Hegel suggests in the dialectic that there is coherence between subject and object, concrete and abstract, part and whole, and for the purpose of dialectic, master and slave. Hegel believes that “master” is a “consciousness. ” The consciousness defines itself in mutual relations to what is referred to as slave’s consciousness. This occurs in a process of mutual interdependence and mediation. Hegel uses his Phenomenology of Spirit to provide his understanding and exposition of master slave dialectic as an account of both the need of recognition and emergence of self-consciousness.
Hegel’s line of thought and work plays a crucial role in Fanon’s exposition of the colonization by the Western. Fanon exposition focuses more on violence and race. Violence adds urgency, complicates and is driven by the need for recognition. An optimistic and promising moment lurks in Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks. The promising moment in Fanon’s work is articulated in a humanity characterization which also serves as an entry point into mutual recognition. The question to ask; is there any hope in reconciliation and coming to terms with the colonial situation between the white master and the black slave?
How can we address the problem of mutual recognition in light of racism and violence? Frantz Fanon’s exposition is based on a context that analyzed being both similar and different from our own context. Fanon’s work is based on colonialism that has come to an end with effects which are still around. Colonization effects are witnessed in the existing unequal relationships between the former colonies and the West. Fanon’s work still carries much relevance when we reflect on the existing racism and persistence violence in most of the former African colonies.
There is a reassessment of the current context when we revisit to reassess Fanon’s Black Skin, White Mask. Fanon attempted to explain how Hegel’s master slave dialectic is significant to the context of former colonies. Being a philosopher and a significant figure in idealism, Hegel reflects his most profound ideas in master slave dialectic that left a significant legacy. Hegel attempts to describe and conceptualize a process of recognition that leads to mutual recognition. According to Hegel’s exposition, proper recognition is achieved through mutual recognition of one consciousness agent and another conscious agent.
Fanon reflects Hegel’s idea when he says “There one lies body to body, with one’s blackness or one’s whiteness in full narcissistic cry, each sealed into his own particularity – with, it is true, now and them a flash or so. It is this flash of “recognition” in its Hegelian sense with its transcendental, sublative spirit – that fails to ignite in the colonial relation where there is only narcissistic indifference” (Fanon 1986). Mutual recognition brings freedom between self and the other and acts as an agent in the attainment and development of own self-consciousness.
The self-consciousness is the cognitive awareness of self and the relation to the other and the world in extension. “If the standpoint of consciousness, which is to say, the standpoint of knowing objective things to be opposed to itself and knowing itself to be opposed to them, counts as the other to science – if it is that the point where consciousness is at one with itself is where it counts to an even greater degree at the loss of spirit” (Hegel 26). Domination has a central role to play according to Hegel’s master slave dialectic description of specific relations among humans.
Domination results from the urge to be recognized in life midst as well as death struggle. Fanon took Hegel’s master slave dialectic in his critique of colonialism and West. Fanon states that dialectic is relevant and crucial to human relations among the colonies. Fanon critique focuses on dialectic based on violence and racism. Hegel’s Self Consciousness: Master and Slave Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) provides master slave dialectic that reflects his ideas on history course up to when he was writing his work. Hegel’s dialectic takes an analysis form of self-consciousness and its working. This pure concept of recognition, that is, the pure concept of the doubling of self-consciousness in its unity, is itself now up for examination in terms of how its process appears for self-consciousness” (Hegel 185). Hegel describes way in which self can become conscious of itself by presence and recognition of itself by an-other. Hegel’s exposition reveals how the process of self-consciousness takes place at the expense of the Other. The Other is negated the moment the self becomes conscious of itself, and declares itself as “I” and the Other is destroyed as an-other.
The negation and destruction of the other results from the other becoming image and mirror of self. The image is the attempts and urge of self to overcome the other in order to achieve primary and essential being in the world. Self and other eventually enter into a phase of self-consciousness which results in an unequal relationship characterized by strict opposition. The self is determined to declare itself as ‘I’ and become conscious in the presence and influence form of an-other. The self is no longer considered as a thing or useless or objects among objects by the other.
In order to achieve this, self must see and regard the other as an object or a thing, which is attained by annihilating and negating the other considering the other as a ‘self’ existing for itself. In his exposition, Hegel uses “maser and slave” relationship to demonstrate the process and working of the whole process of self-consciousness. According to Hegel, the master is used to refer to the consciousness existing for itself and which is mediated with itself but through another consciousness. Through this mediation, the master becomes an ‘I’, a being for itself.
To become a master, the self-consciousness is experienced in the virtue of presence of an-other. The other now becomes slave. Hegel’s description of slave is the one who is the dependent consciousness and whose essential nature is just to live and to be for another. “How consciousness is immediately to be found and how it determines itself and its object at any given time, that is, how it exists for itself, depends on what it has already come to be, that is, on what it already is in itself” (Hegel 234).
The master inextricably links the slave with objecthood and the slave is bound to being considered as a thing by the master. The master desires for the thing and that is the slave, desire to possess it but not to destroy. In addition, this desire is characterized with the urge by the master to transform the slave into something that belongs to the master, thus stripping the slave off its foreignness. Defining the slave (object or thing) or the other satisfies the desire of the master by representing master’s act of making the other the same as the self (master).
The slave (other) is bound to nourish the master’s (self) desire to make the world its own. The self takes control by seizing power over the other and he decides what and who the thing (slave) is. What is the opinion and nature of the thing according to self (master)? According to Hegel, the answer to this question according to master is simple: a thing is something merely negative. “as the positive, avoids looking at the negative, as is the case when we say of something that it is nothing or it is false, and then, being done with it, go off on our own way on to something else” (Hegel 32).
The relationship between slave and master has an ironic effect in that the master achieves his recognition and desire through another consciousness. This implies that the self (master) becomes dependent on the thing for his own self-consciousness. Slave’s chains become those of the aster as well and as a consequence, the process creates a scenario where there is no manner of full freedom but a presence of mutual enslavement to the other. This means that the object’s meaning is constructed and determined by an-other, creating a situation of being-for-other.
This gives the thing (slave) the self-consciousness that is able to affix its own meaning. Hegel’s treatment of recognition comes into a situation where the slave turns the table on the master by way of regarding the master as a thing, which happens after the slave regards himself as an object and not willing to be modified and transformed into an object. Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks: White Master Black Slave Frantz Fanon analysis of the topic on recognition in his work Black Skin, White Masks reinterprets Hegel’s in term of race based on the relationship of black man and white settler, or white master and black slave.
Fanon states; “Man is human only to the extent to which he tries to impose his existence on another man in order to be recognized by him” (Fanon 168). Through this statement, Fanon reveals various positive and negative things that can be discussed about recognition. Desire or need for one to be recognized is a human attribute where a human wants to be recognized. Fanon reveals that one is human if he is recognized as such. According to Fanon, it is negative when the extent of the imposition of a self’s existence on an-other becomes a measure of humanity, where one is human by ensuring that one imposes oneself on an-other without challenges.
Fanon still qualifies the concept of humanity as a bond between self and an-other. Fanon said; “It is that other being, on recognition by that other being, that is his own human worth and reality depend. It is that other being in whom the meaning of life is condensed” (Fanon 169). A self becomes hums when an-other recognizes him as human, intertwining humanity with the other. This slightly contrasts with Hegelian stand that humanity only comes about in the consumption of the other due to the urge and desire for recognition. Fanon expresses Hegelian need or desire as an “open conflict between black and white.
One day, the White Master, without conflict, recognized the Negro slave” (Fanon 169). The black slave does not measure to the standards of whiteness and this drives to the assertion of the white settlers as a master. Black slave’s image to the white settler is that of negative attributes based on humanity as the slave is regarded as “machine-animal-men to the supreme rank of men” (Fanon 171) who are partly human, partly animal, and completely a thing. Hegelian master slave dialectic turns from master to object where the master is now considered as an object and the results asserts its own subjectivity.
The black slave turns towards the master abandoning the object and the master’s subjectivity is considered as his own desires. In Hegelian final analysis, the slave disallows the definition of itself by the object (master) as refuses to be considered as a thing and through this; the slave takes hold of its own meaning. The Hegelian slave now forms its independent self-consciousness and his situation becomes so radicle that the object (master) becomes dependent on the slave to enhance in upholding his own self-consciousness.
Fanon’s slave in white master black slave is not so fortunate compared to Hegelian slave. Fanon’s slave remains in an unfavorable situation as he does not create himself and continues to be dependent on the white master for his own self-consciousness. In his work, Fanon states; “The inferiority of the colonized is the correlative to the European’s feeling of superiority…It is the racist who creates his inferior” (Fanon 69). This directs focus on the subject since the black slave wants to be regarded as an object and never wants to be considered as an object.
In the gaze of the white master, the black slave is used as an instrument for the master to measure his superiority. Additionally, the black slave gives the master the ability to realize his subjective security, and in defining himself and the world. Lastly, the slave is “denied in terms of individuality and liberty” (Fanon 164). The Conflict and the Violence The situation between the white master- black slaves may result to a radical and bleak situation. The environment shapes the slave and the desire for subjectivity is not yet exhausted with all odds staked up against the slave.
The situations force the slave to “have an indisputable complex of dependence on the white man” (Fanon 168). The black cannot remain in the place assigned to him, for he seeks to find an end to this. According to Fanon, this happens through conflict and violence. According to Fanon’s exposition, “human reality in-itself-for-itself can be achieved only through the risk that conflict implies” (Fanon 170). Conflict becomes a central feature in humanity and human reality if there is a desire for one to be transformed from being an object to a subject.
This in turn facilitates an entry to self-consciousness. Pursuit of subjectivity by the black slave threatens the life of the master as Fanon puts it, “self-consciousness accepts the risk of its life, and consequently it threatens the other in his physical being” (Fanon 169). The desire for slave subjectivity implies that the slave wants to make himself recognized by virtue of his own agency, and he wants to assign meaning to himself as he desires. The slave no longer desires to be considered as a mere thing.
Hegel gives a clear articulation of the Black slave’s desire for subjectivity when he states that freedom exists only because one is prepared to take the ultimate risk to obtain it. Freedom is not a right for the slave and is therefore essentially negative and gained beyond struggle and has to be earned. The characteristic of this freedom is the ability to assign and gain meaning by one self. “As this universal self-consciousness of each and all, spirit has in one unity its pure inwardness as well as the being for others and the being-for-self of the individuals” (Hegel 710).
According to Hegel, “vanity is expected to give up this freedom, and, instead of being the arbitrary principle moving the content, it is supposed to let this freedom descend into the content and move itself by its own nature and then to observe this movement” (Hegel 58). The freedom and the agency involved in being-for-self is not granted for the black slave and the black slave fails to grant himself this freedom and agency.
Fanon believes that recognition without struggle does not take place as the white man, in the capacity of master, one day, without conflict said to the Negro, “From now on you are free” (Fanon 172). However, the white man words to the Negro here seem contradictory since the tone seems normative in a sense, commanding the black slave to accept that he is now free since he has same rights as those of the master. The statement is an empty recognition considering that the slave wants to make himself recognized and take control of what transpires.
Fanon describes slave-object situation by restating Hegel’s description: “The individual who has not staked his life, may, no doubt, be recognized as a person, but he has not attained the truth of his recognition as an independent self-consciousness” (Fanon 170). This point throws some focus on the idea of personhood in the Hegelian sense. It is through struggle that personhood is gained. However, this does not guarantee that that one has gained freedom or agency in terms of being able to provide oneself with a desired meaning.
According to Fanon’s view, the black slave will be satisfied if master slave dialectic is inverted and the only means to so is through conflict and struggle. White master’s values are inherited and exercised by the black slave without transformations. This leaves the black slave at a bleak situation wondering if there is any hope in coming to agreement with the colonial situation between the black and slave and the white master. Is it really possible to move form conflict and violence to mutual recognition on inter-subjective level?
This move is however possible if we turn to Fanon’s characterization of humanity that serves as a point of entry to mutual recognition. Characterization of Humanity according to Fanon Humanity, according to Fanon, is characterized with a direction of mutual recognition that is identified by the importance of acknowledging differences among people, the integral role of action as it relates to the subjectivity formation and the basic values of humanity. Under acknowledgment of difference, the affirmation of differences between white and masters and black slaves is important.
The white master addressing the black man as a brother attempts to convince the black that there are no differences between the black and the white. “When it does happen that the Negro looks fiercely at the white man, the white man tells him: Brother, there is no difference between us” (Fanon 172). This shows a simple paternalistic curiosity that the white man has in the black man which in turn shows that the white master has an interest in the black man as far as the former slave can be of political and economic assistance to the white man.
There are ulterior motives then through the way the white master proclaims rhetorically that blacks and whites are equal. This is not an assertion of equality but rather sameness. The role and impact of race in a society is an issue that should be handled carefully. Fanon states that action is integral to the formation of subjective self-consciousness when he states: “the former slave needs a challenge to his humanity; he wants a conflict, a riot” (Fanon 172). The former slave is rendered active from the outside challenges he faces and the desire for subjectivity.
Action is central to Fanon’s idea as it is a notion that problematizes and undermines recognition. Action and recognition should however co-exist to assist one in attaining subjectivity. Fanon puts clearly the significance and utter importance of action, where one puts thoughts into what they consider to be basic values constituting the human world. Basic Values of Humanity These are the values that Fanon provide that motivate action from people, those that people pursue, with even a risk of death in the process. Fanon said: “that man is a yes. Yes to life.
Yes to love. Yes to generosity” (Fanon 173). These values constitute the backbone of mutual recognition and also humanity. The values also serve as motivation towards action, implying that action should bring about a human society that is based on these values. According to Fanon, action is superior to reaction and in his work; Fanon says “man’s behavior is only relational. And there is always resentment in a reaction” (Fanon 173). Fanon follows Nietzsche when he says that human behavior must be actional and that freedom is found out of practice.
However, reaction is not necessarily negative and action in this case can also be a reaction against something alike transgressions of humanity. Fanon conceptualizes the humanity transgressions when he states, “man is also a no. No to scorn of man. No to degradation of man. No to exploitation of man. No to the butchery of what is most human in man: freedom” (Fanon 173). It is the desire for life, generosity and life that defines humans as well as their desire for both freedom and a mutual recognition ad subjectivity in hich the agency is afforded by both the self and the Other for the provision of meaning to one’s own life. This freedom is both a practice and value and any transgression against it almost certainly results in a violation of humanity and human life. One’s actions, in favor of mutual subjectivity, must at the same time be a reaction against degradation, scorn, and any exploitation aimed at human life. Self and Other is inextricably dependent on a simple and basic, but mutually beneficial, conceptualization of humanity.
Fanon’s Black Skins, White Masks thus provides a starting point for conceptualization and in that there is an optimistic moment in Fanon’s reading of Hegel termed as a point of entry into mutual recognition. Reciprocity as Key to Mutual Recognition Reciprocity is a key element in Hegel’s recognition. Fanon considers absolute reciprocity to be the foundation of Hegelian dialectic. One-sided recognition cannot work according to Fanon, who asserts, “action from one side only would be useless, because what is to happen can only be brought about by means of both” (Fanon 169).
The search for meaning to life and for an authentic identity can only be fulfilled in mutual recognition. The move from objecthood to subjecthood is the starting point to mutual recognition. This need is integral to the constitution of a healthy and functional human society. A self primitively begin as an is, a being-in-itself. However, one wants to be and emerge into being recognized. One wants to be considered as a subject and not an object (being-for-other). The other requires the same presence of oneself, in order to reach the same result and as a consequence of a society of comparison is formed.
There is a simple conviction at the root of the need for recognition that the self has about itself, namely that the self is not a mere thing and should not be considered as an object. The refusal to be objectified drives the desire for subjectivity which in turn opens up the possibility of independence, agency, freedom and personhood. The desire also represents the move “beyond life toward a supreme good that is the transformation of subjective certainty of my own worth into a universally valid objective truth” (Fanon 170).
Such truth search, for a supreme good beyond life, represents the creation of the human world in which one seeks reciprocal recognitions by recognizing which is human in an-other. Master slave dialectic as revealed by Fanon and Hegel shows that the aftermath of colonization is a messy and uncompromising process where human lives are lost and seriously damaged. There is a number of empowering and positive values that emerge for their work such as those based on the possibilities and pitfalls of mutual recognition that characterizes a positive description of humanity.