In the section entitled "Relations of Master and Servant" from The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), Hegel explains one stage of the development of consciousness. He begins by pointing out that only by acknowledging an "other" is self-consciousness possible: for example a teacher only recognizes himself as a teacher with respect to his students. But if there is an other, then the original self-consciousness feels threatened and asserts its freedom by trying to dominate that other. This struggle results in a master (Herr) who dominates a servant (Knecht) and who forces him to produce material goods. What is the role of the work made by the servant in the development of his self-consciousness? How can it permit to reverse the relationship between the master and the servant?
[...] So we could argue that Hegel's theory about work is true in the conditions of the pre-industrial world, “when production was still on a domestic and local scale” (S. Sayers). Nowadays many works are monotonous and repetitive tasks which do not conduce to job satisfaction and do not permit workers to see the world as their own creation. Hannah Arendt criticizes Hegel by making a distinction between work and labour. She defines labour as a necessity task to satisfy our physical needs, which creates no products and work as an activity creating enduring objects. [...]
[...] Through the example of the master-slave relationship Hegel shows that work is a process of objectification alienation and it's overcoming- leading to self-realization. This vision of work is very different from the one many people have nowadays: they consider work as an unpleasant and necessary task. Nevertheless, according to Elster, people are better off working even if they would prefer not: without a job a person cannot be integrated in the society and is considered and considered himself as a burden for the society. [...]
[...] He uses the term ‘alienation' to describe the fact that work is externally imposed and is “merely a means to the end of satisfying material needs” (S. Sayers). However, for both Hegel and Marx, only purely immediate consumption is not free and all economic work has a degree of freedom. They both think artistic activity is a truly free activity since it is not done to be consumed. Hegel argues that art, religion and philosophy supplement labour and belong to a higher sphere of human development. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee