Tuesday, October 19, 2010

master vs. slave ...

"Two equals struggle each for recognition by the other: the one is willing to sacrifice life for this supreme value. The other, a heroic coward in the … sense of loving the body and the material world too well, gives in, in order to continue life. The Master – now the fulfillment of a baleful and inhuman feudal-aristocratic disdain for life without honor – proceeds to enjoy the benefits of his recognition by the other, now become his humble serf or slave. But at this point two distinct and dialectically ironic reversals take place: only the Master is now genuinely human, so that 'recognition' by this henceforth sub-human form of life which is the slave evaporates at the moment of its attainment and offers no genuine satisfaction. 'The truth of the Master,' Hegel observes grimly, 'is the Slave; while the truth of the Slave, on the other hand, is the Master.' But a second reversal is in process as well: for the slave is called upon to labor for the master and to furnish him with all the material benefits befitting his supremacy. But this means that, in the end, only the slave knows what reality and the resistance of matter really are; only the slave can attain some true materialistic consciousness of his situation, since it is precisely to that that he is condemned. The Master, however, is condemned to idealism – to the luxury of a placeless freedom in which any consciousness of his own concrete situation flees like a dream, like a word unremembered on the tip of the tongue, a nagging doubt which the puzzled mind is unable to formulate."

(Fredric Jameson, "Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism")

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