There has been much debate regarding interpretation of the concept of recognition (Anerkennung) in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Among the issues discussed in various commentaries, two that I find particularly interesting and important are: a) the question of the social and historical vs psychological significance of the concept of recognition which appears in Chapter 4 of Hegel's Phenomenology and b) the status of the dialectic of lordship and bondage for understanding the nature of the reconciliation of self-consciousness in the realm of objective spirit. Both of these topics have been widely discussed and I could not pretend to do justice to them in the space of this paper. My particular interest here is to discuss the political significance of Hegel's concept of recognition, specifically by exploring its connection to Hegel's overtly political works, especially the Philosophy of Right with its articulation of the Idea of the state. However, before proceeding directly to that task, I would like to begin with some comments on the two issues I just mentioned, as they are relevant to my topic.
In an essay entitled “Notes on Hegel's ‘Lordship and Bondage’” George Amstrong Kelly cautions the reader of the Phenomenology against oversimplifying Hegel's concept of recognition. There are two oversimplifications in particular that he worries about: (1) reducing the significance of Anerkennung to a social and political reading, and (2) (in Kelly's words) “the master- slave relationship is made an unqualified device for clarifying the progress of human history”, (p 191) The first mistake is avoided by seeing, in addition to the social “angle”, the “pattern of psychological domination and servitude within the individual ego”, (p 195) According to Kelly, “The problem of lordship and bondage is essentially Platonic in foundation, because the primal cleavage in both the history of society and the history of the ego is at stake. The two primordial egos in the struggle that will lead to mastery and slavery are also locked within themselves”, (p 199) The internal aspects of lordship and bondage are found in the struggle for self-awareness between self and other within the Ego, eg., in terms of appetition vs spiritual self-regard, opposed faculties in the ego that once awakened must be brought into harmony. As Kelly puts it in his book Idealism, Politics and History, “man remits the tensions of his being upon the world of fellow beings and is himself changed in the process. This relationship furnishes the bridge between psychology and history”, (p 334)