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Hegel's dialectic of master and slave in the Phenomenology of Mind portrays a master unable to win genuine recognition from a slave because unwilling to confer it. The dialectic implies that freedom has to be conceived as association based on mutual respect, rather than independence. This article offers a communitarian interpretation of emancipation inspired by Hegel's dialectic of master and slave. It proceeds from an account of slave society which, like Hegel's dialectic, equates slavery with the denial of social recognition. This account argues that the experience of slave society led both the masters and the slaves to conceive of freedom in social rather than individual terms. Proceeding from this account, I suggest that emancipation be conceived as the restoration to African-Americans of the sovereignty and social esteem that Southern society excluded them from, rather than the pursuit of the liberal ideal of independence that Hegel’s dialectic critiqued.

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Cardozo Law Review

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