-utopian vision. Although it is, as I have shown, a misreading, Kojeve's reading is a powerful one and does have something to show us. Kojeve's instincts are pointing in a fruitful direction when he wants to use these passages as a lens through which critically to look at society. And when we do this, we will discover both mutual recognition and struggles of domination. Of course, we should-as Kojeve did not-recognize the central importance of mutual recognition in the text and in our social interactions. Regardless of whether we find this kind of mutual recognition realized only in formal features of social interaction (as Habermas does) or whether we find further substantive normative claims based on mutual recognition (as Honneth does), we can say not only that mutual recognition serves as a sort of ideal standard of equality and justice but also that it is present to a greater or lesser extent within our social interactions. Nevertheless, we must not forget that social relations are also charac- terized by dominance and submission, mastery and slavery, as Kojeve wants to emphasize. To close our eyes to this is to miss half of the significance of IY.A. If a critical re-appropriation of Hegel's analysis is to be fully effective, we must take not only mutual recognition but also mastery and slavery.29 This is a puzzle (perhaps the puzzle confronting critical theory) both in Hegel's Phenomenology and in society: How and why are mutual recognition and mastery and slavery present together? I have not discussed this puzzle adequately here. Nor could I. For it is this puzzle, I suspect, that keeps bringing us back to these paragraphs of the Phenomenology.

270r, put another way, desire and altruism are not opposed to one another. 28Barbara Fultner, Nikolas Kompridis. and Steven Vogel have reminded me not to lose sight of this point. 29To put this point polemically in terms of contemporary debates, critical theory needs not only a Habermasian analysis of reciprocity, communicative action. and so on, but also a Foucauldian analysis of the mechanisms of power.

48 LYNCH As Alexandre Kojeve himself observed, "it is possible that in reality the future
As Alexandre Kojeve himself observed, "it is possible that in reality the future
of the world, and thus the meaning of the present and that of the past, depend, in
the last analysis, on the way in which the Hegelian writings are interpreted
today. "30 Looking back over the argument I have attempted to present here, I
think we can agree that on this point Kojeve is entirely correct. When we interpret
the dialectic of master and slave in light of the notion of mutual recognition,
which organizes and unifies this dialectic, we can see the seedlings of ideas which
offer a radically promising view of human relationshipsY
3t'Alexandre Kojeve, "Hegel. Marx et Ie Christianisme," Critique 7 (1946) 366 (cited in Hyppolite,
Genesis and Structure of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, p. xxviii). This article has been translated
into English by Hilail Gildin as "Hegel, Marx, and Christianity," Interpretation: A Journal of Political
Philosophy 1 (1970) 42 (slightly different translation),
31Earlier versions of this paper were read at the Midwest Critical Theory Roundtable (October 1995,
Evanston. IL) and at the Philosophy and the Social Sciences Colloquium (May 1997, Prague), Subse-
quent discussions have greatly improved this essay, and I thank the organizers and participants (several
of whom are mentioned above), Thanks also to Oliva Blanchette, Richard Kearney, Cathy Ross, and an
anonymous reader for the International Philosophical Quarterly who commented on earlier versions.